While winter is not generally considered a great time to hatch ducklings, we’ve gone and decided to just give it a go regardless. In the post I’ll share some of our reasoning and some of our results so far.
Hatching ducklings will be undertaken from two different sources.
Firstly, we will hatch some of our own ducklings. We have a very respectable ratio of drakes to ducks (5-1), which means that all eggs should be fertile unless the birds have fertility problems themselves (this can happen with poor genetics, and poor environmental conditions – the latter is very unlikely however).
The boys are able to ‘service’ all of the girls so that the eggs should be fertile unless something biological has gone awry. Too many drakes to ducks means that the girls can be injured with the frequency of mating. Too few drakes to ducks means that there is less likely to be fertile eggs produced. Generally a ratio of 5-1 or 6-1 (ducks to drakes) is recommended, but this figure depends on the animals involved, the environment and conditions.
Secondly, we are growing some ducklings from day-olds. This will result in diversified genetics. Just in case our own ducks – or the hatchery ducks – aren’t quite up to scratch at least we will still have half of our population performing. Or should – in theory. Our intention is to keep track of the different ducks with separate paddocks and when we measure the quantity of eggs produced, the resilience and other factors, we can decide which birds we should continue to breed from.
Hatching in winter
The reasons hatching ducklings in winter is uncommon is because:
- Ducks are usually less fertile in the colder months, resulting in less ducklings hatching from the same number of eggs. This is a general rule, and not always the case though.
- Because it’s colder in winter, the ducklings often have a higher mortality rate once the ducklings are hatched. Cold is a duckling killer, so we need to be really careful and ensure that they’re warm all night in a cosy spot.
Hatching ducklings (our own) results
So far the results are less promising than expected for hatching our own ducklings.
Of the 26 fertile eggs that we placed in our Janoel 48 incubator, we received the following results after 34 days. We left the incubator on for a few extra days just in case we had some very late bloomers.
- 3 eggs hatched with live ducklings
- 12 had partially formed ducklings
- 11 had nothing inside
Previously we’ve set 17 fertile eggs in our incubator and again that only produced 3 ducklings, which were all boys unfortunately! You can see them below.
At the same time as we put 26 fertile eggs in the incubator, we put two eggs under our neighbour’s broody chicken. They don’t have roosters, so this was the only opportunity (other than to buy fertile eggs) that this hen could become a mother. After the month had passed, both eggs had hatched a little duckling. One of the ducklings died shortly afterwards, while the other is still going strong! Our neighbour’s chicken has a 100% success rate – compared to a bit over 50% for the incubator, which is really disappointing and something that we will learn from.
In fact, it makes it much more tempting to try our own broody chicken/duck to hatch out ducklings of our own in the future. Massive commercial operations simply don’t have the time to maintain a broody, it might work for a much smaller operation like us. Substantial energy is required to heat ducklings and maintain quality living conditions. Plus there is a huge amount of cleaning and maintainence required to look after ducklings traditionally. We are learning from our mistakes and continuously improving on the farm to make things better!