Duck Incubation Troubles

Last Thursday was the due-date for my incubated duck eggs to hatch (day 28). This was my first try at incubation. I started with 30 eggs, but only half of them were fertile/good, such that at 1 week, I could see growing embryos when candling them (that’s probably due to the “daddies” being a little slow on their job at first, and also I didn’t store them the right way).

A week before the eggs were due to hatch, I was convinced the remaining 15 looked good. But, on their due date, only one baby had pipped. He made it out ok on day 29. Several others pipped late, very late, on days 30 & 31. They had trouble getting out, we had to help them. They were all dried out and stuck to their shells, and very weak. On day 32, I figured the rest were not going to happen, so I “autopsied” them to assess what went wrong.

Some looked like they hadn’t developed very far. But others were fully developed. Four or five had not yet absorbed their yolks, but were fully formed, so they must have perished just days before their hatch date. And, this last one looks like a perfect baby, yolk absorbed and all, so he must have died very shortly before hatching. Sad, but educational to see how they fit inside that little space.

So, according to my reference book, this can happen when there is too low humidity in the incubator, or too much temperature fluctuation. I have to admit, like a little kid, I was guilty of opening the thing a lot to keep looking at, and tinkering with, the eggs. And, we did have weather extremes which would have impacted the ambient temp in the room, making it hard for my modest incubator to keep a steady environment. Next time, I’ll try making a wet-bulb thermometer to monitor the humidity, keep it moister, and discipline myself to keep the lid on!

The other sad news is, the cat got one of the babies out of the brooder cage I made- she was more clever than I anticipated, and I didn’t realize how weak and slow the babies are their first day (after that, they are quite zippy and able to escape capture attempts).

The good news is, we have four healthy babies; so though my percentage is not so good, these guys are cute and I learned some things for next time.

0 thoughts on “Duck Incubation Troubles

  1. Yvonne says:

    Hi. I was web searching and found this. I have a negative attempted at hatching duck eggs – not sure what I did wrong. I am to chicken to tap the eggs apart though.

    • workingcollies says:

      Hi Yvonne, it IS frustrating, isn’t it? I was a little grossed-out opening up the eggs, but I was determined to learn from the experience!

      I have been asking around of others who are more experienced at incubating eggs. The consensus I’ve heard is that both temperature and humidity are critical. My incubator’s thermostat cannot respond to changes in the room temperature, so I have to make sure I keep that constant. For me, I think it might be easier to do in the winter, when I can set a heater thermostat in a bedroom. Whereas, in the summer, sometimes our house gets hot!

      Supposedly, if the incubator gets too warm, it causes the chicks or ducklings to develop too fast, and they are ready to break out a few days early, but the shell isn’t ready to crack yet. Sad to think that though they try to get out, they cannot! 🙁 I plan to try again this spring, when my ducks start laying again! I’ll report back on my experience!

      Let me know if you try again, and how it goes!

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