A little back story here- My great uncle was needing a little hobby. Nothing strenuous, but something to get him out and about. The idea came about to get him a few chickens to tend. We had more than enough to share so once his boys got a coop assembled for him we brought a handful of hens.
Each Sunday after church we would get an update on how they were doing. I tell ya’ what, he must have been talking sweet to those girls because he got an egg from each of them every day. They were decent layers at our house but never that consistent. I was glad they were working out well for him. He seemed pretty happy too.
After a year or two of chickens he moved on to turkeys. I don’t remember how many he started with exactly but after losing a couple along the way there were two hens left.
This summer at the age of 94, he passed away and the hens were needing a new home. That is how we came to inherit a couple turkeys. To be later named Lucy and Ethel.
They are about a year old roughly and gracing us with an egg or two day. Uncle Bill had mentioned before that he was hoping to have a few hatch (when he had a tom with them). Since they are part of the family in a different way than Gus and Humphrey, the steers that went to butcher, the ladies will live happily ever after with us. I don’t know if saying “in honor of” is quite the words I’m looking for, maybe “in respect of” or “in remembrance of”, I’m not sure that’s right either but for Great Uncle Bill I posted an “In search of” listing asking for a tom turkey.
We sell fresh eggs by the dozen, so the carton on the counter that was holding a beautiful dozen and a half raised question in Mikes mind.
It was the usual rushed Sunday morning: get ready for church, do chores, get the kids ready, pack up the eggs for Sunday deliveries and so on. Mike and I were in the kitchen refilling our coffee when he noticed my larger than normal egg carton on the counter.
“What ‘cha doin’ with those eggs?”
Without making eye contact I turned and faced the coffee pot, concentrated on pouring my next cup and mumbled “I’m going to put them in the incubator.”
We had eight of twelve duck eggs hatch. The eighth I’m hoping will make it, he’s been looking better but I’m still cautious to say we are in the clear with him yet. All animals have a “best outcome method” (my own official term) of birth. Cows it’s best to see the two front hooves and nose coming out first, goats too. Egg hatching birds (all that I am aware of) are supposed to peck around the top of the egg which is the more round end, the bottom being the pointed end. These don’t guarantee a healthy baby but the odds are much better.
Duck8 started pecking at the point of the egg. With a very small hole pecked he made no progress what so ever for about 24 hours. There was still a little wiggling in the shell so Mike decided to help the little guy out. This is not recommended by the way, but we can only watching something struggle for so long before we have to step in and help in hopes of saving the little life. Mike pealed back some of the shell leaving the inner lining intact. It reminded me of a beating heart, the motion of the lining (it was white though, not red and bloody). Then he left to go disc the hay field.
What a weekend on the farm! Our duck eggs that I had marked on the calendar to start hatching on Saturday, started Friday morning. It was quite exciting. We all happened to be home and huddled around the incubator peering into the little windows watching with great anticipation of the shell bursting open and our first duck falling out.
Through the night Lucky (the duck) pecked his way around the top of the shell. Mike noticed the cracks and some movement early Friday morning and from then on, “duckling watch” had begun. Everyone checking in any time we happened to walk by… so all the time. It wasn’t too long and the Little Boy was on the bench with his nose to the glass watching and the top of the shell popped off and a tiny duck head peeked out. There looked like a bit of a struggled for a few seconds to which our little guy, who was quite concerned exclaimed “Help him!” “We can’t buddy. He needs to get out of his shell by himself.” That was not the answer he was looking for but kept watching anyway. With a little more effort Lucky was out! Barely standing and very wobbly we had our first egg hatch.
Did you know ducklings can live for a couple days without food or water?! That’s how they can be shipped without provisions. I did not know this. It was after a text to a friend who know everything there is to know about poultry that I learned this. You are not supposed to remove the bird from the incubator until everyone that should hatch did. It is very important to keep it humid in there or the babies can get stuck in their shell. Lucky came out that evening regardless. Our house is so dry we needed to add water anyway. So one added water while the other grabbed the duck.
The next morning Tallulah broke out of her shell. Just as the day before, she was greeted with great anticipation and excitement… in fact we were all a little late for where we needed to be because of it. Three more emerged on Sunday morning while we were at church, for a total of three blue and two fawn Runner Ducks. I am holding out hope that at least one chocolate one will hatch; I was really hoping for that color, but we will see I guess.
There are six eggs left to go. One was chirping and moving so hopefully we will see that one soon. That would bring us to our fifty percent hatch rate, which is what I was hoping for. We will give the rest a couple more days and see what happens. If none of the chocolates hatch this year, maybe we will try again next year.
UPDATE: A chocolate one hatched during the night! We have two fawn and two chocolate left to possibly hatch!
It has been a week since the eggs arrived. I was asked by almost everyone that I told we were getting duck eggs “How do they ship those?” To which I had the great reply of “In an egg carton in a box? Maybe?”
They were shipped in a large box with bubble wrap and a thick foam pad that had holes punched out. Each egg was carefully wedged in a hole and in pencil noted what color of duck should come out of the egg. I liked the labeling; it’s much easier than the guessing game of which chick is which when we order live chicks. Questions answered.
The day after the eggs arrived, they were put into the incubator. They are supposed to sit for a day, point down just in case the air sack was jarred loose during shipping. The rest allows the sack to reattach to the top of the egg where it belongs from what I hear. The temperature has hovered around 99.5 f. From what I’ve read a steady temperature of 99.8 is needed for the first 25 days of incubation for the duck eggs. Hmm. A quick prayer and duck egg blessing and we are hoping for the best! After the first week you can candle the eggs to check development and remove any unfertilized or dead eggs… again from what I’ve read.
Candling eggs is basically shining a bright light onto each egg, allowing you to be able to see through the shell enough to see what stage in development the potential bird is. You can buy special flashlight type devices made just for this special task… We have not purchased one; go figure (I prefer multi-use tools). I did however candle the eggs the other morning with my own special tool. Using my goose hunting head lamp and an empty toilet paper roll, I had my own task specific egg candling device. Ya’ know what?! It worked well! Next time I will probably cut the roll in half. I don’t think the whole thing is necessary, but it was early and the thought process was still a little slow.
We had ordered 12 eggs- Mike picked out 6 of the fawn color (also known as pencil runners), I really liked the chocolate and the blue, so I picked 3 of each.
After our first week’s candling, from what I can tell there is one fawn that is dead and one blue that wasn’t fertilized or died right away. The rest have the veining that they are supposed to. There may be a couple more that won’t make it. They were a little iffy, so they can sit for another week and we’ll see what kind of progress they make… if any.
This is our first time incubating so by all means this is not meant to instruct, it’s just to note our first time attempting to hatch eggs.