Ducks have been raised by humans for centuries. Still valued for their meat and feathers, ducks have made the shift from farm animals to pets in many homes. A number of owners choose to hatch their own ducks, which can be done following the same guidelines as hatching chicks. Hatching duck eggs under a brooding hen is the most natural way to raise a batch of healthy young ducklings.
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Things you need
- Nest boxes
- Brooding hens or ducks
- Brooder box
- Feed and water dishes
- Chick starter
Buy a clutch of fertilised duck eggs from a local hatchery. Ducks are very common in many areas, and fertilised eggs are often available at feed and farm supply stores if you cannot find a nearby hatchery. Purchase 10 to 15 eggs, as you may lose some eggs because of rough handling by the brooding females.
Place the fertilised duck eggs in nest boxes under brooding hens or ducks. Brooding hens are females that are already sitting on a clutch of eggs and will readily accept another egg or two with their own eggs. The duck eggs will be integrated with the female's existing eggs and will be turned and kept warm until they hatch approximately 24 days after being placed in the nest.
Set up your brooder box three or four days before your duck eggs are due to hatch. Brooding boxes are small enclosures that keep your ducklings close to the heat lamp, normally no larger than 36" wide by 36" long, and one brooder box can accommodate up to 20 ducklings at a time. Most brooders are made of lightweight material, like a large plastic storage container, making them easy to move between hatchings. Place your food and water dishes inside the brooder, filling them with fresh water and chick starter. Plug the heat lamp in and allow it to warm up the box before your ducklings arrive. You can keep the brooder box inside during inclimate weather or set it outside when the weather is warm.
Keep a close eye on your brooding hens as your hatching date approaches. The hens will become restless and spend time standing away from the nest as the ducklings begin to break through the shells. Ducklings are born with a small protrusion on the end of their beaks known as an egg tooth that helps them crack the shell without help.
Move your newly hatched ducklings to the brooders once they have dried off and start moving around the nest. Let them explore the brooders on their own and become familiar with the location of the food and water dishes. Your ducklings should stay in the brooder until they are approximately four weeks old, at which time you can move them to a larger, outdoor enclosure.
Tips and warnings
- Try not to handle the ducklings too much during hatching. It might seem difficult for them to break free, but they will make it out on their own.
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