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Can I Eat My Backyard Chicken?

3/17/2014 10:27 AM

Throughout time, chickens have been bred for two specific purposes. The first and most obvious purpose is the healthy, nutrient-rich eggs they lay. The second is their meat, which is an excellent source of lean protien. Nowadays, many people utilize chickens' egg laying capabilities, but many people wonder if it is okay to eat the chickens you raise in your own backyard. People usually consider this when they are deciding what to do with a hen that has stopped laying eggs or an obnoxious rooster.

The simple answer is yes, you can eat your chickens. However, chickens too old to lay eggs usualy produce tough, chewy meat. Younger chickens in their prime are are much better to eat, but the meat will still be tougher that what you buy at the grocery store. (This makes sense. The meat you buy at the store is usually from birds confined to cages all day, who rarely use their muscles. Also, these chickens are specifically and intentionally fattened.) One solution many people try is slow-cooking the bird. This will help, but not typically solve, the problem.

When eating a backyard chicken, it is especially important to clean and cook the meat well, as salmonella can be a concern if the meat is not properly prepared.

Meal Made from a Homegrown Chicken

Also, please be sure to kill the chickens humanely. There are many ways to do this. Many people prefer the 'Cone Method'. More information on this method can be found at this site. Aside from fresher, healthier meat, one reason people commonly raise and kill their own chickens is to make sure they live and die humanely.

Comments | Posted in How To Articles By Michael Peterson

How to Calm an Unruly Rooster

3/4/2014 12:56 PM

 Having a rooster that is overly aggressive is a problem people commonly face when trying to create or maintain a large flock of chickens. A rooster usually becomes aggressive due to natural instinct. One of a rooster’s primary jobs among a herd is protecting the other chickens. This protective instinct can sometimes get a little out of hand, causing a rooster to become violent. This is usually because the person or animal it is attacking is perceived as a threat (even if they commit no threatening action). Not all roosters necessarily have this problem—many are actually quite gentle.

When dealing with an aggressive rooster, do not let children near it. This can provoke an attack which is likely to harm (and definitely terrify) the child.

One solution many people resort to is separating the rooster from the rest of the flock. This solution has obvious drawbacks, because the rooster is not able to mate with hens or protect the herd. Also, maintaining two separate pens is typically more of a hassle than maintaining just one.

Another solution is to confront the rooster. A rooster may attack you because he sees you as occupying a lower place on the pecking order. You need to get to the top—become the ‘Alpha Rooster’. One way to do this is to pick up the rooster and hold him steady, no matter what he does. Hold him there until he has been calm for 15 to 30 minutes. Then set him down. If, as you set him down, he resumes fighting, pick him back up and repeat the process. Do this every time he is hostile. If he ever tries to bite you, hold his beak shut for a moment, until he remembers who is boss. You may need to continue to do this procedure every day for several weeks.

How to Hold Rooster

Confronting the Rooster

Some people also recommend not allowing the problem rooster to mate with any of the hens in your presence, as he may be doing this to show superiority.

A rooster is more likely to be calm if it is trained from a young age. Most problems people report occur after the rooster switches owners, especially from a less competent owner.

It is also important to remember that, in most cases, the quality that causes the rooster to attack or be otherwise aggressive is a good one. This is the quality that will motivate your rooster to fight to protect the rest of the flock and defend them from predators. Most roosters will fight to the death to prevent any harm to the flock.

For extremely aggressive roosters (or after an especially violent episode) more drastic measures may be needed.

For more information,  http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/dealing-with-roosters-roo-behavior may be a useful web page.

Comments | Posted in How To Articles By Michael Peterson

    After several weeks of incubation, your eggs will be ready to hatch. After they hatch, they cannot be kept in the incubator very long. It is time for them to move to a brooding area. A good brooding area is the key to chick survival and growth in their early stages of development. The important features of a good brooding area include:


  • A safe, protected area, away from potential predators and cold drafts. This area should be in a location where you have easy access to it in order to give them care and check on them regularly.

  • A dependable heat source with enough power for your particular brooder.

  • A feeding and drinking area.

