How Long Does It Take For Bird Eggs To Hatch?

For a lot of people, birds are really interesting creatures to watch and even care for. Each species of bird has their own unique nesting habits and routine. You may have seen birds nesting in bird boxes if you have them in your backyard. Or you may have seen birds nesting on the woodland floor or high up in tree tops.

Either way every bird has their own way of nesting and not all bird eggs hatch in the same amount of time. In this article, we will discover how long it takes for bird eggs to hatch, and everything else you need to know about nesting birds.

The Cycle Of Bird Eggs: The Nest

Once any species of bird has found a mate,  they proceed to make a nest. The nest is crucial for bird eggs as it has to be perfect. The birds want to find a place that is safe and quite remote. This is so they can nest in peace and don’t have to worry too much about predators finding them and their eggs. 

Finding the right place can take a while, but birds know that the nest could be the thing of whether their offspring survive or not.

Depending on the type of bird, you can see birds nesting in bird boxes, or in trees, or in bushes on the floor. Some birds make their nests out of sticks and twigs, while others use mud. Leaves and grass are used in a lot of nests.

The materials that they use is to make the nest as comfortable as possible for the eggs once they hatch. Also the materials used helps keep the eggs warm, during the incubation period. 

Not all birds make nests. Some birds will make a nest, while others take over other birds’ nests or holes in trees. For example, owls will use old nests left by other birds or take over a nest or use a hole in a tree to raise their young. However, by using someone’s nest, this conserves their energy. 

The Cycle Of Bird Eggs: Laying

Once the perfect nest has either been found or made, then the birds can lay their eggs. Ovulation and egg-laying normally takes 24 hours to happen. However, most birds are known for laying one egg a day. Some bird species may only lay two or three eggs in total on the average, but some are known for laying a lot more and less.  

A lot of factors affect how many eggs a bird will lay. Some factors include the age of the female bird who is laying the eggs. Yet also, the climate can affect how many eggs are laid.

That being said the species of the bird effects this too, because some species of birds just don’t lay that many egg compared to others. A mourning dove only lays two eggs, compared to Pheasant that can lay 8 to 15 eggs, depending on the species of Pheasant.   

What Time Of Year Do Birds Lay Their Eggs?

Spring is known as the season of animals breeding but that doesn’t mean that all birds breed in spring. Birds lay and hatch their eggs all year round, depending on their species.

As mentioned above a lot of different factors can affect when a bird may lay their eggs. The size of the clutch a female bird produces and what time of year they lay it all has to do with the female bird’s fitness. 

Birds that breed earlier on in a season have higher success rates compared to those who breed later on in a season. Those who breed earlier in a season, have more choice of where to breed and where to make a nest.

They also have access to a lot more food. For birds that lay later on in a season or in winter, the chances of their eggs surviving is a lot lower. This is due to the limited food supplies and also the parents are preparing for winter themselves.

Incubation becomes even more important as the eggs can’t be left alone for very long, if at all.

The Cycle Of Bird Eggs: Incubation

The incubation period is vital for all bird eggs. The female and sometimes male, will keep the birds warm by sitting on the eggs and incubating them.

The reason that birds do this is because the eggs must be kept to a certain temperature or as close to a certain temperature as possible. This temperature should be roughly 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. 

If the eggs get too cold, then the birds growing inside the eggs will die. If a bird doesn’t properly incubate their clutch of eggs, then this is the reason why the eggs don’t hatch. However most birds have a great nesting instinct that encourages them to keep incubating their eggs. 

The Cycle Of Bird Eggs: Hatching

The hatching stage of bird eggs varies massively. As long as they have been incubated properly then the eggs will hatch. Once the eggs have been laid and depending on the species of bird, the eggs can hatch between 10 to 14 days. Large species of bird eggs can take longer to hatch, while smaller bird eggs don’t take as long to hatch. 

Owl eggs, for instance, can take 31 to 32 days to hatch from the day the first egg was laid. The eggs will hatch in the order that they were laid in. Even pheasant eggs take 23 to 28 days to hatch. However, compared to robin eggs that only take 13 days to hatch. 

The actual hatching process can differ from bird to bird. In one nest, 3 eggs could all hatch at different rates. For an egg to hatch, it can take as little as an hour or it could take much longer for it to release itself from the egg completely. It can take up to 24 hours for the chick to hatch out of the shell completely.

Sometimes eggs can hatch without a parent being present. This is perfectly normal and safe. As long as the nest is still warm while the eggs are hatching and receive care afterward from its parents; the eggs will be fine. 

What Not To Do When A Bird Is Hatching

If you have a bird box and can see a bird hatching, don’t try to help it. This is a natural process and the bird’s instinct is helping the young bird to get out of the egg shell. It is normal for a bird to take 24 hours to hatch, once they have first started.

By intervening and trying to help the bird, you could end up doing more bad than good. It could make the hatching process even harder for the chick. While also you may transfer germs to the baby bird, which means it may not last long after hatching.

Really, you should try to leave them alone, however if after 24 hours, the baby bird is still struggling, then this is the time where you might have to step in. This could be phoning a specialist, but really the chick knows what it is doing so you don’t need to worry. 

