Incubation tips for waterfowl.....
There has long been debate over natural or artificial incubation for migratory waterfowl.
Here are some of the pros and cons of each.
Natural, if you have a good broody mom is always better than artificial, these guys can be very finicky in an incubator. A poor broody mom however, can get off and you'll loose the entire clutch. If allowed to set and hatch a clutch, usually the hen is done for the year. With a lot of these species, if you pull the eggs daily, you can get 2 or even 3 clutches per hen every season, some species more so than others.
Often times, especially with first season hens, a good number of your eggs will just be laid on the ground at random. In this case you will have to incubate or have a broody hen on hand.
I always incubated mine, but I have always had a knack for it too. If you are a beginner, I would let your hens do it if at all possible. Just watch the babies, I never liked to let any in the main display pens. Too many big birds in there, to many ways to get out, too many ways to get killed basically, always liked them in a brooder where I can control what happens to them. Also, have you ever tried to catch a baby duck in a big pen that doesnt want to be caught, LOL They can dive at 1 day old and swim under water for ever, when they pop up, you move, down they go again, , BUT they have to be marked, so you have to catch them. Best way to do this is, if you let the hen incubate, keep up with when she started, on the last few days, take them and finish them off in the incubator.
Here's some tips I have found helpful to me over the years.
I never used turners with standard stand up trays. Seems the eggs dont hatch well in that unnatural position. I always X'ed and O'ed each side of the egg and hand turn, laying naturally on their sides, 3 times or so a day. 99.5 temp, humidity a bit higher than other eggs, as these are waterfowl. 55- 60%. If possible keep a spray bottle of water in the incubator (this keeps it the same temp as the air, if you dont have room, just use warm water, never cold)and mist the eggs 1-2 times a day, just lightly, dont soak them. This bumps the humidity a little while and simulated a wet hen returning to the nest from feeding.
On the last 3 days I always bumped up to 70% and let them do the rest.
Again if you are a beginner, try your hand at the easier dabbler species, wood ducks, mandarins, ring teal are all the easiest. Your divers will drive you nutts! And are hard to artificially hatch at times even for a duck pro. Best to let them do it til you get good at the others. Even if you just get 1 clutch, if it hatches, you are better off than 3 clutches that didnt hatch.
The first week after hatch is the worst on all waterfowl, if they make it threw that, you pretty much have them whipped, see the brooding section above for tips on that. Keep 'em warm, clean, and fresh food and water, and you should be in good shape.