While artificial incubation is the most effective way to hatch duck eggs, it's also expensive. There is a natural incubation method that is nearly as effective. For centuries before incubators were invented, ducks have been incubating their own young. By using a brooding bird to incubate the eggs, you can effectively incubate a small number of duck eggs until they hatch.
Find a broody duck or hen. Brooding birds are birds that are incubating their own eggs. If you do not already have a brooding bird on your farm, you can purchase one from another farm, or a local farm animal distributor. Duckhealth.com recommends Muscovy ducks as the best setters for the incubation of duck eggs, as they can hatch up to 12 to 15 eggs. Duck eggs should incubate in 28-37 days, depending on the species.
Select a nesting spot for the brooding bird. The bird needs a nest at least 16 square inches. The nest needs to be in a dark area, which is safe and free of pests or parasites. A box full of straw or dried grass, placed at ground level is an ideal option for a nest. If the bird already has chosen a nest, it is best to leave it be, unless the conditions of the nest aren't ideal.
Place the eggs under the brooding bird at night. You may need to swap out eggs currently being incubated by the bird, if they are already setting to capacity. A brooding bird can only incubate as many eggs at it can cover.
Place food and water near the nest. The bird shouldn't need to travel far for food, but the food shouldn't be so close as the bird doesn't need to leave the nest. Brooding birds require exercise, and will soil their nests if they aren't required to leave them for food.