Egg hatching is the process of the embryo within the egg developing into a chick. It is triggered by external factors, such as temperature and light exposure.
The exact duration of hatching may vary between species; it can take anywhere from days to weeks, depending on the bird species in question and environmental conditions (particularly ambient humidity).
The wide range of possible hatching periods is because of the different ways in which each species hatches their eggs. Some birds keep them warm with body heat and others lay their eggs in nests, whereas some other bird species bury or cache their unhatched eggs underground where they can incubate for a longer period with no external disturbances such as predators or changing weather.
The process of how long does it take for bird eggs to hatch is not a simple question. There are many factors that come into play, such as the type of bird and the temperature.
In this article, we will discuss how long various types of bird eggs take to hatch and what influences the process.
The Incubation and Hatching Process
Once the eggs are laid, they go through a process called incubation. This is when the embryo develops and hatches. The eggs are kept warm by the mother bird or in an incubator if they are being artificially incubated.
The temperature of the egg will determine how long it takes for the chick to hatch. If the temperature is too high, then the chick will hatch too early and may not survive. If the temperature is too low, then the chick will hatch late and could also die.
The temperature at which the eggs are incubated will determine when they hatch. The ideal range is between 99- and 102-degrees Fahrenheit (37 to 39 degrees Celsius).
If the temperature is too high, the chicks will hatch early and may not survive. If it is too low, then they will hatch late and could also die.
The length of incubation also varies depending on the bird species. Some birds, such as ducks, have a shorter incubation period of around 21 days while others, like penguins, can incubate their eggs for up to two months.
Once the chicks have hatched, they will need to be fed and cared for by their parents (except for cuckoos). This is a vital process, as the chicks cannot survive on their own until they are around four weeks old.
Egg hatching follows a specific pattern. The embryonic chick first breaks out of the eggshell and then gradually completes the process by freeing itself from the remaining egg membranes.
The chick will absorb the yolk sac, which is an important source of nutrients for the growing bird.
The time it takes for bird eggs to hatch can vary, depending on the species of bird and the environmental conditions. The process takes around two weeks, but it can range from 12 hours to several weeks or even months. So, if you are ever lucky enough to witness a hatching egg, be sure to pay close attention to all the details so that you can appreciate this amazing process.
Bird Species and Incubation Periods
Of the many factors that influence how long it takes for bird eggs to hatch, their species is the main one. Each type of bird hatches at its own pace.
Here’s a list of some common bird species and their incubation periods
Editor’s note: Some of these species’ eggs take a couple of days to hatch. For example, the barn owl eggs take an extra 2-3 days to hatch after their incubation period.
- American robin—12-14 days
The American robin is a medium-sized songbird. It has a reddish-orange breast, and a gray head and back. They are usually found in open areas, such as fields, parks, and gardens.
- House sparrow—10-14 days
The House sparrow is a small bird that is known for its song. This species originates from Europe and was introduced to North America in the 1800s. They can be found all over the world, except Antarctica and some islands.
- Barn owl—31-32 days
The Barn owl is a nocturnal bird of prey with very distinctive heart-shaped facial disks. They are found all over the world, except for Antarctica.
- American kestrel—28-31 days
The American kestrel is a small falcon that is found in North America, Central America, and South America. These birds can be seen perched on telephone poles or hovering near power lines.
- Eagle—35 days
Ah, the bald eagle. America’s symbol. During the incubation period of 35 days, these birds remain in their nests and keep their eggs warm. They can be found near large bodies of water all over North America.
- Chickadee—12-13 days
The black-capped chickadee is a small songbird that lives in North American forests and woodlands year-round. These birds are known for their intelligence and social behavior.
- Rock Pigeon—18 days
The Rock Pigeon is the most common pigeon species in North America. They are usually found on ledges of tall buildings, bridges, and other structures.
- Canada goose—28-35 days
The Canada goose is a large, waterfowl species that is found in North America and parts of Europe. They are known for their long migrations, and can be seen near ponds, lakes, and rivers.
- Mallard—28 days
The Mallard is the most common duck in North America. They can be found near ponds, lakes, and rivers where they feed on aquatic plants and insects.
- Penguin—65-75 days
These adorable birds incubate their eggs in a nest made from pebbles. Penguin parents take turns keeping their egg warm for this long time, which means they never leave it unattended.
- Chicken—21 days
Easily the most common bird in North America, chicken incubates their eggs for 21 days before they hatch. These birds are kept as domesticated animals all over the world and are used for their meat and eggs.
As you can see, there is a lot of variability with hatching eggs. In the next section, we will see what factors affect the time ranges.
Fun fact: There is a species of bird that doesn’t bother with incubating its own eggs. The cuckoo bird tricks other species into doing the work for it. And once they hatch, the chicks pick up the other eggs in the nest and toss them away. Isn’t nature amazing?
