Why Don’t All Incubated Eggs Hatch?

Why Don’t All Incubated Eggs Hatch?

Why doesn’t every incubated egg hatch? 


It can be so disappointing. You’ve just nurtured your clutch of a dozen or two eggs for nearly 3 weeks, but then, on hatch day, not all of your eggs have hatched. 



Despite your best efforts, it breaks your heart, and you can’t help but second-guess your decision to raise chicks. 


While it’s impossible to truly know the exact reason, there are many factors that can result in a less than stellar hatch rate.


In this article, you’ll discover a “checklist” of reasons – and you can use them to determine where you might have gone wrong.


Today, I’ll provide some insight into the question “Why doesn’t every incubated egg hatch?” 


A short list of why every incubated egg doesn’t hatch:


  1. Wrong Temperature and/or Humidity
  2. Chicks Run out of Air
  3. Chicks Run out of Energy
  4. There’s a Genetic Issue
  5. Wrong Position to Pip
  6. “Shrink wrapping”
  7. Hatched Chicks Cause Trauma


Unhatched Eggs Are Very Common

Whether you incubated eggs in an incubator or they’re hatched by a hen, it’s really common to lose some chicks before they enter the world.


A lot of owners get upset when this happens, and think that they did something wrong. While it’s possible you influenced a poor hatch rate, a lot of times, you probably didn’t.


Many times, eggs don’t hatch due to factors outside your control. 


So, if you get a poor hatch rate, don’t beat yourself up. Just look at the reasons we discuss below, and see if any of them might be relevant to your most recent hatch.


Wrong Temperature/Humidity

The first reason could be that the conditions inside the incubator or under the hen weren’t ideal. This comes down to temperature and humidity. 


It takes about 21 days for eggs to hatch. When you incubate eggs, or when a hen hatches chicks, the eggs need a fairly consistent temperature of 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit (37.5 degrees Celsius) and a humidity level of around 50%. It’s ok to have slightly less humidity during the first 18 days of incubation and a slightly higher degree of humidity during the last three or four days of incubation (ideally, 50% to 60% humidity). 


The first 18 days, you should turn your eggs three of three or five times a day – odd numbers of turns. 


Then the last three to four days, until they actually hatch, they have to just sit in one place. This helps the chick prepare itself for birth. During this time, you need that consistent temperature and humidity levels to be hatched. 


When a large portion of the eggs don’t hatch, it’s sometimes because the temperature isn’t consistent or correct. In most incubators, a temperature remains constant, especially if you use something like an automatic forced air incubator


So, if you know your incubator temperature is spot on, then more likely, the humidity isn’t correct. 


Chicks Run out of Air

It’s something that’s more common than people realize: When inside the egg, chicks can run out of air during the last day or two of incubation.


When the chick is starting to hatch, it twists itself into position to peck through the egg and pip and zip. It has to pip through the inner membrane before it starts to pip out of the eggshell. 


During this time, it can run out of oxygen. There’s only a set amount of oxygen in the egg and it can run out of air while it’s trying to hatch. This is fairly common. 


In these cases, if you know that it’s alive, but it’s not going well (if chirping gets fainter, or it’s been a day or so and the chick still hasn’t broken out of the shell) – it’s not getting enough air or the hatching isn’t going well, you’re not sure why – you can always try drilling a hole into that air cell. 


It’s probably something only an experienced professional should do, but it is an option if you think that you know there’s not going to be enough air for your chicken. 


Chicks Run Out of Energy

In a same sort of vein, the chick can run out of energy to be born. When they’re hatching, they have to break through the inner membrane of the shell (pipping), and then they create a break in the shell where they can actually push the eggshell out and enter the world (zipping). 


During this process, they sometimes they run out of energy, they can’t finish it, and then they die. 


In my experience, this is less common than a temperature or humidity issue, but it can happen, and it probably happens more often than we realize. 


There’s a Genetic Issue

Another reason eggs don’t always hatch is because the chicken just isn’t developing normally. 


