Incubation – Day 26?

I am a bit concerned now, as according to my calculations, our 5 duck eggs should be already entering the hatching phase (26th-28th day), but although they are still alive (I can see them moving inside when I candle the eggs) they have not pipped internally. Also their air sacs do not seem not large enough.

I fear it may have been too humid in the incubator last week as we topped up the water in the incubator quite frequently. Our room thermometer/hygrometer does not work too well inside the incubator, and anyway I can’t see the digital display on it if I place it inside. But a sample measurement seems to indicate the humidity level was way over 80%.

Too-low incubation temperatures may also contribute to a late hatch. According to instructions the temperature is supposed to remain at about 38 deg throughout the incubation period, but we used 37.5, which may be too low. Before the machine arrived and we were still using the electric blanket, the temperatures were fluctuating even more wildly.

If not enough water evaporates out of the egg by the time the duck pips (breaks through to the air sac and then the shell) and starts to breathe with its own lungs – it could drown before hatching.

Ducks apparently take a long time to hatch after pipping the shell – sometimes 2-3 days – and if there was a problem with the incubation process, they may have problems detaching from the shell and even die during this time. Sometimes it’s possible to help them and sometimes not.

I have read forum postings where a woman tried to save her ducklings having hatching problems, and went without sleep for several days tending to each of them!! In the end most of them still died. Perhaps I worry too much, but reading forums can get addictive especially when one can’t do much else but wait for the eggs to hatch!

It’s a headache trying to decide now if I should increase or decrease the humidity in the incubator – there is another whole set of problems associated with eggs being too dry…  Anyway fingers crossed that at least some will survive and not all will die because of some stupid mistake we made during the process. Right now, from my best judgement and current level of knowledge I believe there is about 20% hope that any will survive – not very hopeful at all.

Apart from the worry about the ducks dying before they can hatch, I am also worried about what we will do with them AFTER they hatch in case they all live.

Among a lot of other needs – housing, food, swimming water etc. that they require in the first weeks, it is vitally important that the ducks have a warm (around 100 deg F) place to sleep – there is no time to go out to buy a heating lamp or heating pad once they are hatched, since they must be kept warm from the moment they leave the incubator. So I have to plan ahead – but I don’t want to spend too much money buying stuff that I can’t use in case none hatch!

heating plate for chicks

Comfort Chicks heating plate.

Today, I ordered from Amazon this low-wattage heating plate that is supposed to simulate a mother duck – the ducklings or chicks can huddle under the heater instead of sitting on it (like with a heating pad) –  a more “natural” and safe alternative to high wattage heating lamps which may be a fire hazard.

At first, I thought a infrared lamp or a heating pad would be more practical since they have other uses than just for a brooder, but the options were in some cases more expensive or not appropriate.

I have done a lot of reading on raising ducks but all this knowledge will be useless if they don’t survive. Well I guess we will know soon enough – but waiting is torturous!

As usual, H. is very relaxed about the whole business. He says if Mallard ducks are tough enough to survive in the wild, they should hatch without too much help from us!  I just know that I will feel terrible if they died and I knew I could have done something to keep them alive.

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