Handy Hints for Raising Ducklings!
May 1, 2020
If you have your own breeding ducks but plan to incubate the eggs artificially, collect the eggs daily to ensure they are as clean as possible. Most breeders avoid washing eggs and advise you to only incubate clean ones but I must admit that some of our little ones came from muddy eggs!
Store eggs in a cool (but not cold) place and turn once a day. (Mark each egg with a pencil “X” one side and “O” the other so you can see which eggs you have turned. Turn 180° each day to stop the membrane sticking to the shell.)
Eggs can be stored for 7-10 days before incubation. (If you only have one incubator, I’d advise that you concentrate on one batch at a time. If you put eggs in on different days, it will create problems later (e.g. At the point when some eggs need to be left alone, others will still need turning so you will have to open the incubator!)
Check the manufacturer’s instructions for your particular incubator as they vary. (Our incubator was second hand but we found the full manual on the company’s website!)
Accuracy of thermometers is difficult to check. Checking with another thermometer almost never helps as they vary so much. Many breeders say the only real way to determine the correct setting for your incubator is to have a successful hatch and keep using the same setting! Not much comfort when you are starting out. All you can do is set to the recommended temperature and try it. After our first hatch, where only Sheldon survived, we upped the temperature by two degrees (as her late hatch date indicated it had been too cool) and had 7 of our 12 eggs hatch the next time- so don’t give up!
It is good practice to run the incubator for a day or two, before putting the eggs in, to check it is keeping an even temperature. (This may not be possible if you are rescuing a batch of eggs which a duck has abandoned! In this case, do make sure the duck hasn’t just got off for a short while, which won’t harm the eggs.)
Create a “heat sink” in the incubator by placing a few stones/ rocks in it, or a plastic bottle filled with water. (This is particularly important if you only have a few eggs in the incubator. The heat sink helps you to maintain a steady temperature and helps the incubator to return to the required level of heat after you have opened it.)
Eggs need to be turned. You may have an incubator which turns them automatically but, if not, turn them an odd number of times daily. Three times is often recommended. Some breeders don’t think automatic egg turning machines are a good idea for duck eggs, but my crew hatched fine with automatic turning and one manual turn each night…since that was what I thought I should do at the time.