Domestic Waterfowl Club.

Brooding ;Rearing



Towards the end of the incubation period, after day 24, the eggs no longer need to be turned as the ducklings have largely completed their external development and the animal is manoeuvring itself into the correct position to make the break in the egg shell (the process called'pipping' ...when they draw oxygen in to their lungs for the first time) If sitting the goose or duck will actually talk to the hathing eggs to imprint her voice on them aso a good guide to iminemt hatch time. Ensure that ventilation is adequate, as there is a real risk that the ducklings can be suffocated by a build up of carbon dioxide at this time.... on a Brinsea worth putting on a wire rack or wooden frame to increase airflow and NEVER put the incubator on carpet

1. Ideally, the air in the incubator should be drier on day 24, to helpthe ducklings break through the egg membranes into the air space. As soon as eggs are pipped, however, a high humidity is needed to stop exposed membranes from drying out, becoming tough and leathery and preventing normal hatching. In many situations, however, all eggs willnot pip at the same time and so it will be impossible to provide the best conditions for both pipping and hatching. This is when a second incubator, used as a hatcher, is ideal; eggs are transferred in batches as they become pipped. Without a separate hatcher, wait until about a third of the eggs have pipped and then increase humidity. At this stage, do not keep opening the incubator to check on progress as this will allow the moist air to escape which takes some time to build up again.

2. The ducklings hatch. On day 28, though there is often some variationin development rate, the ducklings should begin to hatch. There can be a period of many hours between the first hole being made in the shelland final emergence. Only intervene if it appears that a duckling has become stuck for a period of 24 hours or more. Then it may be helpful to enlarge very carefully the hole with forceps or scissors. Keep the points of the instruments parallel to the shell and not inserted inwards or the duckling may be skewered.. . . thie results in death for one and nausea for the owner
Hatching can take a long time in some species; duck and turkey eggs for example can take between 36 hours and 3 days. If these species are being kept, it is important not to become impatient and help the birds along !

3. When the duckling emerges it will be wet, often blood stained and very weak as in pic above . It will need at least 12 hours to dry out and it will be some time before it can stand without falling over. It should be left in the incubator or hatcher for this period and then removed to a brooder. There may be insufficient oxygen in an incubator for many ducklings to breathe and an incubator is an unsuitable enclosure in which to feed and water the young animals( and to clean up after them).

4. The yolk sac attached to the developing embryo inside the egg and is normally absorbed during the final days of incubation. Occasionally a duckling may hatch with its yolk sac hanging out. Its survival is endangered and the bird should be isolated. The yolk sac may naturally be re-absorbed but this takes time and the duckling must be kept in clean conditions to prevent infection. If, given time, re-absorption does not happen or the duckling is obviously in distress, it should be humanely destroyed as should any ducklings with other deformities or evident illness; . Any animal which is isolated and later returned to the brooder may be attacked by other birds more likely with calls oddly. It works best if the animal is reintroduced at a time when food is given to all the ducklings so that attention is diverted away from the newcomer.

5. A feature of the development of the duckling is the formation of an external pouch and membranes called the allantois. Waste materials are deposited in this structure. The remains of the allantois and its wastes are sometimes seen still attached to the rear end of the hatched duckling. The remains will dry up and drop off.

6. Even with eggs set on the same day, there can be a lot of variationin the time they take to hatch and so it is important to wait at least 72 hours before discarding unhatched eggs. The remains from hatched eggs should be removed from the incubator as soon as possible and these, together with unhatched eggs, should be disposed off hygienically . The incubator should then be cleaned out and disinfected ( Milton is easily available if nothing better is around, baby wipes are useful too!)

Using a Brooder
An incubator should not be used to house ducklings, once they have hatched, rested and their feathers dried out. A brooder needs to be bought or constructed to house the ducklings and keep them warm;because of their small size, ducklings have a relatively large surface area from which to lose heat. A brooder is simply a form of enclosure with an overhead heat source. . . . box, cage , old fish tank something you can clean
The brooder must be sited away from draughts and placed on a largesheet of paper, preferably not newspaper.( food sacks are good) Some people suggest that the floor of the brooder should then be covered with a layer of good-quality wood shavings (not sawdust), available from pet shops or, more economically, in large bales from specialist suppliers (see Yellow Pages under "Sawdust and Shavings"). This, however, is not essential and does add to the mess that must routinely be cleared up.
Ducklings suffer from cramp if kept on a cold surface. Ideally theyshould be reared off the floor, on a wooden surface. Wherever the brooder is placed, it is wise to protect the surface by covering it with polythene or newspaper. as all waterfowl are incontinent..... and smelly
It may be necessary to cover the brooder with wire netting at some stage to prevent the birds climbing out (Muscovies appear to be relatives of apes when small). Many brooders use ordinary lamp bulbs, operating at reduced voltage, to provide a source of heat.
Heating : A cheaper modern alternative is the small tubular heaters designed fro spare rooms, posher  ones for greenhouses  etc running at low wattage. I have used these for a few years they need the 'feet' on the tube and will be climbed over and pooped on  ( remove when dry!)