  • A ‘grippable’ and absorbant floor. Grippable floors are important because if the chicks legs slide or skid as they learn to walk they can develop a variety of problems in their legs and feet. Absorbant floors will help keep your chicks clean and dry.

  • Space. Most people suggest about 6 to 12 inches square per chick. Plenty of space is important because they like to move around. As the chicks grow, they will need more space.

  • Chicks only. Do not keep young chicks with older chickens.

  • Sanitary. As your chicks develop, you will need to clean the brooder on a regular basis to prevent disease.

 

    Example Brooder

 

An Example Brooder

 

 

After your chicks are situated in the brooder, the most important things are food and water. If you keep a water source near them, they will take care of watering themselves. The waterer needs to be able to supply water almost constantly without running out, but be careful because if they have too much water at once they can drown or, more likely, soak themselves and become sick. A good way to keep enough water in the incubator is the use of Incubator Warehouse’s Watering Dish, which will allow water to flow from a plastic jar to the dish as needed, keeping a shallow pool—deep enough to drink from but not to drown in—in their waterer at all times.

   

Feed can usually be purchased at Supermarkets or, if you want something more specialized to your type of chick, a pet store. Opt for larger bags of feed, as the chicks will eat more than you probably think. Some types of feed are specially medicated or have specific nutrients in them. These usually cost more, buy may help your chicks. Many people choose simply to make their own feed. Be sure to consider and choose carefully what you are going to feed your chicks.

   

As with water, chicks can regulate their own food intake. Just be sure their feeding dish is always full and they will eat what they need. They will not overeat. You will find yourself refilling food and water very frequently as the chicks grow.

   

Pay close attention to your chicks. If they seem to always be cheeping, it's an indication that something may be wrong. This may be due to problems with food, water, temperature, or a variety of other things. If you are sure they have enough food and water and they are still upset, the issue is probably temperature. When determining temperature, the IncuTherm™ Thermometer can be a valuable tool. However, to ensure the temperature is correct watch the chicks’ reactions. If they tend to huddle near the light, and cheep very loudly and frequently, they are too cold. If they avoid areas near the light and pant, their environment is too warm. When checking up on them, also make sure they are clean and move frequently and steadily.

   

Don’t be afraid to hold or pet your chicks for short periods of time. As long as you are careful, you won’t do them any harm. Always carefully supervise small children who are handling or petting chicks. Before and after handling chicks, wash your hands and dry them well.

   

Many people like to give chicks time outside. This can be very good for them. Be careful, however—make sure the space they will be in is clear of obstacles that may hurt them, particularly pools they might drown or become soaked in. Be sure predators are kept away, including birds. Make sure the day is warm and dry. Chicks enjoy being outside, but this should only be done for short periods of time until their feathers come in.

   

Answers to other questions you may have can be found at www.feednfarm.com/PoultryChickCare.html


 

1 Comments | Posted in How To Articles By Michael Peterson

Wrapping It Up

1/17/2014 11:10 AM

    I have finally finished the incubating and brooding the young ducklings. The ducks continued to grow well, except for one-- a runt. As the others’ growth was rapid, he barely grew at all. At first, the difference was barely noticable. However, as time passed the difference in size became more and more obvious until he was dwarfed compared to the others. Sadly, he did not prove strong enough to make it, and died.


    The duckling which had endured the difficult hatch was not doing well either. His head was scarred from struggling against the edge of the shell, and grew only tiny, thin patches of feathers-- most of his head was completely bald. After a few weeks, he also died.


    Another duckling slowly began to grow weaker and weaker, until he, too, died.


    The other ducklings had been very strong, and continued to grow rapidly. I wondered what caused the deaths of these ducklings, if there was something I could have done more. I realized that all three were late hatchers, they may have been inherantly weaker. All six ducklings had ample access to food and water, and I watched to make sure that all six were eating and drinking.


    A new theory was then presented to me. The dirt which I kept them in often became muddy in certain places, especially near where they got water. The mud could then get onto their faces, obstructing nasal passages. They usually did a pretty good job keeping their own faces clean, and when they didn’t I would help them a little. But even then, having any obstruction in their nasal passages could lead to infection. This may have weakened the health of the first two ducklings and been the cause of death in the third. I do not know for sure.


