So I know a few weeks back, you might have read about my desire for that time of year when chicks start hatching on the farm.
The writing of that article must have sparked some big desire because this year, I have not one, not two, but three incubators currently playing surrogate hen to around 10 potential hatchlings.
As of the writing of this article, there has been one hatch so far of baby chickens, and all six eggs in that incubator hatched without fail.
The ducks that I have on the farm, now named after Mary Poppins characters Bert and Mary, started producing eggs in early January. So on a whim, I placed a couple of duck eggs into one of the incubators with my chicken eggs, and to my surprise, one of the two eggs began to develop a duckling inside.
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The unhatched duckling was quite the spectacle on the farm’s Facebook page, Purple Shamrock Farm. People commented that they wanted frequent updates and photos of the developing youngster, which was just a silhouette on the other side of the shell.
I wish I could have said in this article that the “famous” duckling had hatched, but life sometimes happens, and I discovered one morning when candling the egg that the duckling had passed away in its shell.
Saddened but not defeated, I had just happened to put another duck egg into an incubator about a week before finding out about the fate of the previous duckling and discovered yet another little duck starting to develop. Life has a funny way of giving and taking, and as we all know, it is not in our hands but rather in the hands of our creator who survives and who doesn’t.
Following this lesson, I’ve also discovered that incubating ducks is significantly different than incubating chickens. The humidity has to be higher (makes sense since they practically live on the water), the incubation time longer (a full week longer) and ducklings apparently have more difficulty getting out of the shell. Great. Just what a nervous Mutha Clucka needs, something else to stress over.
When a hatching is going on, I’m checking on the incubator no fewer than every half-hour or so when I’m home. If a “pip” begins on a shell (meaning a small crack in the eggshell that allows the chick to start making its way out), an internal countdown starts for me. If 24 hours go by and no further movement is detected or progress, I’m itching to step in and help.
Those out there who’ve raised poultry know that the last thing you should do is help a chick out of its shell. There are delicate blood vessels in the lining of the egg that slowly cease their usefulness as the chick is working to escape its oval home, and if you happen to nick one in trying to help, sadly the chick may not make it.
The hatching process ensures that the chick is fit to live in this new world that awaits it. It’s hard for us humans to understand that sometimes and especially for me, who lives just about every day with these creatures.
I will be reminding myself to not step in to help in the next few weeks or so when this second duckling hopefully begins to make its way into the outside world. I’m hopeful that everything goes as it should and there will be a new face on the farm very soon.
If you’d like to stay up on all of the hatching happenings, be sure to visit the farm’s Facebook page at Purple Shamrock Farm. We’d love to have you join us in our journey.
Stephanie Strothmann owns Purple Shamrock Farm LLC in rural Seymour. Read her blog at whattheclucker.blogspot.com. Send comments to [email protected].