Posted 03-31-2003 at 08:49:11
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I don't have duck experience, but do have some with chickens...the exact days will differ, but I suspect the same general principles will apply. Somebody may correct me, but in the interest of time here's what I think:
Hatchability varies with time. It actually *increases* for a day or two; in other words, it is better if an egg "ages" a couple of days after laying before it is incubated. After that initial time period, hatchability begins to decline some each day.
So with chickens, the best hatchability is gained by using eggs about 2 days old, but even week-old eggs will still give adequate hatchability if they've been properly stored (about 50 degrees, fairly high humidity. Also helps if they're turned daily during storage).
So if the eggs aren't *too* old and have been handled and stored well, it may be worth a shot letting your hen set them. But if they're very much older than that, or were stored at too high or low a temperature, they are likely dead or dying and will just spoil so you'll be wasting your time.