It’s May Day and Quakie has finally hatched her brood (well, not quite…) after sitting 35 days on her eggs. In ideal conditions, Mallard eggs hatch in 28 days. Temperature fluctuations can cause a slightly early or late hatch but 35 days is crazy!
Quakie leaves the nest, and calls and calls her babies but they are unwilling to leave the warmth of the nest and their nest mates. There are many unhatched eggs still in the nest, which could account for the confusion of the little ones. Finally two brave ones jump from their high nest and follow their mama, who is not visible in the video – she is on the other side of the fence in the neighbour’s yard. The remaining ducklings huddle together inside the nest.
Note: I brought the remaining 4 ducklings and eggs indoors to keep them warm, but after a few minutes, Quakie with 2 ducklings (and Frankie III standing by) reappear in the garden. I take the three most energetic ducklings back to their mama and the duck family leaves immediately for the creek. Meanwhile, one of the abandoned eggs hatches indoors. It is about 8.30pm in the evening.
Quakie marches her ducklings through a neighbour’s garden. They cross a small lane and walk through the grass in the large cow field, and within a few minutes they are safely at the creek. Quakie makes soft whistling noises all the way so her young ones can more easily follow her. At this stage they are too young to recognise objects around them and will simply follow any large object near them that is moving.
In the hours following Quakie’s departure with her first 5 ducklings, and in the small hours of the morning, several more ducklings hatch in the makeshift brooder and keep warm, thanks to the heating plate for chicks (www.comfortchicks.com) – the same one we used for Quakie and siblings when they were hatched in Spring 2015. Indoor temperatures (20 deg C)are still way too cold for newly hatched ducklings. They will die of exposure unless they have a heat source of at least 30 deg C or most preferably their own mother duck!