Phase 1: Arf! Arf! Got you!
You enjoy the ducks running in your backyard every day and you do your chores including daily egg-collection but then one morning one of your ducks won't come out of the house. You step inside your duck's house and there she is, sitting in a nest either anxiously quacking or aggressively hissing at you: She outsmarted you!
Hiding eggs from you during the last couple of days, she's gone broody and is now sitting on her clutch of eggs trying to hatch cute little ducklings.
Phase 2: Decision time.
Now you have to make the decision weather to let her have her will or to break her broodiness. A couple of things should be considered before making any hasty decision:
Cleaning out the duck-house (not her nest!) may help with the decision process - you have procrastinated that pesky chore already way too long.
- Are the eggs even fertile? If you don't have a drake, you should not let your duck sit on an infertile clutch of eggs for almost a month for no reason. Being broody and sitting on a nest is very hard on the body of a duck.
- Breaking broodiness is a lot of stress for your duck. I had to do that with Katharina Duck in February 2019, there was no way she could hatch and raise little ducklings in the middle of winter. It was very, very hard on her! She refused to eat for almost a week rebuilding her nest every day after i destroyed it, i felt like a total jerk, listening to her angry quacks.
- Do you have enough room in your duck house to separate mama duck and her babies - see but no touch - for at least a week from the rest of the flock?
- Is your run/outside area large enough for additional ducks?
- Is there a limitation, for example by your home owners association, how many birds you are allowed to have on your property?
- If you can't keep the duck(lings)s, do you have friends, relatives, BYC-members who would gladly adopt them?
- Remember, the ducklings your duck wants to hatch won't be sexed, you may end up with a lot of young drakes.
- Finally: Do you even want additional ducks?
Phase 3a: Abort Mission
If you have good reasons not to allow your duck to have ducklings, act fast, swift and consequent: Wait until she leaves her nest to go outside to eat, drink and maybe have a bath. Remove all eggs from the nest and destroy it completely. Observe the duck and repeat the procedure, should she start to build a new nest. Please cheer her up with some yummy treats (meal-worms, peas, ice-berg salad) as she will go through a hard time.
You can stop reading here.
Phase 3b: Let her have her will
You decided to allow your duck to sit and hatch her (?) ducklings. She will do most of the work, but there are some things you need to do asap; in a nutshell:
Clean the duck-house: You don't want little ducklings running around in duck-poop do you? So change all bedding in the house, except of course your duck's nest and a tolerance-zone around it. Try not to disturb mama duck too much. I changed the bedding around her nest while she was out for a bath. This is Katharina Duck sitting in her nest:
- Clean the duck house
- Mark the eggs
- Candle the eggs
- Be prepared to separate Mama and babies from the flock
- Buy some duckling feed
- Stay patient! - The hardest part…
- Have a plan for an outdoor mom and duckling run.
I changed all the straw, except the content of the nest-box at the end of the first week (of four), after that only the worst »accidents« were covered up with fresh straw until the little ducklings joined the flock outside.
Mark the eggs: Wait for your duck to leave the nest then grab a white-board marker and mark all the eggs in her nest:
I discovered Katharina Duck on a Monday, sitting on just two eggs and by the time i got back to her on Friday there were nine. She definitely hasn't laid the additional seven eggs in four days, but her sisters Curiosity and Nona gladly contributed. - And they continued to lay into the nest for the whole time, so every morning when Kathy left her nest, i ran into the duck house and removed the unmarked (new) eggs.
Candle the eggs: If you have a chance to get to the nest in the evening or on a dreary, dark day you should candle the eggs. Depending on the temper of your duck you may want to wear more than just a short…
At least smell at the eggs daily and remove any »stinker« asap as they can ruing the whole operation.
Prepare to separate mama duck and the ducklings: You should also think about how you can separate mama duck and her babies from the other ducks, at least for a couple of days, on a "see no touch" base. I was planning to use one of my pasture gates to fence off one bedroom in the duck house:
You might not need to separate them, but be prepared if it turns out to be necessary.
Stay patient: Other than that it is just a waiting game from now on, mama duck will do all the egg turning, humidifying and warming for you…
Phase 4: »Peep, Peep, Peep!«
One day, after about four weeks you will remove the eggs from the aunt-ducks and check for stinkers, when suddenly »peep, peep, peep!« you hear a little duckling peeping inside the egg.
It is finally happening!
Stay calm and observe mama duck: She should calmly sit on her eggs, on a hot day she will just hover over them to prevent overheating. In the evening, after you herded your ducks into the house, you may want to install the separator between mama duck and the rest of the flock. Also place a full waterer not too far away from the nest so that mama is able to quench her thirst and can show the ducklings how to drink.
Usually the ducklings start to hatch early in the morning, so if you let the grown-ups loose the next morning there may be some little babies hiding under their mama already.
Katharina Duck and her first hatched duckling, sitting right in front of her.
During the next four days at total of seven ducklings hatched:
Note that the earlier hatched ducklings are notably larger than their younger siblings, the smallest one is still sitting in the nest, but started to eat and drink from the first day on, encouraged by the example of its older sisters and brothers.
Broodiness is very contagious! After the ducklings had hatched one of my other ducks, Pommes, built an impressive nest and started to sit on her eggs:
No way! Seven ducklings are enough and you are too inexperienced to have babies!
She is just seven months old, maybe next year… I remove the eggs daily and she has stopped to sit, but still uses this nest to lay her daily egg.
Katharina stayed patiently in her bedroom for a total of seven days, but then developed cabin fever and wanted out:
Phase 5: »Humon! We want out!«
At first i let Mama Duck and her ducklings have the whole duck house over the day, while the rest of the flock was enjoying the great outdoors. They also had their first bathtub inside the duck-house:
That helped for 1½ days, then Katharina wanted to get out again, but this gave me the time to hit the road and buy some plastic »hardware« cloth. I fenced of a little area outside of the duck house and let them loose. Being a good mom, Katharina first checked out everything before bringing her kids outside:
I set up separate bathtubs for mom and kids and they all had fun:
They had some iceberg salad:
They shared some treats with the rest of the flock:
And they were growing like weeds:
Phase 6: Join the flock
From day one that plastic »hardware« cloth wasn't really up to the job of contaging curious little ducklings and a duck-mom who wants to introduce the world to her babies. First, ducklings can climb and whenever Katharina flapped over the fence the strongest ducklings just climbed over - yes, they have long toenails… After the ducklings had grown a little larger Katharina figured out how to perch on the fence, pushing it down so that the ducklings could just hop over. After about a week, when the babies were just two weeks old i gave in and released them to the rest of the flock.
There was some rubbing between the young ducks and the rest of the flock, but due to the fact that they have seen each other from day one and Katharina is a vicious mom the integration went very smooth.
Here they are at an age of about one month, the three boys look like their father, Limpy Duck (Fawn & White Runner) and the four girls look like their father, Erpelchen (Buff-Orpington) - honestly i don't know who's dad and who's mom (biologically) as Nona and Curiosity Duck (both F&W Runner) have also laid into the nest…
There is a discussion thread here on BYC: Charleston we have a Broody here!
As well as a n album with more pictures and videos: Katharina and her Ducklings
There were nine eggs in the nest, seven ducklings hatched and one egg turned into a »stinker«. Much later i found out what had happened to the ninth egg: The mystery of the missing egg - solved! [Graphic Pictures!]