    As I raised these ducklings, I gained a lot of experience and learned quite a bit. Here are a few of the more important things.

 

  • First and foremost, next time, I will not use dirt in the brooder. The health effects it may have had on my young ducklings aside, it was messy and hard to keep nice. It was especially hard to keep their water clean. Also, equipment such as my thermometer and the other brooder supplies became very dirty. Store-bought bedding or straw would have been worth the investment.

  • Keep the Incubator in a convenient place, where you can check on it frequently, making sure the temperature and humidity are where you need them, and make sure the water trough is always full. I did this, and it helped keep the Incubator conditions constant

  • Realize that ducklings eat and drink a lot. The rate they go through feed and water is shocking. Make sure you always have plenty of extra food handy and check their watering area frequently to make sure it stays full. The food that comes with Incubator Warehouse’s brooder kit will not last as long as you think it will.

  • Check on the ducklings frequently. You will often find something that needs attending to.

  • Don’t fiddle around too much with the Incubator. It takes a day or two for the incubator to stop fluxuating after a change in termperature or humidity. So make the adjustment, let it sit for a while, and then try fine tuning it. Also, the temperature in the incubator does not have to be perfectly accurate.If you try to get it dead on, you will just frustrate yourself, and the temperature fluxuations will be a problem. Try to be as close as is reasonably possible.

  • A little temperature fluxuation in the incubator is ok. The important thing is that it returns to normal quickly. Having the temperature spike or drop by five degrees for ten or fifteen minutes is less damaging to the eggs than having the teperature spike or drop by three degrees for an hour.


Most importantly, remember that incubating eggs and raising the ducklings is a fun experience, and there are few things more satisfying than watching a duckling emerge for the first time from it’s shell, heathy and happy and peeping.

Comments | Posted in Learnings of a First Timer By Michael Peterson

I keep hearing about the need to manage the humidity level inside my incubator.  Why is that important? 

We hear this quite often and it’s actually a great question.

In nature, the mother bird does a really good job keeping the conditions of the egg just right so the fragile embryo inside can develop as it should.  One of these conditions is the moisture that the egg is exposed to.  In an egg incubator, we call this the "relative humidity" level.  Or just RH for short.    Let's mention just briefly what it's call "relative" humidity.    

Two of the main factors that affect the the amount of moisture the air can hold are temperature and atmospheric pressure.  It’s not easy to control the atmospheric pressure, but the temperature is something we try very hard to control in an incubator.  As the temperature goes up, the amount of water (or moisture) that the air can hold (in the form of vapor) goes up.  As the temperature falls, the amount of moisture the air can hold goes down.  That is why dew forms on grass on a beautiful summer’s morning.  The temperature of the air decreased during the night so the air could not hold as much moisture, so it condensed into water droplets and we notice it on the grass. 

So why control it in an incubator?  An egg needs a certain amount of moisture to keep the egg from drying out too soon.  If it dries out too soon, the chick will not have the lubrication it needs to move around enough when it comes time to pip.  This will cause the chick to get stuck, not be able to break the shell lid open and eventually it will die.  But we also have to make sure there is not too much moisture.  Otherwise there will not be a big enough air pocket for the chick to breathe in as it pips.  So the right amount is very important. 

So how do I control it? 

Most incubators come with a simple way to manage the humidity level.  Most of these ways have to do with adding water to built-in water trays on the bottom of the incubator.  They may have several different trays so the more of them you fill, the more moisture there will be in the air.  In home-made incubators, any dish can act as a humidity tray.  In order to increase the amount of surface area (and thus increase the amount of moisture that gets into the air) you can add a sponge or a cloth to help wick the water up and allow more of the water to evaporate into the air.  Or you can simply add more containers to increase surface area.

Surface area and humidity

You will find that a simple hygrometer (like a thermometer, but used to measure humidity) can be very helpful to manage the humidity level in your incubator.  You can purchase a hygrometer for very little investment.  And the returns can be very good!   

