Call Duck Hen failure to commit

Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by BackyardBantams79, Apr 2, 2018.

  1. BackyardBantams79

    BackyardBantams79 Chirping

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    Ok, so this is where I'm going to document the journey of so SOOOOO many firsts! To lay some foreground on my story, I am an animal addict, yet we live on the outskirts of town with neighbors literally close enough on both sides I could throw a rock at each house without much effort (not that I would do such a thing). So, we have a 'farmette' of 3 chicken hens, 3 Call drakes, and 1 Call hen (the hen and her choice of drake are segregated to prevent issues), a cat, a dog, 2 hamsters (one dwarf, one Siberian), 2 guinea pigs, and an assortment of saltwater fish. My daughter's, 10 and 7, are addicts as well and I hold them accountable for a lot of the animal chores since they have more time to enjoy them than I do. Here's a list of my firsts:

    1. first time having birds (but to be fair we've had them since August 2017 so we're catching on)
    2. first time hoping for baby ducks :fl
    3. first time negotiating a massive clutch of eggs (most that should not be viable given their age) and getting them to hatch
    So let's start at the beginning. Back in February (around the first) our call duck hen started laying. Luckily she was being kept inside in a pen with her mate because we may not have realized it otherwise because we only check the chicken coop for eggs. Her mate had a cut on his foot so as luck would have it, her first egg was laid right where we could find it. The two mated several times daily and had been for over a month (we have a smallish pond I dug and lined for them- it was supposed to be for my landscape, but whadya do when ducks take it over and love it) in the pond and when they were in the house we'd put them in the bathtub for several hours a day because the male's cut was causing him to not bear weight on that leg and swimming seemed to help. (Oh goodness... so sorry- I'm terribly long winded so get used to that:duc).

    Anyhow, so the first 2 weeks worth of eggs I collected and gave to a friend who eats them (we did try a few and the kids couldn't get past the idea that it could have been a duckling). I started collecting eggs from 2/15. They were kept in my basement which is cool and not terribly dry (upstairs is wood heat and REALLY dry). About 2 weeks ago, I placed those eggs, and the others we'd been collecting (when we could find them since she'd lay them all over the place) in our chicken coop with some fake ceramic eggs hoping to entice a chicken to sit on them. Nope, no one was buying that those tiny green eggs were something they wanted to try to hatch :th.

    The kids used WASHABLE markers to write the dates on the eggs, lol so last week when I decided to try and see if the duck hen would sit on her eggs (she was really concerned when I went to check her house for new eggs so I thought "why not?") I had no idea which eggs were newer and which ones were from over a month ago! **side note, several- maybe 4 or 5- eggs got eaten by stellar jays when the nesting box door was left open by the kids so those may or may not have been some of the older eggs).**

    I put ALL the eggs in her house since the incubator was still en route with fingers crossed she'd pick some and sit. SHE DID! That was last Tuesday the 17th. Incubator arrived on Friday and after only having 18 hours to get the hang of adjusting the temp and humidity, she booted 8 eggs out (I think she never sat on them to begin with because they were ice cold and, well, there's more reasons you'll understand later). So, Saturday we put the 8 eggs in and crossed our fingers but I had low expectations. I am using the square plastic 48 egg 'bator' with fan, temp/humidity digital indicators with hi/lo alarm. [​IMG]
    This one.

    I found out very quickly that the packaging styrofoam that encases the 'bator' was intended to use as external insulation because that sucker had no way of regulating on it's own- at least not with a house heated by wood fireplace/stove where we have significant environmental temperature fluctuations in the home. Now it's steady and consistent.

    Well, today my daughter goes to check on our hen and drake. They've been grounded to their house (food and water inside) because she kept abandoning ship and wanted to go play in the pond. When her house door was closed and she was stuck in there she'd stay right on those eggs. My daughter brought the remaining eggs up (9 in total- a couple new one's I believe) because she just couldn't convince the hen to go back to the house and the eggs were still warm (except a couple that were pushed away). This time I marked the eggs with a PENCIL as 3/31 and added them to the incubator bringing our total egg count to... ready?... 17!

