When I started raising ducks, I never thought I would need or want an incubator. I was raising Muscovies, one of the best breeds for mothering. I was 100% for natural incubation, and I told myself, “Who needs an incubator if they have Muscovies? These ducks can hatch their own babies! I’m never getting an incubator.”

And then Kiwi, one of our broody Muscovies who was sitting on eight eggs, left her nest during the night and escaped her pen. She wanted a bath, but unfortunately all the bath tubs were empty. She went to the pond and was killed by a crocodile. (The ducks have been trained never to go to our pond, so I guess she was desperate.)

Fortunately, another Muscovy named Lilac was also setting on a few eggs, only three. We marked Kiwi’s eggs as “K” and quickly put them under Lilac. She happily sat on the extra eggs, but it was only a temporary solution. Lilac’s eggs were due to hatch within the next few days, and Kiwi’s eggs still needed two more weeks of incubation.

We hurriedly bought a small incubator and automatic egg turner. The next day, all of Lilac’s eggs hatched, and we moved Kiwi’s eggs to the incubator. We had no idea if any of those eggs would hatch, because we didn’t know what time Kiwi had left her nest. We didn’t know if the eggs had been left unattended so long that they had died. But we wanted to try anyway.

A few days later, we were startled to see a still-wet duckling sitting on the automatic egg turner. They were hatching early! We removed the turner, and in the following days, five out of the eight eggs hatched! Although two were trapped in a sticky membrane and needed help, and one died, Lilac adopted the remaining four immediately.

The ducklings are not fully grown yet. (The large image at the top is of Lilac and her seven ducklings.) Even now as I look out the window, I see our flock foraging in the backyard. Among them are Lilac and her seven beautiful, active little ones, half feathers and half fluff. One of those little females, one of Kiwi’s ducklings, is named Lucky. Since she looks so much like her mother, she will be Kiwi’s replacement. And indeed, she is lucky to be alive.

2 Comments

  1. I have an Indian runner that went clucky and have put fertile eggs under her and a clucky chook. Today I found a wee duckling totally out of its shell wet and dead and another duckling kicked out of coup half out of shell. We have taken the rest of the eggs away from her and put under chook but I’m worried where the chook is. She is in the pampas and thinking the ducklings could get stuck it’s pretty wild.? Have got a good sized coup but I’m scared to move her in case she stops sitting. Also how long does a clutch of eggs take to hatch?

    1. Hi Kathy,

      A duck’s eggs will take 28 days to hatch. A chicken’s will take 21.

      It’s difficult to move a broody hen. You’re right that it will probably cause her to stop sitting. I would probably leave her where she is and then move the ducklings to a safer place as soon as they hatch. If you think it’s too dangerous where they are currently, you can attempt to move her. Do it at night, because they can’t see in the dark and won’t realize they’re being moved. Then lock her into the new nest for at least a few hours to be sure she stays. Hopefully, if all goes well, she will accept the new location and not leave it.

      Hope that helps!

      Sincerely,
      Hannah Miller

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