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.