The scenario works like this: The chick makes it to the final few days of the hatch. You do your final candling and you see that it’s in there, it’s moving, it’s alive. But then it never hatches. 


That could be due to something as simple as it just didn’t have the right build to be born. Maybe the heart didn’t develop correctly, or maybe the lungs didn’t. Ultimately, some part of the bird just didn’t develop correctly and in a final few days, when they had to pip free, they just couldn’t because the body just wouldn’t let it. 


Wrong Position to Pip

Chicks sometimes can’t get into the right position to actually break through the inner membrane or the eggshell itself. Quite a few times we’ve autopsied the eggs that didn’t hatch, and we see that the chick never got into the right position. 


We’ve also seen chicks that have half-pipped or are struggling to get out of the egg. We help them pick through the outer shell. If we hadn’t done that, the chicken never would have hatched because it wasn’t in the right position to actually break through the eggshell. 


There’s really nothing you can do to avoid this.

Shrink Wrapping

Another reason that not all the eggs in a clutch will hatch is because of shrink wrapping. This goes back to the humidity issue. 


Shrink wrapping is when the inner membrane gets stuck to the chick, and because of this, the chick can’t move. 


Usually, the chick starts to break through the shell, but a sudden humidity drop (if you open the incubator, for example), causes that inner membrane to dry out, and stick to the down. The chick then can’t move and complete the hatching process.


It’s like if you shrink wrap a piece of meat: the membrane covers the entire piece of meat, and nothing can get in and nothing can get out. 


Shrink wrapping can could happen before it pips, during pipping, or after pipping. We’ve actually seen it happen in all three stages. This is tied to the humidity issue because during those last few days, the humidity level in the incubator should be a higher: 50 to 60%. 


Hatched Chicks Cause Trauma

This isn’t something a lot of chicken owners talk about, but I’ve found it to be pretty common.


After hatching, newborn chicks jostle and roll the other eggs so much, that they break the unhatched egg. 


Why does this happen? Well, newborn chicks can’t walk very well, and they’re freaked out because they just entered the world and don’t know what’s going on. They hear noises, everything they see is new, and they’re very, very confused – so they flop everywhere. 


All this flopping around cracks the unhatched eggs, which causes trauma to the embryo that’s in there. The embryo then dies, and never hatches. 


While it’s never clear WHY a chick doesn’t hatch, if you see that there’s cracked eggs with fully developed (but dead) chicks inside, then it’s possible all the jostling from other chicks contributed to it.


I hope this article answers the question “why doesn’t every incubated egg hatch.” So, the next time your clutch doesn’t have a 100% hatch rate, you can look at this list, and maybe narrow it down to a single reason.


“What Do Baby Ducks Eat” Ultimate List Of Treats, Feed, Fruits, & Vegetables

“What Do Baby Ducks Eat” Ultimate List Of Treats, Feed, Fruits, & Vegetables

Raising ducklings from day olds to maturity can be a tricky business. It’s a lot of work! A frequent question I’m asked is “what do baby ducks eat?”


Knowing what you can and can’t feed your ducklings is critical to getting them through the first few weeks of life. Raising ducklings isn’t hard but they do need a certain amount of vitamins – and often, they’re not present in chick starter.


In this article, you’ll discover what you can and CAN’T feed your ducklings, as well as what to add to their feed, so they grow into healthy layers.


What Do Baby Ducks Eat (List Of Treats, Feed, Fruits, Vegetables, And More)?

Adult backyard ducks can eat a wide variety of food, but your baby ducks should have a very specific diet from the time they hatch until they’re fully feathered. Baby ducks eat duckling starter, vegetables, fruits, and protein like dried insects (mealworms, black soldier fly larvae, etc)!


Feed for Day Olds – 16 Weeks Old

Of course, you can feed the the occasional treat or mealworm, but the basis of your baby ducklings’ diet should be a starter/grower feed that’s formulated specifically for ducks.


