We grow more than just organic medicinal plants on our farm – we help our mother ducks rear their ducklings through natural incubation. While many wild duck species have strong nesting and brooding instincts, domesticated duck species don’t always share the same love for parenting. Some mother’s still retain their ancient drive to brood on their nests, but we like to take fertilized eggs and place them under one of our older brood mother hens. Eggs in incubation also need to be in a relatively clean environment. While the underbelly of chicken may not seem that clean to you, it’s certainly more clean than most duck nests and provides for a nice, slightly humid environment perfect for incubation.
Domestic chickens also don’t always have the same affinity for rearing younglings as others in their flock – that’s why we have a few special gals who saw their eggs laying days a long time ago. Now, they spend their days in the coop sitting on various chicken and ducks eggs. It takes about 4-6 days to start to see some development in the eggs, with the mother hen rotating the eggs with her feet and keeping them an average temperature of 95 degrees F. We candle, or light up, the inside of the eggs every 4-5 days to gauge their development and remove any nonviable eggs as the others progress. After about 28 Days of incubation, we take the soon to be hatchlings out from their brood hen and place them in a warm box with a light to get ready for hatching.
These little ducklings, Pekins and Welsh Harlequins, will grow up and patrol the farm for slugs and snails, keeping our gardens clean of any critters that may want to dine on our plants. They will eventually lay eggs and sire little ducklings of their own and the cycle continues 🙂