Thermometer and Hygrometer

But for those who would like to take more control of the humidity level in your incubator, a hygrostat may be the answer.  This is like a thermostat but instead of regulating the temperature, it regulates the humidity level.  This is a more complicated topic and will be addressed in a different blog post.

Comments | Posted in How To Articles By Kip Jensen

Early Brooding

12/2/2013 10:35 AM

The second group moved to the brooder a couple days after the first. For a moment they were pecked at a bit, and huddled in the corner. However, after a few minutes they became braver and slowly came out and, by mimicing the older ducks, they learned to eat and drink. After about two days they were fully integrated with the other ducks and were overcoming the ‘two group’ idea.

      The ducklings grow very quickly. I have been shocked by how large they have become. As they grow so rapidly, they go through food and water very quickly. After about four days after the second group had been put in I was refilling the water 2 or 3 times a day. Before to long the water needed to be refilled every few hours. The food was being refilled every day. It didn’t take long for the small bag of food to run out. After some thought, I decided not to buy more-- I would make more.

      The food I make is a combination of several grains. Rye, wheat, dried corn, brown rice, and sometimes oats are all combined to make a feed that they love. The grains are ‘cracked’. This makes them smaller (almost exactly the size of the store-bought feed). It also weakens the grain a little to make it easier to eat and digest. I carefully watched the ducklings after administering this food, and they seemed as happy and healthy as ever, and grow just as quickly.

      The dirt I put in the bottom of the brooder is working well, but it makes the ducks a little bit muddy. They do a good job keeping theyselves clean by preening, but cannot get it all, especially that on their feet. When the second group was about ten days old, I wondered if I could somehow clean them. I researched it, and found a variety of opinions. The majority said putting them in water was alright, as long as they were thouroughly dried immediately afterward. It is good for them if you do this, because it helps their oil glands develop. I splashed a little water on them, to make sure their feathers could repel water (If they get soaked through it is almost impossible to dry them well enough). Then I took them inside and placed them in a plastic bin filled with about an inch and a half of water. I left a place for them to climb onto if they wanted to get out of the water. After a moment’s hesitation, they began to play in the water, and cleaned themselves. I dried them carefully with a soft towel, then returned them to the brooder. They seem to still be doing well.

Comments | Posted in Learnings of a First Timer By Michael Peterson

Thermostats

Building your own incubator can be an exciting way to make a custom more affordable effective egg incubator. The components you use in an incubator can vary depending on the amount of money you plan on spending and your desired outcomes.   While there are many components that need to be considered when building your own incubator this article is going to focus one important component the thermostat.

The first step to picking a thermostat is to understand what the main types of thermostats are and how the operate. There are four common types of thermostats: mechanical, electronic, digital electronic, and proportional.

Mechanical

Mechanical thermostats are the most basic and generally the least expensive on/off thermostat. An on/off thermostat is a thermostat that either turns the power completely on or off. Mechanical thermostats generally work by using a material that responds to heat to make an electrical connection turning on or off the heater. This type of thermostat is generally very reliable and if the incubator is set up correctly the can produce great results. A potential drawback is that mechanical thermostats have to manually set through trial and error and do not self-adjust if conditions outside the incubator change. Some examples of a mechanical thermostat are the wafer style thermostat and the bi-metal thermostat.

Electronic

An electronic thermostat is also less expensive on/off thermostat and is very similar to a mechanical thermostat. The main difference is an electronic thermostat uses a processor to sense the temperature and to switch the heater on and off. This type of thermostat still has to be manually adjusted through trial and error and also does not self-adjust when conditions outside the incubator change. This type of thermostat can also be very accurate if set up correctly.

Digital Electronic

Digital electronic thermostats are generally a more expensive on/off thermostat than both the mechanical and electronic thermostat. This is because this type of thermostat uses a CPU to sense the temperature and switch the heater on and off. They also have a digital display that makes it easy to read and set the temperature of the thermostat. Often this type of thermostat comes preset and is fully adjustable to a desired temperature. Once the desired target temperature is set the thermostat automatically maintains that temperature without any further adjustments and as long as the setup of the incubator is good it can adjust for changes on the outside of the incubator. These thermostats work well with the majority of incubators.

