Blackberry Keep is a small hobby farm situated in the fertile Upper Fraser Valley, over-looking the Fraser River.
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Spring is rapidly approaching (although this week's snow fall is a reminder that we are not there yet) and as I have been receiving a large number of inquiries about duck eggs, I thought I would go over a few basics on hatching, shipping, fertility rates and whatever else I have picked up along the way.
Ducks are a little trickier than chickens to hatch artificially. They do not appreciate the traditional bottoms up automated turners, but prefer to lay on their side. I do not wash hatching eggs. If they are excessively dirty I would not put them in the incubator. As it rains frequently here and my ducks like to play in the muck their feet are dirty and this transfers to the nest and the eggs. I brush off the excess dirt, a little is not going to affect the hatch.
I set the eggs for 28 days at 99.5 F/37.5 C (forced air incubator), and humidity 35-50%. This is a dry bulb reading. I find that a periodic cooling off, and misting helps. If turning by hand, turn approximately 5 times per day. I begin candling at 48 hours in, but some people may not be able to tell until a few days later when blood vessels are noticeable. I remove any non-viable eggs. Candling is fascinating, the developing duck embryos are much more active than chickens, and it is amazing how quickly they develop. I find it difficult to tell what is going on after day 24 as the duckling is taking up most of the space and blocking the light. Talk to the the developing ducks regularly, this is not the crazy lady step. Try it. Ducklings imprint and respond to the sound of your voice. Lock down is at 26 days, I then lower the temperature 1 degree F, and raise the humidity to 70-75%. No lifting the lid. Leave the newly hatched ducklings in the incubator for 24 hours before transferring to a brooder. I will leave troubleshooting and interventions for another day.
The temperature under the brooder lamp is 95 degrees, and the temperature is lowered 10 degrees per week by raising the lamp. Many people say not to give ducklings water to swim in, however at 2 days old they will be emptying the water dish several times a day splashing around so watch that they do not get chilled. Playing in water is completely instinctual. Ducklings are messy and their bedding and water will require frequent changing.
The ducklings receive an organic crumble that is around 22%. I do not vaccinate or medicate poultry or waterfowl. I have never lost a duckling or chick to illness.
Each egg is individually bubble wrapped for shipping (please recycle). I take a great deal of care in preparing the orders as I want them to get to their destinations as safely as possible. Depending on where in Canada you are plays a roll in shipping, the fastest is the best. Duck eggs start to lose fertility after one week.
Shortly after the ducks begin laying in the new year, I begin fertility testing small batches until I am assured that what is leaving here is fertile. Having said that the hatching rate on any shipped egg, duck or chicken from any breeder is 45-55%. Eggs don't really like being shipped, so the prior steps are very important in ensuring that the remaining fertile eggs have a successful hatch.