Incubator Report

27 11 2013

Well…….  the incubator did its job.  Three ducklings were born over the past 12 hours, but whether or not I will continue expending my precious solar power on this remains to be seen, because out of ten eggs, that is pretty much the success rate I have been getting with naturally incubated eggs.  I just broke the remaining seven eggs, and it was obvious not one of them had been fertilised, so the problem isn’t with the hens being good mothers, it’s the drakes making poor fathers!  I may give it one more go, after I reconfigure the whole thing with extra insulation and the light in the top in the centre of the box to give me more space for eggs.

The whole exercise was actually quite an eye opener.  Having delivered kid goats here, we were expecting that compared to

First tiny holes

First tiny holes

mammalian live birth egg hatching would be simple as…..  well nothing could be further from the truth!  From the time we started hearing the very faint tapping noises of the littlies trying to get out to the actual hatching took two days.

At hatching time, some 30% of the egg is air trapped in a void at the pointy end.  The duckling breaches this to start breathing, and starts tapping at the shell until it too is breached to get more air.  Eventually, the tiny tap tap taps turn into a small hole big enough to see the little creature inside.  But that is just the start of it.  Duck eggs have a tough and thick membrane inside them, and this must be disposed of before the shell can be cracked.

Internet research clearly states that interfering at this stage to help the little critters is a bad idea.  They are still

First one out

First one out

attached to what’s left of the yolk sac, and have to consume this as energy to perform the miracle of birthing.  Early separation from the yolk weakens the bird, and may kill it.

As they approach time to completely hatch, the weirdest thing occurs…..  they suck the yolk sac up their cloaca, giving them enough food and water storage to last up to 48 hours, just in case that’s how long it takes for the whole clutch of eggs to hatch.


Two down, one to go

The humidity at this stage is critical, because if they dry out too much, they can end up literally glued to the inside of the egg shell.  I had managed to control the environment inside the incubator to a pretty constant 37.5ºC (the black wire in the pics is the temperature sensor) and 80% humidity, but as the poor things started to look like they’d been struggling for a bit too long, Glenda the midwife decided to take charge by easing the shells with tweezers and administering water to unglue the poor things.  Not really sure what was not going right here….  but Glenda prevailed, and they all hatched successfully.

Free at last!

Free at last!

I was lucky enough to actually witness the last one hatching, and get photos of it all…

The three hatchings were staggered, with several hours between each one, and it’s fascinating to watch their development after leaving the egg.  The poor things come out utterly exhausted and just lie there for half an hour covered in gunk and looking like the proverbial ugly duckling.

The first born amazingly started preening the younger ones.  He’s started eating even, and may soon look like the cute fluffy yellow ducklings we all perceive as normal as he gains strength and preens himself dry.  As I type, I can hear them all chirping away inside the box!