Unlike chicks, ducklings need an extra “dose” of Vitamin B (specifically niacin) for their bones and bills to grow correctly. Without it, your ducklings might end up with crooked legs and/or bills that curve up and do not close correctly.


Most duckling feed on the market contains that extra booster of Vitamin B.


If you don’t want to buy extra feed, you can purchase chick starter and easily add extra niacin to their diet with brewer’s yeast. Just mix it with the starter feed – 1 pound of brewer’s yeast per 40 pound bag of chick starter is fine.


(The brewer’s yeast we sell in the store here is formulated for ducklings, and it contains oregano, echinacea, and garlic – herbs traditionally used to support healthy immune system functions. It’s packed with lots of good stuff!)


What Fruit Can Ducks Eat? 8 Fruits You Can Feed To Ducklings

As a treat when they’re fully feathered, or if it’s very hot and you’re worried about them staying hydrated, you can offer fruit.


Yep, ducks LOVE fruit. For baby ducks, you’ll want to cut the treat very small and float it on water so they can easily reach and eat it.


Fruits contain a lot of natural sugars, so you’ll want to feed it sparingly – but get ready to hear lots of happy quacks!


Some fruits baby ducks can eat are:

  • Tomatoes (only the flesh because the vines and leaves are toxic)
  • Pears (mash them up)
  • Apples (the flesh – not the seeds. You’ll also want to mash them a bit to make it easier for your ducklings to consume it.
  • Bananas (mashed is best – flesh only, not the skin. You can use the skins in your garden)
  • Peaches (just the flesh – remove the stone)
  • Cherries (remove the stones)
  • Strawberries
  • Berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, etc)


A common question is can ducks eat pumpkin? Yes, they can! They love it!


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Whew – I'm glad we made it through last week. It was sleeting last Saturday, which of course makes me worry about the fluffy butts. But they weathered the icy conditions pretty well, and got extra treats for extra calories. . It's warmer nowadays, so they'll still get extra Fluffiest Feathers Ever!, but I probably won't worry quite so much. . On another note, I've been thinking about adding more chickens to my flock this year – there's some tempting silkie mix options out there! Both of the silkies we raised this year turned out to be roosters – quiet roosters, but still roosters. . I'd like some silkie hens, too, and I'm also considering some bantams. What breeds are you considering? . . . . #homesteading #homesteadlife #growsomethinggreen #chickens #backyardchickens #gardeningwithchickens #frugalchicken #rspets #realsimple #hgtv #sustainableliving #farmher #missourilife #missourigirl #missouriphotographer #missouriphotos #missouriblogger #midwestmoment #midwestgirl #familyfarm #gardenher #nogmo #butlercounty

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Vegetables & Leafy Greens

Oh my, do ducks love their leafy greens! It’s always best to float them on water, and tear them into smaller pieces.


Ducks don’t chew their food, and you don’t want long strands of grass or other goodies getting caught in their digestive systems.  This is important whether your feeding young ducklings or mature ducks.


Some veggies and leafy greens that ducks love are:

  • Cut grass (that hasn’t been sprayed with any chemicals)
  • Kale
  • Swiss chard
  • Radish & turnip greens
  • Lettuces & other salad greens
  • Cucumber
  • Peas


Consider creating a garden just for your ducks – the greens are pretty inexpensive to grow, and will supply your flock with an extra amount of food, pretty much for free.


[brid autoplay=”true” video=”453677″ player=”19074″ title=”How To Grow Free Food For Rabbits & Chickens” description=”Buying grain for your livestock can add up – ask me how I know. This year, we decided to do something different – we planted a garden to grow greens for our rabbits and chickens. It’s been a success and now we have enough free food for everyone to have an extra bite every day – and it’s lowered our overall feed bill.” duration=”470″ uploaddate=”2019-08-21 17:19:36″ thumbnailurl=”//cdn.brid.tv/live/partners/14575/thumb/453677_t_1566407967.png”]


Dairy Treats

You can start feeding these treats when your baby ducks are at least 12 weeks of age. When they’re day olds, it’s better to not feed these treats.


