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First Hatch Failure, need help.

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by agribs87, Oct 17, 2016.

  1. agribs87

    agribs87 Hatching

    Oct 16, 2016
    We have 6 females and 1 male duck. We had no intentions to breed our ducks or hatch eggs, but the ducks had other plans and began hiding eggs in a nest in the yard (they have free roam of the yard). When we finally found their nest, there were over 17 eggs in it, from at least 3 different ducks. A few days later it was down to just 5, and there was a broken egg about 20 feet away so we are assuming an animal was getting them. At this point someone at my moms work told her it was easy to incubate and hatch the eggs, to just get an incubator with an automatic turner and it would be smooth sailing. So in an effort to save the eggs/ducklings because it was save them or let an animal get them, we decided to go for it. With outside guidance (which I don't fully trust now) we set the incubator to 101*F candled the eggs, put in the two fertile ones, and waited. We were having some small humidity issues, but managed to keep it at about 55% for the majority of the time. Thursday evening one egg, Freddy, pipped at what we can only guesstimate to be about day 27, Friday night we had a baby duckling. The second egg showed no signs of movement, and a viability test confirmed the egg would probably not hatch. About 18 hours after birth, we relocated Freddy to a small plastic shoebox with a heat lamp, she was flopping around and chirping trying to climb everything and drinking water (small dish, less than a quarter inch of water). An hour later she was gone. I have been running my fingers ragged all night trying to figure out what went wrong, and now I have no idea how Freddy even lasted that long with everything we messed up. Is there a foolproof way to prevent this from happening again (especially since there is already another 16 eggs the yard ladies have been hiding from us). Any ideas on what might have been the actual cause, or did we just totally screw up everything for the poor duckling? I'll post my ideas below.

    1) I am wondering if we had the humidity too high, between 55% and 65% during incubation but especially after the hatching when it spiked to almost 80% for an amount of time less than 2 hours before I caught it.
    2) we had no idea that eggs were susceptible to germs transmitted from hands. In our minds, our hands couldn't be worse than being outside, but I'm wondering if this could have caused death in the unhatched egg, and the new duckling?
    3) we were told to leave the eggs in the turners, then remove the turner once the eggs hatch. It was only mid hatch (after unzipping) that we realized the duck would not be able to hatch straight up. So we removed the turner and placed the egg on a moist paper towel (a tip from an assisted hatch website that said opening the incubator could dry out the egg so it would need the extra moisture).
    4) at 18 hours we moved the duckling to a plastic shoe box lined with pine bedding. We placed a small flat dish of water, and a few small pieces of food. The heat lamp was placed and the temperature was 95*. Wondering if we removed her from the incubator too soon? Was it too hot? The incubator was 101* so logically speaking how would 6 degrees cooler be too hot?

    Sorry for all the details. I would just really appreciate input. I know inexperience really came into play, and I regret wholeheartedly attempting such a task that ended up losing the poor duckling so early. Hoping to avoid such a loss next time. And hopefully this next round of eggs will go better and be the last one. Which is my next question, is it possible to deter ducks from wanting to nest? We get rid of one and they just build another the next day.


  2. Ravynscroft

    Ravynscroft For the Love of Duck Premium Member

    Nov 30, 2014
    Middle Tennessee
    So sorry for your loss! :hugs

    It really might have been any number of issues as to why she didn't thrive, but first thing that caught me is 95° in a small box... ducklings don't need it quite as warm as chicks do, 90° is plenty warm enough... but also it should only be that warm in one end/spot and there should be enough space that the duckling can move to a cooler area when it needs it... also the open water for a new hatched duck could have gotten it wet walking into it and it got chilled...

    The reason the temp in bator being higher than the brooder and not affecting it the same is the humidity... dry heat will dehydrate a little one very, very fast...

    As for the hatch, the eggs should have been removed from the turner 3 days before they were supposed to hatch, this makes it easier for them to move into proper position to pip at the air cell... humidity sounds just a bit high, teml is fine if it's a still air incubator, if it has a fan it should be set at 99.5°...

    As for the duck eggs and nests, well, ducks tend to prefer to make a nest or hole every time they lay an egg... some will just drop an egg anywhere but natural instincts is to 'hide' their eggs is a safe place... thus others will lay theirs in the same 'nest'... if you don't want ducklings then I suggest finding and disposing of all the old eggs first, that will also cut down on attracting pests or predators looking for a free snack... then collect the eggs daily and either eat them, sell them or give them away... if they eggs aren't left for a duck to brood on then they can't hatch out ducklings and you don't have to incubate them if you don't want to...

    Hope this helps... :)
  3. TLWR

    TLWR Songster

    Jul 10, 2010
    southern AL
    Are your birds closed up at night?
    For the most part, my girls lay eggs before the sun rises. Every now and then, somebody holds off on laying and finds a place in the yard to make a nest or just drops an egg while walking around.

