Countdown to hatch day

Things are getting interesting with the duck eggs – between yesterday afternoon and today, all the eggs pipped externally, within just a few hours of each other!

The pip shows as a tiny, raised, cracked area on the larger end of the eggshell, made by the egg tooth at the end of the duckling’s beak. I was very relieved to see that, since it means they are all still alive.   A few times I was lucky to spot the eggs when they were moving and rocking!

Ducks take a long time to hatch – each step of the process, each effort they make to break through the shell seems to wear them out and they have to rest many hours in between, during which you will see no action at all.  So I tried to distract myself with housework or reading forums about incubation and hatching of ducks, and only checked on them every 2 or 3 hours.

I have a sheet of paper where I record the room and incubator’s temperature, humidity,  my observations on each egg etc. It would be impossible to remember all these details since so much is happening.

Since the duckling in egg#1 pipped yesterday around noon, I got a little worried when he/she hadn’t progressed by late afternoon today (already >24 hours!). He had made a 2nd pip right next to the 1st one, and would still rock a little if I moved the incubator or talked to him but I wasn’t sure if he was getting enough air through the faint cracks.

I knew he was certainly still alive, and did not want to interfere if at all possible, but I did not want to take chances. Finally around 5 pm, I decided to open the incubator, take the egg out and remove a teeny bit of the shell to expose the membrane and hopefully allow more air in for the duck. To avoid the egg cooling down too much , I warmed a glass bowl by rinsing it out thoroughly with hot water, dried and lined it with towels and then quickly grabbed the egg out of the incubator and transported it in the bowl to the kitchen where I could work on it at the kitchen table.

While I was tweezing a tiny triangular bit of shell off, I could feel the duckling kicking around in the egg, making it rock from side to side, and he started softly peeping (cheeping) at me! I was so surprised and pleased, I quickly got H. to come in out of the backyard to hear the duckling talking to me – it would respond to my voice by cheeping back at me – so adorable! This is certainly the first time I’ve had an egg talk to me. Well, it certainly seems he is not short on air if he has such powerful lungs to make all that noise 🙂

external pip duck egg

Egg #1 has a larger hole now where the external pip is.

After I replaced it in the incubator I could still hear it peeping but since the fan in the incubator is so loud, it was hard to hear much. I kind of pity the poor duckies that the first sound in this world they are aware of, is not my voice but the whirr of the incubator fan!

It’s been 5 hours now since Egg #1 had cheeped at me, and not much has happened since then, except the cracks on the 2nd pip on the egg looks a bit more pronounced, as if he had pushed it out a little more.

None of the eggs are moving at the moment. Perhaps the little ducklings are all exhausted from their day’s efforts and are resting now, slowly absorbing what is left of their yolk sacs. There is still a bit of peeping and chirping going on in the incubator every now and then – but I can’t tell who it is, most likely #1.

I’ve read on forums that once the ducks start to “unzip” the shell (they cut a roughly counter-clockwise circle on one end of the eggshell, and then push out) they go at it quite constantly and should complete hatching any time between half an hour up to 8 hours – although there have been reports of ducklings dying during this phase as well, so I am only cautiously hopeful!

I’ve also read that the duck can take up to 72 hours to hatch from the time it did an internal pip. In #1’s case, he pipped internally on Thursday, so he still has until tomorrow (Sunday) to finish his job, and the others till Monday. Crossing my fingers!

I’ve already got a large cardboard box ready with the heating plate in it for the ducklings if and when they hatch, as well as plastic boxes for food and water containers. They will however need to spend more time in the incubator after hatching – up to 24 hours – so they can dry off, rest and get some strength back before they get to come outside to play, so we do have quite some time to get their brooder ready. We are really looking forward to see the little quackers, hopefully tomorrow I will have some good news. It’s Mother’s Day after all, maybe I will get to be a duck mom!! 🙂

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