What Happens After A Bird Has Hatched?

This does depend on the type of bird you are looking at. For example, as soon as ducks are hatched they leave the nest immediately. However most birds are born are blind and featherless. Hence they are defenceless and need their parents to help them and find them food.

The hatchlings will stay in the nest for about two weeks. In this time they will grow bigger and stronger. Feathers will begin to grow and eventually they’ll be strong enough to fly and leave the nest. 

While the hatchlings are small, the parents may still sit on their children. Like during the incubation period, this just keeps the hatchlings warm until their feathers come in. Also this is another way to hide their children from any predictors. It keeps them safe and warm.

What Happens When A Hatchling Is Strong Enough To Leave The Nest?

On average after two to three weeks, the hatchlings are ready to gain some independence. Their parents have fed them up and they are strong enough to explore a little. The hatchlings won’t fly straight away, it’ll take some practise. 

Before flying, the hatchlings will start to fledge. A fledgling, will have most of its feathers but not all of them yet. However they are strong enough to venture outside the nest. This can consist of them hopping around outside the nest, or very short flights.

Fledging is quite a dangerous thing for a fledgling to do. However, it is vital for the bird to learn and have its own independence and not rely on its parents anymore. 

It is also a natural instinct for the bird to do this, because they won’t stay in the nest for much longer. This is due to the fact that the parents will leave eventually as they wouldn’t be able to find enough food for themselves and their children. Also there wouldn’t be enough space in the nest for all the grown birds.

A young bird may fledge for a few days. Yet as a result of fledging, their wings will grow stronger and develop better. As a result, they will be able to fly better and not crash land into everything.

Once they are strong enough and brave enough, the young bird will leave the nest for the last time and they’ll be on their own. It may take a couple of days, but they will get the hang of it.

Like humans, when it comes to trying something new, it can take some practise before you are good enough and the same goes with birds and learning to fly. 

What Not To Do If You Find A Bird Egg

If you come across a bird egg or an abandoned nest, this is a normal thing to happen. Really, it is best to leave the eggs alone. You may think the nest is abandoned but it might not be.

Some birds don’t start incubating until they have laid all their eggs. Or after laying an egg, the parents might stay away from their eggs to keep it safe from predators, Otherwise predictors might see that they are nesting somewhere nearby and come to investigate.

If you do find an egg or what you believe to be an abandoned nest, you aren’t allowed to take the eggs and incubate them yourself. Without a permit, the Migratory Bird Act states that you can’t possess the eggs of a native bird.

If you find an egg and know where the nest is, you can try to carefully place the egg back inside the nest. However you must be extremely careful, as these eggs are very vulnerable and delicate. Although, don’t put the egg into any nest, because this can overwhelm the foster nest.

Also the parents won’t be very pleased when a different species of bird is hatched alongside their young. Hence they could even kill the chick once it is born, if they discover it isn’t one of their own.  

Sometimes you will find bird eggs on the ground, because a predator has removed them from their nest. Predators such as house sparrows and cowbirds, will remove the eggs by dropping them on the floor and sometimes replace the egg with their own.

If you come across an egg that has holes in, that weren’t created by a chick peaking its way out of the shell, it won’t hatch. This is because the protective shell has been damaged. Also the heat the chick needs has been taken away. 

However, other times the parents have removed the egg from their nest, because it is infertile and isn’t going to hatch anyway. Thus there is no point giving heat to something that isn’t going to hatch.

Finally, the nest may have just been blown or knocked down. Yet there isn’t much chance of these eggs hatching. The shells will most likely be broken from the fall and the heat the chicks needed will have been taken away. 

What Happens If The Eggs On The Floor Hatch?

If somehow the bird egg on the floor hatches, it may not last long. Hatchlings need to be kept warm and fed every 5 to 15 minutes. Also hatchlings need to be fed on the correct diet. Otherwise the hatchlings won’t grow and develop as they should.

Also if you manage to feed the hatchling until it is strong enough to fledge, a human won’t be able to teach the young bird to hunt for food properly. Wild birds should be raised by wild birds or a licensed rehabber. These birds need to learn how to fend for themselves in the wild.

Some young birds will imprint with their caregiver, so if they imprint on a human then they are less likely to be able to survive in the wild. A hatchling relies on its parents to imprint and teach them how to survive and hunt, which unfortunately a human cannot do. 

It really is best to leave hatchlings alone. It might be sad but if the parents are still alive they will nest again the next year. 

Final Thoughts

Depending on the species of the bird, this can alter many things. However in general bird eggs will hatch between 10 to 14 days after being laid. They will only hatch, if they have been incubated properly. The heat the parents give off by sitting on their eggs keeps the eggs at the perfect temperature so they will grow and develop properly.

You might come across bird eggs on the ground and this is perfectly normal. However we suggest leaving the bird eggs alone. Interfering with mother nature isn’t a good thing to do.

If an egg is on the ground, they are either meant to be there and the parents will be back soon. Otherwise they have been knocked out and most likely have not survived the fall. 

Bird eggs are beautiful things to look at and if you want to have a closer look, then put a bird box up in your garden. All you have to do is wait for a breeding couple to come by, but remember to keep your distance and let the birds handle it on their own.