    PINOAK RIDGE Chirping

    Oct 6, 2016
    What breed are your ducks? What type/brand incubator do you have? Just FYI, when artificially incubating ducks eggs, I don't think I would ever lead anyone, especially a newbie, that it would be "smooth sailing". There are many factors that affect hatch ability. The fact that you did hatch out a duckling on your first attempt is a "win". [​IMG]You have already gained a little experience and are looking to improve your hatching chances on future attempts by asking for information. We have been naturally and artificially incubating poultry for almost 30 years. Species we've hatched range from Chickens, quail, ornamental pheasants, peafowl, guineas, geese, ducks and exotics. We've had about 120 breeds and varieties of waterfowl alone, and I can tell you, the exotic waterfowl are the most challenging to artificially incubate and raise, with domestic geese and ducks coming in second.

    Duck eggs have different humidity requires than chickens and are thus a bit more challenging to hatch than chickens. A temperature of 101*, from my experience, seems a little too hot, but it may depend on the incubator and the manufacturers recommendation, as they are not all the same. Ducks do hatch better when they are in their natural position on their side, as opposed to sitting up in a turner. But, with that being said, over the years we have had thousands that hatched early, while still in the auto turner and they survived.

    The humidity you had your incubator at, is within the standard range, but again may be dependent on the incubator manufacturer. Can't vouch for the cleanliness of your hands, but unless they were filthy, I doubt they were an issue. [​IMG]The last few days of hatching (lock down) is a crucial time, thus "lock down" to minimize disturbances in temperature and humidity that can negatively affect hatching. Moving a duckling to brooder 18 hours after hatching isn't a bad thing. Ducklings survive off their recently absorbed yolk for upto 72 hours, this is how hatcheries are able to ship day-old ducklings.

    As RayvnFallen stated 95* in a shoe box was probably too hot for the duckling. They need a large enough area and a heat source in only a portion of that area, so that they may move away from the heat. Most of the time, ducklings do not sit right under a heat source. They mill around investigating their environment, tasting anything they can put their bills on, away from the heat. When they begin to feel chilled, they move closer to the heat, until the warm up & back to moving.

    Ducklings can dehydrate quickly. The key to waterfowl is water. (Contrary to some folks beliefs, incubated ducklings can be raised with access to bathing water from day one. We've done it since the beginning. But that is a different conversation. [​IMG]) In the wild, not long after mom hatches the ducklings, she quickly takes them to water--pond, lake, creek or etc and this is under outdoor temperatures. They swim, mill around, tasting their environment and when they become chilled, they seek warmth under mom. Many wild waterfowl are born in late winter-early spring and I can tell you the temps can be quite cold, even down near freezing, yet wild ducklings survive. When artificially incubating and raising waterfowl, one needs to follow/imitate how the good Lord designed ducks. We are humans with "higher education" so we need to think how to be a surrogate for duck. A duck is a duck, with natural instincts, we can not make them into "little people". It's our responsibility to provide the best home we can for them.

    Sorry, you can't really stop ducks from laying eggs and building nests, unless you just have males. You can gather the eggs daily. They are good for eating and great for baking. If you do not wish to eat them or have too many you can sell them, give them away or hard boil them and feed them back to the ducks. Several options available to you.

    Sorry for your loss, but please try not to feel too discouraged. Hatching is as much an art as a science, as one learns and tweaks what works best for them in their situation. You did a wonderful job & were successful in hatching a duckling on your first attempt. Kudos. Now you take what you've learned, experienced and advice from other knowledgeable breeders and you grow and become better equipped. Hopefully, your future hatches will yield better results as you progress in your hatching adventures. Don't apologize for sharing details, as they are necessary in order to help you figure out what to do differently on future attempts.

    Hope this helps. Good luck and most importantly, enjoy your ducks. [​IMG]
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2016
  5. purslanegarden

    purslanegarden Chirping

    Aug 10, 2016
    You can get chicken eggs to learn the process better. In reality, the conditions can vary slightly. Eg what I mean is that if you had a few hours of not 101-F, or didn't take the eggs off 3 days before hatching, maybe only 1 day or even no days, etc the ducklings can still be OK.

    Many babies just die for no apparently visible reason after they have seemed to hatch successfully, which is when it's better than there are many that hatched. Certainly there is a reason but we just consider it as "they were fine and then they're dead", so we're not sure exactly what happened.

    Candling should come a few days after the incubation has started. You want to see development, which you may not be able to see right at the beginning.

    Once the duckling is outside the incubator, just watch for it being too hot or too cold. Make sure you can witness it drinking or eating, or in the case of one, just make sure that the food and water is decreasing. (In a group, you'll need to verify each one is getting food and water and one or a few are not being pushed away)

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