To incubate means to maintain a set temperature. Incubation of a duck egg is the time period between when the egg is warmed to the correct temperature after laying and when it hatches. Incubation is the period of development of the embryonic duck inside the egg.
According to the Department of Animal Science at Oklahoma State University, most domestic duck species, such as Pekin duck, incubate for 28 days to hatching. Muscovy ducks take 35-37 days.
Wild ducks also incubate their eggs for about 28 days. Since it takes the female duck several days to produce all her eggs, she will not begin "sitting" on the nest to incubate the eggs until the last egg has been laid, to ensure they hatch around the same time as each other.
Melvin L. Hamre, an animal scientist at the University of Minnesota Extension Office, says that the eggs must be turned 3 to 5 times daily, up to three days before they hatch. Duck eggs may require higher humidity than chicken eggs while incubating, and may do well with a daily sprinkling of lukewarm water. This increases the loss of moisture across egg membranes, allowing for a larger air pocket inside the egg.
Some experts say duck eggs hatch better in stiff-air incubators than in forced-air incubators.
Duck embryo development can be put on "hold" for about a week prior to incubation by keeping the eggs at 55-60 F (13-15 C). Embryo development does not begin until the egg is warmed to the correct temperature. The incubation period begins once the egg reaches the proper temperature of 99.5 F (37.5 C).