Ducklings… I’m questioning the need for ‘Lockdown’


6 Years
Nov 16, 2015
This might be a controversial subject and I don’t want to get into a debate, but my experiences with hatching ducklings in an incubator have left me questioning how valid and necessary the ‘lockdown’ really is….

having said that I am often incubating ducklings during the last half or quarter only of their gestation, when a mother ap has abandoned a nest for some reason… so I also do wonder whether the quality of the natural (mother duck) incubation environment in the first half to quarter may have a far greater impact on hatchability than humidity during lockdown.

however I have also had ducklings who were 100% incubated who were hatching in an incubator that was pretty much being opened and shut like grand central station and they all have hatched fine.

my last possible theory is that maybe they adapt to their environment and need less humidity in dryer environments. Where I live in spring and summer it can often be very dry due to a prevailing dry warm gusty wind we call the norwester (im in the Southern Hemisphere). And I have had ducks who would sit on a nest and not go and get in the pond one single time during their nesting period, so their nests must have been dry as a bone…and yet they would have great hatch rates. If anything I think where ducks have had lower hatch rates it’s been when there has been more humidity, ie foggy or rainy weather that is not ordinary for I live at that time. And I don’t think it’s ducklings dying of cold in rain or fog because it is their hatch rates that are lower not survival.

anyway a few days ago a wild duck that I have rescued and who still lives here, got off and abandoned nest of eggs that were about a week out from hatch, so I candled them and put 6 live eggs in the incubator.
a day or two later my incubator started to misbehave, basically it is a home made one running off a temperature controller, and if the temp controller freezes or stops working, it leaves the light on, not off, which means the incubator will rapidly get too hot and kill the ducklings. It cannot be configured to leave the light off instead which is much prefer it to do in a failure.
so it did that the other night At about midnight.
as the incubator was running with a very low wattage bulb (28w) after resetting it and being afraid it would do that again while I was sleeping and kill the ducklings, I decided to leave the lid of the incubator open with a very large gap, to get it to where the light basically had to stay on nonstop to maintakn temp. The only way to do t and know it wouldn’t overheat the ducklings if the temp controller crashed again, was to open it so wide that the temp stayed a few degrees below the set temp. So for the last 4-5 days the eggs have been incubating at a fluctuating temp of around 33deg Celcius. Sometimes going up to 36 if the ambient temp was warm and other times staying at a rather cool 33 point something deg.

there is nowhere in my city that sells incubators, literally no where. I spent a long time googling this, calling places that might have them and asking if they knew anyone who did, and asking friends who have commercially made incubators etc, the onlu place near here is not local and orders have to be shipped,which at the moment with covid would mean it would be very unlikely to get here before the duck,kings pipped. So I was stuck trying to keep them going in the incubator which I did Not trust to not overheat, so continued with the lid half open to prevent the thing being able to overheat them if the bulb didn’t get turned off when it should have by the controller.

I flicked water on them which is what I usually do and it works fine, but was assuming they would have hatch problems due to the lack of humidity. And got myself set up this weekend when they started to pip, ready to assist.

however aside from one, who was breech (so needed assistance unrelated to humidity or temp) they have all had perfectly straight forward hatches so far. one has hatched unassisted and is in great form (that duckling is raring to and doesn’t even want to wait to dry out! The others are all unzipping fine, and two will be popping their tops soon and the others soon after. And on top of the dry incubator, I also gave them safety holes about 36 hrs ago.

only having one incubator and often having rescue ducks and ‘Rescue eggs’ I often have to open the incubator and have eggs at different stages of incubation in the same bator.

once they start to pip, I have not lost any despite the fact the incubator will be often opened upwards of 20 or more times during hatch. And this current hatch of ducklings in an incubator with the lid wide open soo their humidity is basically ambient humidity (it’s been dry and windy here the humidity is probably close to zero) these ducklings are going great guns.

so I am theorising that the lockdown is not as important as we are taught it is, and maybe there are other factors that are far more important in a good strong hatch.

after all mummy duck does not measure her humidity
in my experience some will go swimming a often and get on the nest wet, some will never go swimming once they sit, they seem to feel they don’t have time to, it’s just eat, and drink and straight back.
and some seem to get a bit of wet feather so will go to a nest saturated
yet they normally all have great hatch rates of 90-100%

also… when a duck is hatching,, she doesn’t get off the hatching eggs and go for a swim… so in a natural hatch, where is this higher humidity than what the eggs have been exposed to till hatch going to come from then? Does anyone know?
and mummy duck also doesn’t lock down her self onto the nest, I’ve seen plenty of ducks get off during hatch and get back on, or stand up and move and the ducklings are fine….

so I wonder if we sometimes are trying a little to hard to incubate eggs perfectly in a way nature would never do, and instead should just ask ourselves WWMDD (what would mummy duck do)? That’s also why I don’t ever measure numidity, I just flick water on the eggs once or twice a day… pretty sure mummy duck when she goes for a swim doesn’t have a way to measure the humidity of her wet feathers when she goes back to the nest… so why do I need to? I’ve never had a single duckling I’ve incubated artificially this way from woe to go, exhibit the problems that are attributed to humidity being too low or high.
has anyone else had good hatches from totally unlocked down incubators?

the only time I have had to worry about shrink wrapping is if the hatch is assisted and I have removed wheel and exposed the membrane, which is obviously not ever going to happen in a natural hatch. In that case a good water based lube every so often keeps things moist till the veins dry out and yolk is absorbed etc.

this last hatch just leaves me feeling like there is too much importance being placed on leaving the lid down, and not enough on other factors, like sometimes just opening the lid and talking to a duckling who is crying out and obviously wants to know that mummy is close by and they are safe and not hatching all alone with no mummy on top of them…

I feel like the more I’ve tried to manage my eggs the way a duck would in her nest the better my hatches have been.

disclaimer: this is my experience with wild and domestic mallard derived duckling hatches, I have no experience with hatching chicks, or any other type of bird ( I also note that chickens (who don’t swim), can hatch ducklings perfectly well without assistance and without the eggs being sprayed with water )

#youCanLiftTheLidUp 😝


Jun 22, 2020
New York
I’m sure plenty of people here are hands on hatchers. I handle my chicken eggs every single day, and even throughout lockdown and hatch.

I do however, appreciate the more cautious approach recommended by most during my initial learning curve. better safe than sorry is always the better way to start... in my opinion.

I up the humidity to about 60-70%. it bounces back pretty quickly after each opening, so I’ve never been worried.

as for lonelt chicks - I’ve found that keeping the incubator dark generally prevents chicks from protesting...

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