How Long After Mating Are Duck Eggs Fertile (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 10-14 days

Coming under the waterfowl family Anatidae, along with geese and swans, ducks are typically birds that live in the aquatic habitat. They are usually smaller than both geese and swans. Ducks are usually located in seawater and freshwater.

While a female duck is known as a duck, the male duck is referred to as a drake, and the baby duck is called a duckling. Ducks reproduce by laying eggs. These eggs can be laid with or without the involvement of a drake.

But the eggs that were laid without the duck having to breed with the drake, are infertile and are often sold for food. Those eggs that were the result of mating with a drake have gone through the process of fertilization, and thus become fertile.

How Long After Mating Are Duck Eggs Fertile?

Time it takes for duck eggs to be fertileAlmost 10-14 days
Laying period for ducksApproximately 2 weeks
Incubation period for duck eggsAbout 1 month

As previously mentioned, female ducks do not need to mate with male ducks in order to lay eggs. Ducks become mature and ready to mate and lay eggs at about 4-7 months of age. This is a general estimate, and this time of maturity varies with each type of duck. This means that you can expect the first batch of eggs from your duck when it is 4-7 months of age.

For example, breeds such as Runners and Bantams will begin laying eggs at 4 months. Muscovies and Pekins are heavier, and so will begin laying eggs a little later than them, at around 6 months of age. Breeds such as Khaki Campbells also start laying eggs around 4 months. Sometimes, ducks that are domesticated such as Mallards, are known to begin laying eggs in the spring season, irrespective of their ages.

After mating, the eggs that are formed will be fertile in about 10-14 days.

When a duck is laying its eggs, it can take up to two weeks to completely finish laying them, starting from the very first egg to the very last one in that particular batch. During this period, the duck usually lays a single egg every day, totaling up to approximately 12 in the end.

After laying all the eggs, the duck sits on them to safely trigger the hatching of the eggs in a short period of time. This is done to safeguard and protect her brood. The key element of this process is the mother duck’s warmth that envelops the eggs and helps them grow and prepare for hatching. Although the period of incubation varies between the species of ducks, the general rule of thumb is about a month.

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After the incubation period, the shells of the eggs begin to crack and hatch, allowing the ducklings to peek through.

Why Do Duck Eggs Take That Long To Become Fertile After Mating?

Male ducks, or commonly referred to as drakes, have a phallus unlike 97% of birds in the world. In addition, female ducks are born with a vaginal canal that is made to accommodate the phallus of the male. This is how fertilization occurs if the female duck and male duck choose to mate. This additional option gives ducks the chance to reproducing and laying eggs in two ways.

This phallus that the male duck possesses transports sperm into the vaginal canal of the female. This allows for the fusion of the female duck’s eggs and the male duck’s sperm, resulting in a fertilized egg.

Usually, out in the wilderness, female ducks will often pick and choose a male duck to mate with for the entire breeding season. After the breeding season ends, both the female duck and the drake will move on to different partners in order to lay more eggs that are fertile.

After mating, female ducks have the ability to store the sperm for two weeks at least. During this time, the eggs in the female duck become fertilized successfully. This is why it takes 10-14 days for the eggs to become fertile. This ability to store sperm enables the duck to fertilize many eggs in one breeding season.

Ducks typically prefer to breed in a water body, over on land. This is because they find it to be a more natural environment for mating. But this does not mean that ducks never breed on land, as they often do if the female duck wishes to.

Conclusion

Therefore, we can understand that ducks do not need a male duck (drake) for laying eggs, as female ducks have the ability to make eggs on their own. But we must keep in mind that these eggs will not be fertile. If the duck mates with a drake, then the eggs that will be laid will become fertile. This means that these eggs will hatch and grow into ducklings.

The process of reproduction is quite complex for ducks, as they have to lay eggs, incubate them for a period of time, and then hatch them. Ducks are just one type of bird among many that do not need a male counterpart to reproduce and lay eggs. Birds such as domesticated chickens and turkeys also fall under this category of birds.

References

  1. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1017/S0043933919000060
  2. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09291016.2019.1628394
  3. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00071669108417355
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