    I realize I'm about a day and a half premature to the 7 day candle schedule, but I couldn't help myself and candled them tonight thinking there's got to be some that are just WAY far gone that I should toss. One. I found ONE egg out off the 17 that have been laid since 2/15 that was dark inside. Another had a small but very obvious blood ring (I suspect it was one of the two that were cold Saturday), and out of the remaining 15, 12 have positive growth and veins, 2 are unknown, and 1 had a shadow that could be a blood ring but it wasn't very dark. TWELVE VIABLE EGGS AFTER ALL THIS TIME???? and all the mishaps?!!! Eggs being shuffled from chicken box (chicken eggs laid on top of them fyi during that time, lol), to duck house, to incubator (and yes, I checked air bubbles and they are all fine).

    So, this will be the longest post, but I had to bring y'all up to speed. I'm still cautiously optimistic, but it's pretty awesome to see some positive results when you're a newb to it all and have had so many hurdles in the process.

    Now the only question is... to collect new eggs while I continue to try to convince a chicken to sit on some ceramic eggs? Or to let the hen lay her eggs in her house and let them collect there in hopes she'll come around and decide to sit on them (fyi, her mom hatched the clutch she was in naturally so there's hope for some 'instinct')?:confused:
     
  2. BackyardBantams79

    BackyardBantams79 Chirping

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    Update... (edited)

    was turning the eggs and marking their air cell last night and accidentally dropped the incubator lid on one corner cleanly slicing an egg (a viable live one at that) perfectly in half :he

    I have edited this reply as I realized the light I was using was dimming due to older batteries. New light and BOOM! we're still at a confirmed DEFINITE 11/14 (as I stated, I accidentally sliced and diced one egg last night).

    I do have a couple of dilemma's though so any input would be nice...

    1) some of the eggs were wet and were in a rather soiled box (kid's were heeding my advice to leave the hen alone for a few days until she really committed to sitting on the eggs we put under her). We used a dry cloth to gently wipe them off, and the warm dry ones (the ones she hadn't pushed out) I just used my nails to knock off the dried pine shavings that were stuck to them. None were muddy, but the house was pretty wet and soiled when I stripped it so I don't know how exposed to potential contaminants some of the eggs were. I think one or two of the 'unsure' eggs are just plain not fertile and were possibly laid recently when we put her in lock down as the eggs are pristine clean but show zero growth.

    2)due to the hen actually sitting on some of the eggs and some she booted out right away, we have some discrepancies on the level of development in the chicks. IF, and that's still a cautiously optimistic 'IF', they do make it to lock-down, do I lock down when the oldest chicks (possibly 3-4 days further along in development) are ready? My only worry about that is that I understand that I need to jack up the humidity during the pipping... I don't want to drown the other chicks.

    I'm still working on convincing a chicken to go broody. Just went and bought a dozen fake ceramic eggs and put them in the chicken nesting box. Fingers crossed one does and then I'll slip most of these eggs under her since there are better odds.
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2018
  3. BackyardBantams79

    BackyardBantams79 Chirping

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    We're down to the 12 eggs that were confirmed initially. All are doing well. Problem is that I have 4 eggs @ 5 days development, 6 eggs @ 6/7 days development (depending on if they were ones kicked out of the nest that got cooled and delayed in development, and 2 that are obviously ahead of the crowd at 9 days development. These estimations are based off initial date of setting eggs under hen, date she booted some eggs out, and the date she abandoned sitting and compared with a chart of development.

    Will this effect my hatch? 4 days difference between first group and the last group. I'm trying a theory of placing the 4 eggs that are furthest behind on the warmer side of the incubator (it has a fan, but the back up thermometer still has warmer and cooler readings in different areas it seems) the next group of 6 in the middle, and the 2 more advance developed eggs on the cooler side. We're only talking about a degree difference, but does anyone think it might help level out development?
     
  4. Ruralhideaway

    Ruralhideaway Crowing

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    Can't help you with the staggered hatching dates but I'll be following along.
     
    BackyardBantams79 likes this.
  5. BackyardBantams79

    BackyardBantams79 Chirping

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    Hey there! Congrats on being the first person to reply lol. I was worried no one would show interest in my thread so I stopped posting thinking it was pointless. I'll post an update.