Proportional

Proportional thermostats are generally the most expensive type of thermostat that is available for incubation. A proportional thermostat works differently than an on/off thermostat. Instead of simply turning the power to the heating element on or off it actually varies the amount of power to the element. It does this by using a CPU with a specially designed program to gradually cut the power to the heater the temperature inside the incubator reaches the set point. This type of thermostat generally produces the tightest temperature range inside the incubator compared to the other types of thermostats because reacts more quickly and has less of a temperature overshoot. Proportional thermostats also have a digital display and are programmable.

Once you have chosen the right thermostat for your project and budget the next step is to choose a heating element that will produce the best results and work well with the type of thermostat you selected. Part two of this series will cover the different factors to consider when selecting a heating element.

 

Comments | Posted in How To Articles By Evan Cornia

Ducklings in the Brooder

11/18/2013 2:34 PM

I moved my chicks to the brooder in two separate groups, instead of as one unit. This was because of how spread out the hatches were. I wondered why this happened, and how spread out the hatches are supposed to be. I found out that they should all hatch within 36 hours of each other. Mine hatched between the morning of day 27 and the morning of day 30 . . . roughly 72 hours apart! I can find no indication of why they hatching time varied some much. It cannot be due to species variation, because they did not hatch in any order based on breed.

I did find that many people stop turning the eggs two to three days before the hatch, as opposed to me waiting until one day before. I don’t know if this had any significant impact on the hatching time or survival rate. Because of the varied hatch times, I began to think of them as two somewhat separate groups. Each group consists of three eggs, Group One being the early and on time hatchers, Group Two being those a day or two late. They seem to think of themselves in groups also, but each still interacts among the other group enough that I believe in a short amount of time they will be over this group mentality and be more like one unit.

I moved the early-hatching duckling to the brooder first, alone, because I was worried he was spending too long in the incubator. It did not like this at all. It stood in one spot and peeped loudly until I put it back in with the others. Later, I tried to put it in again, this time with one more for company. I got the same result.

Curiously, when I put just two ducks in, only the oldest one seemed upset. I think this may be because the first duck to hatch has a sort of ‘special role’ in assisting the others. While all the ducklings helped each other hatch, this one did much more to help than any of the others. The duck with the instinctive responsibility to those who hatched around the same time as him wanted to continue to watch out for them. I found nothing in my research to confirm this theory.

Finally, when I put the entirety of 'Group One' in the brooder together, they seemed content. Making sure they get the right experience when they first enter the brooder is crucial. They need to realize and begin to take advantage of food and water within a few hours. After a while, they still had not started to eat or drink. I realized that I would have to intervene.

I tried to introduce them to their food, which is a special duckling food that came with the brooder kit I received from Incubator Warehouse. They avoided it. After a while, I began to worry. How could I get them to eat? After several unsuccessful tries, including, among other ideas, hand-feeding and placing them in a small area with nothing but a little food, I found a way. I cut a piece of plastic into a square dish, roughly three by four inches in size. I placed food in one end and held the other out to them. After a few minutes, one of them tentatively approached and pecked at it. Soon the others followed, and before long they could eat without problem.

Feeder/Waterer Kit

Getting them to drink water was much easier. You place ‘watering stones’ in the water and they peck at them. In the process they naturally get water in their beak and learn to drink it. However, they would not come close enough to my watering dish to see the stones! I went for the same tactic as had worked with the food. I put the water in the dish with two of the shiny, translucent rocks. Now, not only were the stones visible but magnified through the water and the clear sides of the dish.

They rushed over to it. I then realized one issue with my idea. Because the dish was plastic, and therefore clear, they tried to peck from the sides and bottom, where they could not possibly get water from! I thought they would get over this quickly and realized to drink from the top, but they did not. I slowly brought the dish over to the waterer, baiting them along to it, and emptied the stones in there. All but one began to peck from above, now, getting their drink and learning something crucial. The other insisted on pecking the red dish itself, rather than the water or stones. With encouragement from the others, after several minutes he realized his mistake.

