Incubating and raising ducks

bookjunky4life(5 Central IL)October 10, 2011

I am ordering Storey's book on raising ducks (as suggested in a post I searched). Please forgive my lack of knowledge and terminology at this point.

My uncle lives about 50 minutes away from where I live. He has Pekin ducks and the large ducks that resemble mallards. He said his mallard looking female lays an egg everyday, while the Pekins are more random layers. They do not build nests but just pop the eggs out on the bare ground.

I am endlessly amused by his ducks. I live on a farm and have decided where I would like to keep some ducks. I am going to try to incubate my uncle's eggs in the late spring. How quickly must the eggs be gathered from the bare ground and put into the incubator before they are no longer viable? I know you need to preheat your incubator to get it to constant temp prior to putting the eggs in. However, can I have it preheated at my house, go to my uncle's, gather an egg, and somehow transport 50 minutes back to my house to my incubator? Is there a way to keep it warm enough just for a couple of hours before I get it into the preheated incubator?

Okay, other question. I need a suggestion on incubators. I was going to purchase the $50 or so Hovabator but it has mixed reviews and temps in my house are never constant (old farm house). Would I be better off spending abouit $125 on the Hovabator genesis model that maintains 99 degrees automatically? I really can't go much more expensive than that.

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bookjunky4life(5 Central IL)

My uncle also has chickens in the same pen that lay their eggs in the nests. Could the nesting hens hatch the ducks eggs?

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 11:25AM
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bookjunky4life(5 Central IL)

We have two old hog feeder like pictured below that is bent up a little and we no longer have hogs, so its just sitting there not being used. It doesn't have the top lid anymore, so I am going to cut the feeder part off the bottom, flip it over, put some metal over the top to close in that hole, and then cut a doorway in the side. I want to use this as my duck enclosure. I think it will be big enough since I will only have a couple of ducks. From what I have read, you do not want to insulate or heat much for ducks in the winter, just get the wind off them. The pen will be off the back of our lean to shed which will block most of the wind anyway.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 2:04PM
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You don't have to keep eggs warm prior to incubation. After they are laid, they are good for up to 30 days, but the viability rate declines beginning after about 10 days of storage. The best storage temperature is around 55 degrees, at 45 to 50 percent humidity, and if possible, you should rotate them once or twice a day, but it's not absolutely necessary. However, eggs that were stored between 40 and 80 degrees are fine for incubation, it won't make that much difference in your hatch rate.

Definitely invest in the best incubator your can afford. The cheap foam ones are VERY difficult to use, because they are designed to operate in a consistent external environment. And, that's hard to achieve in the average house. If you can afford the more expensive Genesis model, I think you would be a lot better off. Many people are pretty happy with this one -- if it has an auto-turner for the eggs, that would be a big plus, too -- don't know if that is included in with the model you mention - if not, you do need to turn the eggs a few times a day by hand.

Ducks are actually about the easiest things, besides chickens, to incubate and hatch, so I think you would find it pretty simple.

BTW, the "mallard" looking ducks are most likely Rouens (domesticated mallards originally from the Rouen region of Normandy, France).

    Bookmark   October 15, 2011 at 8:31PM
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Naomi Miller

Oh , you have to do this!! I live in wait all winter so I can start hatching in the SPring.... I agree that you need the best incubator you can afford; it will pay off in the end because those styrofoam ones are sooooooo hard to maintain in temp and humidity.... you can gather the eggs at your uncles, bring them home and wait a couple of days and still be fine.

I actually did some testing and any egg over about 5-6 days old before hitting the bator either did not hatch or the chick had difficulty in hatching so I keep them no longer than about 3-4 days in moderate temps as mentioned above.

And yes, the hens will hatch the ducks if you have broody hens... this year, we had two ducks go broody and hatch 6 chicks, lol, it was very funny to watch that poor mama duck go to the pond and watch the chicks look at her like huh??? The ducks made good chick mamas and we have also had the reverse.... if that egg hatches under them, they will raise it... one hen hatched two ducks and three chicks... and they all lived happily ever after, lol... in fact, to this day, they are almost two years old and those ducks live in the chicken coop at bedtime.... we call these mixed children chucks and dickens, lol.... one big happy family.

Have fun and definitely go for it.... and good luck

    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 5:32AM
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bookjunky4life(5 Central IL)

I received my Storey's Guides to raising ducks and chickens in the mail on Tuesday, so I need to start reading those. I'm very happy to find out the eggs are viable for awhile. Now I have to decide if I want to fork out $125 for the Hovabator genesis model or just purchase some ducklings and maybe some chicks. Purchasing babies would be cheaper but not as fun or satisfying.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 10:20AM
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I had a piece of window glass and built a box out to used 1/2" plywood using the glass as the top. The front side hinged down. About 2 1/2" off the floor was a 1/4" wire mesh. The moisture supplied by a casarole dish under the mesh. At the top of the box was a light fixture at each end. 40 watt on one end, 60 watt on the other. An exterior thermometer (the kind that has the prob on the end of a wire) was wired to the mesh so that the top of it was level with the top of the eggs. At the back between the bulbs was a waffer thernstat I ordered from Strombergs. I heated the box, put in the eggs and watched the thermometer so that I could adjust the thermostat accordingly. Turned the eggs every four hours (3 o'clock and 11 o'clock). On the 15th day I soaked each egg for 30 seconds in a deep bowl of warm water, once a day. As the embryo developes, the eggs will bob in the bowl of water. Don't throw any that don't bob, they like to play with you even at this stage.
I have raised ducklings for a few years with this old box of wood, glass, wire and light bulbs. Went through a day of no electricity. These little guys are tough. There are two problems that I have had with ducklings. One is an electralite imbalance. Not the whole batch, just 1 or 2 birds will stiffen out like a rubber chicken. Go to the feed store and get the water additive for wild game birds. The second is a problem with a drake. If you have a drake in your flock, pen him or the young to keep them apart. The drake will break their necks and you will find little bodies thoughout your yard. As soon as they get big enough so that the drake can't lift them off the ground they will be safe.
Just wanted you to know that your grand gramma raised birds under the wood stove and didn't need an expensive box to do it. It's all what you feel you can handle.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2011 at 10:41PM
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