    We are now down to 11 eggs with a breakdown as follows:
    2 @ 24 days
    4 @ 20 days
    6 @ 21 days

    I have been candling daily and adopted a method I read quite a bit on and some of the bigger hatcheries utilize... cooling and misting. I need to get some additional moisture out of these eggs- their air cells are smaller than desired at this stage although my efforts have been helping enlarge them. I honestly didn't understand the rationale behind spraying them to help reduce the moisture (still doesn't sound right) but I guess it has something to do with the evaporation of the moisture on the outside of the egg causes a cooling phenomenon with the shell and the pores allow additional moisture to escape. I was more worried about bacterial invasion and death by that means because some of our eggs were dirty when we set them (not knowing about the clean egg thing until they were already developing and I couldn't bring myself to toss them). I had one death found last night and hadn't candled for two days and all were viable at that point. I did an 'egg-topsy' after deciding it was a for sure death (one vein still visible in the egg, but the rest of the embryo was not moving and the Chorio-Allantoic membrane was all but nearly gone leaving behind an egg that was half empty looking upon candling). I cracked it open (with vapor-rub on my upper lip after reading how rank they can be) and sure enough it was a goner. There was a chick in there, but it had been dead for a couple days by the looks of the decomp.

    Now, I am working on reducing the volume in the eggs as we near lockdown for the two eggs, while the others seem right on track with their moisture loss. I have another incubator I borrowed and I will be setting up tonight and then moving the two eggs into for lockdown. The others have another 4 days to go in their primary incubator so I will finish their hatch in there. Sucky thing about the two 'over-achievers' is that I'll be working three 12 hour shifts in a row Sun/Mon/Tues nights so won't be able to check on them during that time and will be sleeping a good portion of the time in between shifts. Fingers crossed all goes well. The others, if they stay on schedule should hatch during my time off next week.

    Current settings:
    -Humidity bouncing between 40-50% to help drop the internal moisture and enlarge the air cells
    -Temp fairly steady at 37.5 (+/- 0.3C)
    -3 daily egg rotations with blunt end slightly tipped higher than pointed end
    -2 daily cool-downs to external egg temp of 86F with misting before incubator closed and turned back on
    -daily candling and air cell assessments


    Good news! Our hen has about another 8-10 eggs and today has been held up in her house (I assume she's decided on her own to sit). She came out once to my knowledge when I brought food and then promptly went back in and hasn't been out again far as I can tell. I'm nervous to go refill her feeder since last time that caused a bunch of commotion with the other ducks in the next pen and she left the nest and didn't return. Going to put up a board to block the view of the next pen and then just replace a pile of food on the pen floor daily if it doesn't rain since that's all I did today. I'm rooting for mother nature on this one!
     
    Ruralhideaway likes this.
  6. Ruralhideaway

    Ruralhideaway Crowing

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    Good news on the borrowed bator, seems that will help enormously. The thought of trying to get all that coordinated in one is rather head spinning.

    I've learned damp wiping the eggs to remove some of the bloom can help enlarge the aircells and I'm trying that with calls right now. Seems to be working really well.
     
    BackyardBantams79 likes this.
  7. BackyardBantams79

    BackyardBantams79 Chirping

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    Oooo, that's a good option. I might try wiping them down a bit... heaven knows they could use it anyways. I'm going to go get some of the antibacterial egg wash to do it though because they were rolled around in some swampy nasty duck waste in the duck house when she pushed them out of the nest that's where some ended up. I figure if it's safe to wash them in prior to incubation (says the label) it must be safe to use as a wet wipe down too? *fingers crossed*

    Fortunately it's just the two that are falling behind on the reduced mass/increased air cell. But, as they were the ones growing the best, I feel like they may have been the freshest and have the best chances at making through the finish line so I need to at least try. I hate that I'll be unavailable when they're due to hatch. Part of me is tempted to find somewhere in the hospital to plug them in (just kidding... I think that could be frowned upon, lol) so I can keep tabs on them through the night haahaa!
     
  8. jofanx

    jofanx Songster

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    There should be no issue staggering the egg hatches--I'm actually doing this with my muscovy eggs. 6 each time and I have 4 different hatch dates (a few days apart each.) It's called continuous incubation and a lot of hatcheries do this so they can have chicks/ducklings every week.

    I'm doing the dry hatching method though--my area's been too humid the last few time and humidity spikes can lead to spraddle legs/drowned ducklings so I won't be worrying about keeping humidity high so much. Your mileage may vary though.
     
  9. Ruralhideaway

    Ruralhideaway Crowing

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    I get lost about when it's safe enough to stop turning for a few days. I gather the brief bump in humidity isn't such a big issue though.
     
  10. Ruralhideaway

    Ruralhideaway Crowing

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    Take a duck to work? Sure why not! Hospitals can use some cheer after all.

    Actually I recently enquired about using the usual bleach water mix for the egg wiping and was told emphatically no. That's only for cleaning before incubation not after it's begun. So only plain water. I have no knowledge to back this up but trust those who said it.
     

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