My biggest source of worry for the ducklings was temperature. I have them in my garage, and I knew it could get cold in there. For several days (before they hatched) I had monitored the temperature, especially at night. The critical things I discovered were that as long as the door leading outside stays shut and the ground is well covered, it doesn’t fluctuate too much, so a properly set heating lamp will be enough for them to stay warm, day and night. I spent several days trying to get the lamp to just the right place. I also make sure the garage door is always shut and locked. This not only keeps out the chill but the predators. There are cats in the neighborhood, as well as other animals that could hurt it. I don’t know if mice or voles can hurt them, but I plan on getting and placing a few mouse traps near the brooder, just to be sure. According to what I read, predators are often the biggest threat to ducklings.

I was nervous the first night and rushed downstairs to the garage to check on them first thing in the morning. I found them cuddled together, relaxing, seemingly content. They were a far enough from the heat lamp that I did not worry that they had gotten too cold in the night. They seemed healthy and when I came in they got up and moved around. They were doing just fine. I did extensive research to try and place, for sure, what breed each duckling is. I am pretty sure I have positively identified one as being an Indian Runner, but I will need to wait and observe the other two, to see what changes time will bring.

Comments | Posted in Learnings of a First Timer By Michael Peterson

Hatching Day!

11/13/2013 9:41 PM

At last my eggs neared the hatching day, which is day 28 after incubation starts.

I had the humidity up and the temperature down, and I was ready to take them off the rotating tray and put them directly onto the incubator mesh. Before I could, however, one of them hatched! The egg shell sat empty in it's place, and the chick, which looked healthy and strong, if a little unsteady on it's feet, was in the corner.

I immediately removed the other eggs  from the tray. The next two eggs followed suit, hatching quickly and easily without any concerns or issues. They, however, hatched on the day they were supposed to, instead of a day early like the first one did. I wonder if this duckling will do as well, but so far it seems to be doing great. It quickly showed good signs, including a lot of movement and preening itself. The other two were similar.

The young chicks work together a lot. They preen and peck at each other. I was curious about why they peck so much at each other, so I looked it up. I found out that it is a way of helping one another.When very young, (a day old or less) they have many major developments to make, similar to humans. Foremost among these is learning to walk and have bodily control. This is very hard for them, and when they fall, they are liable to become discouraged and give up. The pecking is encouragement. They all do this to each other, and it greatly improves their development. Whenever a chick is the only one to make it through the hatch their chance of survival drops drastically.

 

'Pipping' Duck Egg

 

The fourth chick had some problems. One of it's feet and the tip of his beak was visible through a hole in the shell not too long after the others hatched. For several hours it remained in the same position. It would often peep or try to kick it's leg, but it made no progress. I began to worry. I did some research about 'assisted hatching'. All chicks have air pockets in the top their shells. I learned that when they first begin hatching, they 'pip', or poke a small hole on the shell, near the base of the air sac. Then they peck a circle in the shell, at the line where the air sac ends. This chick had not done this. He was trying to break out through the middle of the side of the shell, rather than a point near the top. He also was seemed to be twisted into a very abnormal position, based upon what I could see.

The other ducklings, which had been extremely watchful of it and tried to help it a lot, were seeming to begin to give up, as they helped it less and less and didn't give it as much attention. I started to pull off small pieces of his shell. After some was off, I let him sit for a couple more hours. Still, he made no progress, though he kicked frequently and the other chicks pecked encouragingly. I decided to help a little more. Most of what I read about assisted hatching was related to the removal of membrane from a hatching duckling. Using tweezers, the membrane is pulled away until it starts to bleed, which means blood vessels are still in that part of the membrane. Then you let it sit for 4 to 6 hours, and try again if it still needs help. This particular one didn't seem to be too stuck in the membrane, though. It was unable to break through the shell itself, although it tried with what seemed to be increasing desperation.

The membrane was still an issue, but the less important one. I did notice that the membrane that was there was becoming dry. I wetted it, but it didn't do as much good as I had hoped. It soon became apparent that this duckling was not getting out without major help. I was very reluctant to do this, because I wanted it to be as strong as possible, and any help early on will weaken it. But it had spent enough time trapped in the shell that I worried about it dying in there, which is a very big possibility. As bits and pieces of shell came off, another issue revealed itself. A significant amount of yolk was still in the bottom of the shell. As much of the yolk as possible is supposed to be absorbed into the abdominal cavity of the duckling. I decided to let it be for a while, absorbing what it would. I continued to wet it again and again.The down feathers on it's head are matted and torn from rubbing against the sharp edges of the shell. I hope this will heal with time.

