Five mallard eggs in incubation

A few days ago, we found a mallard duck nest under the pampas grass bush while weeding, and probably scared the mother duck off purely by having disturbed the location.

Location of the pampas bush where the mallard hen nested in Spring 2015

Location of the pampas bush where the mallard hen nested in Spring 2015

She did finally come back a little later though, so we left her alone as much as we could and avoided going too near.

The five eggs we took are still in the styrofoam box, which I lined with a towel, and wrapped around with a electric blanket. I also put our room thermometer and hygrometer in the box to monitor the temperature and humidity levels, which we try to regulate as accurately as possible. Unfortunately not as exact as we want, as the heat setting on the blanket is either a little too low or too high. It’s also hard to regulate the humidity – it is either too low or too high.  A small bowl of water inside usually doesn’t raise the humidity enough so I have to use a damp sponge cloth in addition.

To avoid “cooking” the eggs, we opted for the “low” setting on the blanket, which keeps temp to about 35 which is actually a few degrees cooler than the ideal 37.5 centigrade. The next higher setting probably raises the temperature way too much. Better too cool than too hot! We covered the box with a few additional blankets hoping this will help keep the heat constant.

The eggs seem to be developing okay, as far as we can see by candling them. They look like they are around day 7 of incubation according to this duck egg candling diagram. They have also to be turned regularly to avoid the egg always lying on one side, and moved around so they all get evenly warmed.

Sadly, the remaining 6 eggs in the nest have been abandoned by the duck mom. She must have decided to leave the nest for good.  When I checked on the eggs yesterday, they were already cold. We candled them just to be sure, and found they were too late to save – all we could see were little dark blobs inside with no blood vessel development.

Although I am cautiously optimistic, I am not sure the eggs we rescued will actually hatch, if they do, we may have another problem on our hands, to bring up baby wild ducks! Without their mom to keep them warm and safe, we’d have to raise them indoors until they are big enough to survive outside on their own.

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