The “emergency replacement batch” of ducklings hatched this weekend. Three silvers, one blue, and one black. I think three of them are purebred Magpies. I’d like to get back to having a purebred flock, so that’s good.
I’ve not had good luck with my Little Giant incubator, as I’ve talked about before, and this time was no exception. This time, I tried removing the egg turner, to ensure the eggs weren’t too close to the heating element. But this necessitates hand-turning, which is also not ideal, because it’s tough to do it consistently three times per day. And, it’s a pain. While I was out of town, Kirk didn’t do it at all.
This batch was just like the others- lots of mostly or fully formed ducklings that seemed to have perished in their shells shortly before hatching time. Thirteen eggs that candled fertile on the seventh day, and only five hatched. And two I helped out quite a bit. You can see one in the photo has a lot of gluey stuff on him. That’s what happens when they “pip” the shell, but then don’t make steady progress in breaking the shell’s “cap” open and exiting. I find that the membrane between the shell and the duckling starts to dry out once exposed to air, and becomes cement-like. If the duckling sits still too long, the membrane glues to him and basically paralyzes him in his folded-up position.
So, I helped this one, and washed him with warm water so he could open his eyes and move his limbs. You’re not supposed to help, because hatching is the ultimate test of nature, and birds that can’t hatch on their own are probably weak birds. But, I can’t stand it, they are too cute not to help. And I think it’s not their fault, I think it’s my incubator or process that’s making it so difficult for them to hatch.
So, anyway, five is enough; hopefully there is a boy in there. You can see in the picture, they have a stuffed dog with them in their brooder. I’ve found that small batches of hatchlings find this really comforting. It’s especially helpful if one duckling hatches long before the rest. They feel very distressed when they are alone, they have a very strong instinct to huddle together, and stick close to their mother, if they’ve got one. A single duckling will call and call trying to locate his siblings and parent, and doesn’t get any rest. But it’ll nestle right up to the stuffed dog under the heat lamp, and then fall asleep. Even though there are five, they still like sleeping next to the dog, so I’ll leave him in there for a few days.