Ducklings in the Brooder
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.
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.