Make Way For Ducklings

(3/15/2018) The duckling passed away. I walked out into the yard, and it was lying right where it was hanging out with mama, but upside-down with its legs in the air, like the saddest dead bug in the world. I don’t know what happened, but my best guess is that Utie accidentally stood on her baby until it died. I saw her step on him pretty badly (though he appeared unfazed by those stomps) a couple times, and he wasn’t pecked at all.

This is a huge bummer, as it was my first duckling I’ve ever experienced, but not a complete surprise, as it was just a singleton baby, without other siblings to fumble through the beginning of life with it.

(3/12/2018) It’s here, it’s here! 45 days of Utie’s persistence has produced what seems to be a healthy, complete little duckling. By birdie bedtime, baby was mostly dry and looking more like a healthy, fluffy duckling.

Partially visible in the photo, its legs were malpositioned behind its head, preventing it from jackhammering to unzip the egg after pipping. I know that helping is nearly always very wrong, but I was beginning to get nervous after more than 12 hours after pip with no change. After MUCH reading about duckling and chick hatches, and how to help and what to look for if you’ve determined they absolutely do need help or they’ll die, I had enough information to feel comfortable providing a small airhole in the membrane of the egg where he had pipped it. After some time, he had ripped that open, because his bill was located right there, but after several hours still had not progressed.

I delicately peeled the hole in the air pocket area of the egg until I was able to shine a light inside, and try to determine if the blood vessels of the inner membrane looked retracted, or if I could see any indication of a yolk still being present (both indicators of chick ripeness. If there’s a yolk, the chick’s not done, and needs to be left alone! If the membrane still has full, branching vessels, the duckling is still hooked up to the external vascular system, and will bleed out if the membrane is torn too early.

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(3/11/2018) PIP. One of the eggs has a vigorous small life preparing to emerge! Its head’s up in the air sac of the egg, and tappatappiting, with the first crack and chip today. The membrane is still intact, so the duckling isn’t part of the outside world yet, but when holding the egg, I can feel him working on it, and see him wiggling with the flashlight.
One of the concerns in duckling hatches (though it seems to be primarily with incubators), is the membrane drying out and sticking to the baby like a straightjacket, causing an otherwise healthy baby duckling to get trapped and die. Utie, however, seems to have things well under control in the humidity department.
(3/3/2018) What a rollercoaster! I was pretty certain, two days ago, that there was no life going on in the clutch with the possible exception of one egg.

Tonight, however, I did a better job candling in more complete darkness and saw one absolutely alive and moving duckling, and two eggs perhaps still had babies as well – I feel I was looking at blood vessels up the edges inside, and not small spider cracks.

I removed four eggs tonight in addition to two or three rotten ones I pulled and discarded over the last few days.

I am so pleased and excited that there’s still the potential of ducklings – I was feeling a tiny bit crushed, but comforted in the knowledge that she’ll try again and these aren’t her only eggs in the world.

I also saw Oli trying and failing to mount Anka yesterday. He’ll be in the genetic running soon! It’s been neat to see him grow from a little dappled fellow with a grey head into a very full-bodied and masculine drake with a black head and green crest.

(2/19/18) I think Utie and I are both a little exasperated with the amount of times there’s just been a chilled egg sitting in the middle of the coop, or a still-warm egg under her tail, but outside of the nest box and on its way to escape.
I made an attempt at creating a rim on the nest to prevent eggs scootching out, but came back a few minutes later to find Utie had left the nest and was huddled in the middle of the coop, instead. I removed the rim, and she went right back onto her eggs.
She’s doing her best, but I think the bottom line is the muscovies will need larger nest boxes than the chickens. She had originally started nesting on the other side of the coop, and I pulled a nest box divider to give her a roomier nursery, but that made her leave the nest and move to the small box she now occupies.

(2/13/18) Eggs candled on day 18..ish, revealed heartbeats, and the silhouette of a head and legs. I accidentally didn’t count how many, but it’s a number greater than both 0 (excellent!) and 1 (twice as good!)

(2/4/18) Eggs candled on day 9 reveal at least 4 of 16 eggs are fertile and developing!

I suspect several of being duds, and one of having a blood ring, which indicates a failed embryo, but am leery of aborting live eggs through misidentification.

(1/26/18) Utie is sitting! 13 is the final tally. Before declaring the title premature, note that, ducklings or no, way is being made.

(1/21/18), Utie has amassed 8 eggs in her nest and has not yet begun to sit. She lays, apparently midmorning, one egg about every other day, unless Anka is contributing eggs on the sly, which is well within the realm of possibility.