During this time another egg 'pipped'. It seemed to be doing well. About ten hours later, after a little more help from the tweezers (especially around the face), and wetting it plenty of times, it finally emerged from the shell. A portion of the egg, stuck to it, trailed for a while, but as it moved it came off. The other three ducklings continued to preen it. Soon it was doing well, if not quite as good as the others had been.

The other that had pipped during the commotion with the other duckling was doing well, and it hatched slowly but without issue. The two were soon up and doing well. They moved around quite a bit and began to grow stronger. Another egg also pipped, then hatched without any problems.

I checked the other eggs, ten total. I checked by candling and by smell. (You can definitely tell a dead egg from a live egg by smell. It is very strong and very distinct.) Unfortunately, all of these eggs were dead. I do not know for sure why these eggs all died. All ten were checked and doing well only a few days before. Some had not been not moving much, but often a healthy egg will not move much.

They may have simply been late hatchers, and when I increased the temperature and humidity it would have been to early for them. Another theory I have is probably a little more likely. When I helped the other duckling hatch, the lid was often off the incubator. This exposure may have been enough to kill them. Fluctuating temperatures and humidity during incubation may have further weakened the embryos. So when all is said and done, I have six thriving ducklings.

Comments | Posted in Learnings of a First Timer By Michael Peterson

Right Before the Hatch

11/12/2013 8:20 PM

Today I set up my brooder, and prepared the eggs to hatch. The brooder kit I got is quite ingenious.Two rolls of plastic can be unrolled and taped together to make the walls. PVC pipe forms a tripod, from which an ultra-violet heat bulb hangs.

I set it up in my garage. I live in northern Utah, where winters can get pretty drastic and very unstable. So at first I worried whether or not the temperature would drop so much at night that even the heating lamp would not be enough to keep them warm. So I monitored it for a few days. I determined that while the heat does, in fact, go down, it is not too severe as long as you keep the garage door closed. Most of the cold that does get in tends to come from the cement floor, so I decided to layer the floor thickly with padding, which brings us to my next question.

What would I use to cover the floor? The most important thing about whatever covers the floor is it’s ability to absorb water. Things like wood shavings, or other pet beddings, which are commonly used, are not readily available to me, so I tried to think of some alternatives. I thought about newspaper, but ruled it out because it would no be able to absorb much water, and would soak quickly. I settled on dirt. We have a sandy, highly absorbent dirt that I think will work well. I layered this two to three inches thick. A made it slightly thicker than normally necessary because it will help keep out cold from the ground and also absorb water more easily.

I learned that ducks are quite messy. A major reason is that their food is very dry. After they eat a little, they rinse it in water by splashing their beaks in the water source. This causes a lot of splashing, and the area around their waterer can get soaked easily, which is dangerous to the ducks because they can catch a ‘chill’, just like humans.

I set up the feeder and waterer. The feeder is the large red tray I described in an earlier post. The waterer is a plastic bottle that screws onto a red dish. The dish lets water enter it from the bottle whenever it runs low. In the bottom of the dish you put colored stones. This confused me at first. Why do you need those in a watering dish? I wondered. As it turns out, you do this because baby ducklings do not recognize water for what it is by instinct, it is something they have to learn. They see the shiny stones and curiously peck at them. As they peck, they unintentionally get water in their beaks. They swallow it, and before long learn how to drink water.

 

Watering Stones in the Waterer

 

Preparing the eggs to hatch also was fun, although it was much simpler than setting up the brooder. I turned the temperature down a couple degrees and made the humidity rise significantly (to 80% from about %50). This was easy, as all I had to do was remove the eggs for a minute to fill a secondary trough already set in the bottom of the incubator.

 

Comments | Posted in Learnings of a First Timer By Michael Peterson
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