Female ducks: With their babies

This article explains how a mother duck hatches babies and how they grow up.
By FluffTheDuck · Jan 8, 2019 · ·
  1. FluffTheDuck
    For farmyard and wild ducks alike, nesting typically occurs in early to mid-spring. Duck hens lay about a dozen or so eggs, which take nearly a month to hatch. A mother duck sitting on her eggs is "brooding", and her collection of eggs -- and eventually ducklings -- is known as a brood. Brooding provides heat during the important incubation period; the time it takes for the eggs to hatch. After a successful mating, the mother duck prepares to next by plucking down feathers from her abdomen, creating a bald area known as a "brood patch." She arranges the plucked feathers around the bottom and sides of the nest to provide additional warmth and insulation. The plucking also results in an additional benefit: blood vessels run close to the duck's skin in the brood patch and pass heat from the mother directly to the eggs. Duck mothers lay a single egg per day, and in the end, her "clutch" size, the number of eggs she has laid, will be around 8 to 14 eggs. When her laying is complete, the brooding duck will begin to incubate her eggs around the clock. During this time, she will need to take breaks for food and water, however, these moments are brief. A mother duck sits on her eggs for 20 to 23 hours a day, taking an average of three breaks, each lasting around an hour at a time. When she does leave her nest, the duck hen covers her eggs with additional down and nesting material to help keep the eggs warm in her absence. The incubation period lasts an average of 28 days, about a month. With the mother duck spending so little time away from the nest, she relies on stored fat to survive. A couple of days before the eggs are ready to hatch, small cracks begin to appear, and the ducklings will begin peeping from inside their eggs. Then, in a span of 24 hours, all the ducklings will hatch from their eggs, using a small sharp bump on their bills called an "egg tooth." The egg tooth falls off quickly after hatching. Once all the ducklings have hatched, the mother duck typically spends one more night on the nest, helping to warm and dry the newly hatched brood. The next day, she will begin to take the ducklings out to find food and forage, as they follow her closely. Many domestic ducks have no experience with brooding or incubating and tend to neglect their nests or ducklings. When this occurs, fertile eggs are usually incubated by a broody hen, if one is available, or by artificial incubation. The amount of time required to hatch the eggs is the same, however, hens cannot typically keep an entire clutch of duck eggs warm, due to the large size of the eggs in comparison to her body. Young ducklings can feed themselves as soon as they reach water but must learn what is edible. They depend on their mother for warmth for a few days. She broods them regularly, particularly at night, as they easily chill in cold weather. The down of the ducklings is not naturally waterproof. They get the waterproofing for their down from their mother. She also protects her ducklings from attacks by other mallards. Ducks do not tolerate stray ducklings close to their own brood, and females kill small strange young they encounter. Ducklings take 50-60 days to fledge (fly) and become independent. They are able to breed when they are a year old. white-mother-duck-sitting-on-nest-of-eggs.jpg

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    About Author

    Hi! I love animals! I have horses, ducks, rabbits, cows, chickens, dogs, cats, hamsters, fish, and much more animals! I know quite a bit about ducks, but I know a lot about chickens! Now, if you want to, go ahead and read my article!
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Recent User Reviews

  1. Bridger Davis
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Apr 11, 2019
    FluffTheDuck likes this.
  2. Tannerpauldean
    "Love the info on natural incubation"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Apr 4, 2019
    One thing I've always wondered - if a domestic duck goes broody and is allowed to incubate naturally and there is no pond on the farm, what do the ducklings eat? I would love to let one of my ducks hatch out her own brood, but knowing the nutritional requirements (especially vit. B & niacin) I don't see how they would be able to forage enough food to grow. Thoughts?
    FluffTheDuck likes this.
  3. Anonymous
    "Ok read."
    2/5, 2 out of 5, reviewed Jan 12, 2019
    Article could be improved by setting out in paragraphs and more pictures would be extremely helpful.


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  1. aboyer116
    Super information! I do have some questions, though! I currently have a call duck laying on 6 eggs. She is in a duck house with 4 other females calls. Will the other ducks harm the babies? I am not quite sure how to handle multiple ducks in the house once they hatch!
    Thank you in advance for the advice.
      FluffTheDuck likes this.
    1. FluffTheDuck
      Ducks don’t really like having new ducks in the flock! I would keep your broody away from them when they hatch. Good luck!
      aboyer116 likes this.

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