Factors that Affect Hatching Time
There are several factors that can affect the hatching process. Therefore, we provided a time range for most birds hatching. There are many external factors at play when determining the incubation period.
The species and breed of bird
Different birds have different rates at which they hatch their eggs. Larger birds take longer, as it takes more time for them to develop inside the egg before they are ready to survive on their own.
The hatching time is directly tied to the bird’s size. The bigger the bird, the longer the incubation period.
The breed of bird is another big factor in hatching time. Some breeds are more aggressive than others, and will try to break out of their egg sooner rather than later.
The temperature of the incubation area will determine how long does it takes for bird eggs to hatch.
Warmer temperatures around 99-102 degrees Fahrenheit (37-39 degrees Celsius) promote faster development and hatching, whereas cooler temperatures can slow down or even stop the process entirely.
This happens because the egg is self-regulating, and will keep the embryo in a dormant state until it feels conditions are favorable. Since baby birds come out naked, nature—rightfully—doesn’t want them to come out when it’s so cold they’d freeze.
Humidity affects the rate at which the eggshells absorb water, as well as how much moisture is available to developing embryos. Eggs aren’t a hard shell; they lose weight over time because they are porous.
If humidity is too high or low, they’ll lose too much or too little weight, chicks won’t be able to breathe properly. The more air that is trapped in an egg, the less likely it is to hatch. This is because a greater volume of air takes up space that could be used by the developing embryo.
The Size and Weight of an Individual Egg
Some eggs are smaller than others because of several factors, such as the age of the bird and its diet (think wild birds vs pet ones). Heavier eggs also take longer to hatch than lighter eggs.
This happens because of the way embryos grow inside their eggs. The embryo is basically a growing ball of cells, and it has to eat so much that if there was too little space in the egg, they would exhaust all energy before hatching time. But have too much room, and they’ll use up more than what’s available, which will also prevent hatching.
The Time Since the Egg Was Laid
The older an egg gets, the less likely it is to hatch. This is because as time goes on, more water evaporates from the egg, and the embryo inside becomes desiccated.
Therefore, if you’re hatching chicken eggs, you can assume the chick is dead after 26 days of incubation without hatching. The chick failed to develop enough to get out and survive on its own.
The Presence of a Brood Patch or Not
A bird’s body heat is used to incubate the eggs, but also to keep them warm. Birds have special feathers called “brood patches” that are located directly under where they’re sitting on their eggs during the hatching process. They were designed by nature to sit on their eggs for longer periods of time without getting too cold.
Birds that don’t have brood patches (like penguins), need to get up and move around every so often to keep the eggs warm, otherwise they’ll die.
Position of the Embryo in the Egg
If the embryo is not in the correct position, then it will be difficult for it to hatch. Sometimes, the embryo may even die before hatching.
This is because the chick has to break out of the eggshell and into the air. If it’s stuck at one end, it can’t breathe, and will suffocate.
The Presence of Bacteria
Bacteria can cause eggs to spoil and stop them from hatching. Therefore, it is important to keep eggs clean and free of contaminants during the incubation process. It’s the same in every living organism. Take human mothers.
When they are pregnant, we do our best to ensure they stay healthy through it, especially during the later stages of the baby’s development. Otherwise, the child risks having birth defects when it’s born.
Each state has its own rules and methods of inspection for commercial incubation. For example, here are the Institute for Food Health and Safety of Illinois’ guidelines for incubation. But naturally, these only apply if you plan to sell your eggs. If you’re just raising chicken for your own consumption, you can ignore these. It’s also likely you wouldn’t have access to the right equipment.
The time it takes for bird eggs to hatch can also vary depending on how they are incubated. For example, commercial incubators often have different settings than those used by backyard chicken enthusiasts.
There are many external factors at play when determining the incubation period. For example, sometimes, the embryo may even die before hatching. Therefore, it is important to keep eggs clean and free of contaminants during the incubation process in order to promote hatching.
There’s no actual difference between an artificially and a naturally incubated egg.
The world of birds is vast and fascinating. There are many species out there, each with its quirks and eggs-hatching times. The process is always the same. Bird momma lays the eggs, then she sits on them to keep them warm.
But in some species, like starlings, the burden is shared between the 2 parents. The father and the mother will take turns sitting on the eggs to keep them warm and favor the incubation. Once the egg is ready, it hatches, and the baby bird comes out.
As you can see from our list, size and climate have the biggest impact on birds’ hatching periods. A small bird that lives in a temperate climate like the American robin only takes about 2 weeks to hatch. Whereas a bigger bird that lives in the cold like the penguin takes over 2 months.
One thing is certain. Hatchlings are cute!