Monday, July 9, 2012

Ancona Ducklings!!

After 28+ days of waiting, we have nine gorgeous Ancona ducklings! They were due on July 5th. There were lots of pips that day, but none of the eggs seemed to be moving closer to hatching. Nevertheless, I slept on the couch so that if any of the babies hatched in the night, I could hear them.

4:30 AM on July 6th, I was in the middle of strange, poultry-related dream that included Terry Golson (from Hencam) and I going antique shopping.  Some persistent peeping penetrated my slumber and I ran to the kitchen. This is what I saw:

An egg is unzipping!

One of the eggs was unzipping, which means that the duck was turning around in the egg and poking holes in the shell. Boy, was it loud! 

Pushing out

Welcome to the world, little duck! 

This little duck was full of energy. Not long after he hatched, he was running around the incubator, using the other eggs for soccer balls.

Duck #1 loving on Duck #2

When more started hatching, Duck #1 started harassing the occupants of the other eggs. He kept poking his bill in the zipped portion of the eggshell and making the other duck squawk. It is recommended that you keep newly hatched ducklings in the incubator for up to 24 hours before you transfer them to a brooder. This allows them to stabilize and dry off. We had to remove Duck #1 after just a couple of hours or he could have potentially hurt the next couple of ducklings. He was quite a bit more frisky than they were and could have ruptured some incompletely absorbed yolk sacs.

Hubby Dear performing surgery on a struggling duckling's egg

A few of the ducklings showed signs that they were struggling. There are a couple of schools of thought about helping ducks and chicks to hatch. Some say you should just let nature take its course, survival of the fittest, as it were. Others say that it is OK to gently assist ducklings, especially if the humidity might have been wonky and the chick or duck could have dried out a bit and got stuck to the membrane of the egg.

We decided to help out those ducks that were clearly in trouble. We set up the brooder lamp and warmed a towel to rest the egg on. Hubby Dear took a pair of dull tweezers and gently chipped away at the shell while I swabbed warm water on the membrane with a Q-tip. You can read about the technique we used here.

We opened the shell ever so slightly. Then we put it back in the incubator for an hour or two. 

We moved very slowly, trying to give the duckling time to do most of the work. A couple of the ducks needed a lot of help, some required just a bit, but most hatched out entirely on their own.

See the tiny toenails and the bit of bill?

The first three ducklings in the brooder. Two of the three ducks don't have enough patterning to make them ideal
examples of the Ancona breed. The duck on the right is more desirably marked. The pink thing
in the right of the picture is an old stuffed animal we gave them to cuddle.

After a month of waiting, we were soon deluged with adorable ducklings.

A little girl fresh out of the incubator. 

Another little girl

A boy 

Another boy

Another boy

One last little boy

If you were keeping track, you'll see that we ended up with three girls and six boys. So we think, anyway. We watched this video on determining gender in waterfowl and used what we learned to vent sex our ducklings.

Although it's hard to acknowledge when surrounded by their extreme cuteness, we can't keep all our ducks. That kind of boy to girl ratio would make our girl ducks extremely unhappy when they get to breeding age! Ideally, we would have gotten five girls and kept one boy but of course it doesn't always work out the way you want. We are going to keep all three girls and two boys. We have found homes for the extra four boys.  These cuties are not hard to sell. :)

Cute, but certainly messy!!


  1. They're so cute.

  2. I have been following your blog for quite some time; this was the best post ever! Tricia

  3. Ok, the cute factor of your blog just went up to 11. These little ones are darling (and yes, very messy). I will enjoy reading more of your duck adventures.

  4. Dang it, now I want ducks -- despite all the reasons I keep telling myself I don't want ducks!

  5. We have 5 ducks and they are so fun to raise. Congrats!