I’m not the biggest fan of feeding dairy to ducks, but the items on this list won’t hurt them.


Note that dairy might cause their poop to be more stinky. If that happens, stop offering dairy immediately.


  • Whole milk plain greek yogurt (great to add extra probiotics to their digestive systems).
  • Cheese, especially cottage cheese. If you feed regular cheese (cheddar for example), it’s best of it’s shredded. That way, your ducks can easily swallow it.



This is also a good go-to “what to feed baby ducks in an emergency” food list.


A common question from first time duck owners is “Can I give my ducklings treats?” In short, yes!


You might wonder what can I feed my pet duck that they’ll love?


It’s always a good idea to offer high protein treats. In fact, if you want to give your baby ducks something besides their feed to snack on, dried insects such as black soldier fly larvae or dried shrimps are the best option.


Ducks LOVE dried shrimps – they float on water, are easily digested, and ducks LOVE to filter through their water to snap them up.


We sell dried shrimps in the store here.


Some other high-protein treats you can feed baby ducks are:

  • Mealworms
  • Crickets
  • Eggs (boil and dice – leave the shells off. Too much calcium can cause problems with young poultry.)
  • Dried shrimps
  • Black soldier fly larvae
  • Superworms (extra large mealworms)
  • Darkling beetles


Remember: Ducks aren’t chickens – they have round bills that don’t pick easily like hens’ beaks. So, it’s best to float treats on water so your ducklings can easily dig them up.


Before deciding what treats you’ll offer your ducklings, consider their age. The last thing you want is for your fluffy butts to choke!


Larger treats like black soldier fly larvae or chunks of pumpkin might be harder for hatchlings to swallow.


Dried river shrimp are always a safe bet – they’re tiny and soft, and easy broken into smaller pieces.


Treats (anything other than duckling starter) should be no more than 10% of a duck’s daily diet. Remember that treats can change the way a duck’s poop looks: either in color, consistency, or odor – so monitor what and how much you are giving them.


Can A Baby Duck Survive On Its Own? Can Ducklings Survive Without Their Mother?

Yes, a baby duck could survive on its own in the wild (and definitely with a human mama). Ducklings walk soon after birth, and automatically know to start looking for food – and know it’s food when they see it!


They’ll also try to “taste test” everything from your fingers, to shavings, to actual food!


That being said, ducklings DO have some special needs. For example, ducklings are born with down, and need to be kept warm until fully feathered.


In the wild, they need their mother’s protection to keep them safe and they require warmth to regulate their bodies. Their mother helps them stay warm.


In captivity, we have to provide a heat source until they have feathers. Luckily, ducklings grow VERY fast.


Ducklings in general are easy prey for predators such as foxes, weasels, snakes, skunks, raccoons etc. They have no defenses against these scavengers – they can’t even run that fast. So, you need to make sure your ducklings are kept in a very safe brooder and coop.


Can Baby Ducks Eat Bananas?

Yes! If you’re wondering “what do baby ducks eat?” One answer is BANANAS! Like berries, melons, seeded fruits, and pit fruits will have your pet ducks bouncing with joy. Just make sure to mash them up so their tiny bills can dig in.


Can Ducks Eat Chicken Feed?

Adult ducks can – layer feed has all the nutrients they need. Baby ducklings, however, should eat starter that’s specially formulated for them. Ducklings require a lot of niacin for proper bone and bill growth, and most chick starters do not have enough. If you have chick starter on hand, you can increase the niacin by adding brewer’s yeast. Add 1 pound of brewer’s yeast per 40 pounds of chick starter. You can buy brewer’s yeast for ducklings here.


Can Ducklings Eat Strawberries?

Yes! They can – just be sure to chop them into small bits and mash them. They’ll make your baby ducks happy all day long!


Can Ducks Eat Scrambled Eggs?