1. Some means will be needed to suspend the lamp over the brooder. If using the Torne Valley lamp kit, the reflector should be suspended using the chain provided and not dangled by the flex to prevent electrical fires. The red infra red bulb is for loads of babies  so often best changed for an ordinary 60 watt NOT an eco bulb which is cold they need warmth rather than illumination.
An alternative, possibly cheaper, source of heat is to use an 'anglepoise' lamp. This is not designed to be used with higher wattage bulbs, so it is necessary to remove the lampshade or cover and insertat least a 60 W bulb. Check that this produces a sufficiently high temperature in the brooder, and if necessary use more than one lamp.
2. A thermometer to check the temperature in the brooder will berequired; a simple room thermometer can be used for this. In the early days after hatching the ducklings must be kept very warm at about 35°C (95 °F). As they increase in size, the temperature can be reduced by about 3 °C (5 °F) each week. ducklings will need tobe given some warmth in a brooder for about 6 weeks until they have acquired their adult plumage on their chests and their wings begin toedge with feather quills .
3. Experiment with the height of the lamp above the brooder to obtainthe correct temperature before adding the ducklings. The lamp should not normally be lowered so that it is within the walls of the brooder as cooking may occur. When the ducklings are installed, watch their behaviour and adjust the height of the lamp if necessary. It is normal for the ducklings to avoid the central spot immediately below the lamp but, if they move to the periphery of the enclosure and possibly alsoshow some distress with open beaks and panting, it is evidently too hot. Huddling together tightly is a sign that ducklings are too cold.
***These Tables enable you to calculate the relative humidity of yourincubator at given temperatures . The wet bulb if you haven't one is a thermometer with wick or other cloth strapped around it with one end ina water supply to keep the end damp

Most Waterfowl hatch at around 48 relative humidity but this also takes into account where the incubator is kept and your area i.e.. if in acool shed with a reasonable background humidity try the bottom end of the scale to see how the eggs progress. If indoors in a dry room thetop etc.

Raising ducks is virtually foolproof provided they are kept warm, dry and well fed,ducklings almost rear themselves.

Brooding For a few weeks after hatching, all young birds require tobe kept warm. Normally this is done by the mother but, when rearing artificially, we need a source of warmth. Fortunately young waterfowlcan walk and feed themselves within a few hours of breaking out of the egg, so their care is very simple. Once your ducklings have hatched,leave them in the incubator for a couple of hours to dry off and then transfer them to a brooding pen or hutch. The simplest arrangement is asmall rectangle with wooden walls laid over newspaper on the floor of a garage or shed. The walls need only be twelve inches high and a wire mesh top will prevent the little birds jumping out (very neccessary for Muscovy or wildfowl...they climb !) As mentioned previously, a source of heat must be provided. For most ducklings, an ordinary old style 60 or 100-watt light bulb will be perfectly adequate for up to 40 ducklings or a tube heater as sold on eBay for greenhouses.. cheapest size. . Use additional bulbs for extra units of 20 birds. Begin withthe bulb positioned about seven inches from the floor and adjust the height by observing the behaviour of the ducklings. If they huddletogether beneath the bulb, it requires to be lowered while, on the other hand, if they stay at the perimeter of their pen, the bulb needsto be raised. Keep the bulb on constantly for the first two weeks, raising it an inch every three days. During week three, turn it off foran hour on day one, two hours on day two and so on and then, at the start of the fourth week, provide heat only during the hours of darkness. If weather conditions are normal for the time of year, you should be able to dispense with artificial heat by the end of that week. After a week indoors without heat, the young birds can be transferred to an outdoor pen which is best constructed with wire mesh in a suitable corner of the garden. Do, however, provide a hutch or covered area so that the birds can obtain shelter from heavy rain.

Home made plywood brooder with metal lamp

related links