Right Before the Hatch
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.
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.