Yes, ducks can eat scrambled and boiled eggs. For adult ducks, you can include the eggshells (provides extra calcium). For ducklings, leave the eggshells out. They’ll be too hard for your tiny pets to eat, and too much calcium can inhibit organ growth.


Can Ducks Get Lonely?

Ducks are very social animals – they do feel loneliness, isolation, and grief just like us. They love being part of a flock! It’s important to never leave a duck alone or caged for too long as it can cause them to be emotionally unhealthy.


Can Ducklings Drink Milk?

Yes, but it’s not the best treat to give them. It’s important they don’t eat too much dairy products. Opt to give them leafy greens, dried river shrimp, or other treats instead.


How Long Can Ducklings Stay In Water?

They can stay in water for short periods as long as it’s a warm day (above 80 degrees). Do not put them in water if it’s below 70 and they aren’t fully feathered – you’re asking for trouble. Also be sure to give them an easy way in and out of the water, such as having a ramp in the water. If they get cold, they need to easily leave the water.


Can Ducklings Eat Cucumber?

Yes ducklings can eat cucumber. Just be sure to dice them into very small pieces or grind them up. Ducklings love vegetables!


Can Ducklings Eat Oatmeal?

Yes, they can eat oatmeal (uncooked; rolled, or quick). However, it’s best to feed them duck starter instead. Oatmeal is yummy, but it doesn’t have all the nutrients they need. If you’re stuck, and oatmeal is all you have on hand, then it’ll be fine for a day or two. You can also offer cracked corn, wheat, and barley.


Can Ducklings Eat Grapes?

Yes, ducklings can eat grapes as long as they’re mashed. Be sure to remove seeds and skins before feeding it to your ducklings.


Can Ducklings Have Tomatoes?

Yes, they can eat tomatoes. Just make sure they’re mashed, and only feed the tomatoes – not the leaves or stems.


Can Ducklings Have Blueberries?

Yes – ducklings LOVE blueberries! Just be sure to mash them, and don’t feed too much – otherwise your ducklings might get the runs!


Do you still wonder “What do baby ducks eat?” What’s your ducklings’ favorite snack?

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Confessions From The Coop (TM): Ducklings!

Confessions From The Coop (TM): Ducklings!

This month so far has been a notable one – we have ducklings!


Yep, we’ve been testing out a Brinsea incubator (read the review here) and we now have 10 beautiful ducklings of all shades!


A couple were “shrink wrapped” (the humidity fell below 50% so we were keeping an eye on them) but hatched successfully with help, and one egg I’d marked as “likely a dud, but let’s wait and see” hatched a beautiful fawn-colored duckling.


Now it’s time for these guys and gals (hopefully some are female!) to grow up!


This time of year in Southern Missouri is perfect for hatching young poultry – it’s VERY hot outside, so we don’t need a heat lamp. During the first week of life and then at night until they’re fully feathered, they stay in the cabin to make sure they’re warm enough.


And I’m pretty sure this flock of ducklings is related to jumping beans, because even though they’re in a brooder (we use kiddie pools, which work GREAT….normally), they kept escaping.


The first week of life, I tucked them into their brooder at night, but every morning, I found them wandering around the cabin!


We have crates around their brooder to prevent escape, but it seems I have some sort of Houdini ducklings.


It’s great to know they’re so healthy, but I wish they would stay put.


We’ve now transferred them to the large rabbit crate I use as a tractor for very young poultry, so at least they now can go outside AND stay safe!


Once fully feathered, we then have the task of building them a super secure coop!


These ducklings and baby chicks are trying their hardest to grow up, which means all sorts of new experiences…..like escaping their brooder non-stop. And running around the cabin….far away from their feeders and waterers.




The ducklings have already taken to water – we haven’t given them their first swimming pool swim, but they’ve been playing in their waterer non-stop.


I can’t wait to introduce them to swimming – it’s still a bit hard to believe we now have 15 ducks (and we’ll have more – I want to do one more hatch before fall sets in).


At any rate, they’re happy and growing up and always ready for some fun!