Hatching Duck Eggs: Can Chickens Hatch Ducks?
Who Knew That Chickens Were So Good At Raising Baby Ducks?
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All of my experience hatching duck eggs led me to ask the question: Will chickens foster eggs from another species and raise them? The answer was, absolutely!
I have both female and male ducks. I only have female chickens. My ducks lay daily, and will stop laying to sit on eggs if enough stockpile. Certain breeds of chicken go broody, and will not start laying again until the broodiness wears off or they hatch and raise something. I didn’t know much about hatching duck eggs, but I knew that if I wanted to hatch ducklings my best bet was to keep the egg count up by setting the eggs under my broody hens.
Chicken eggs take 21 days to hatch. Hatching duck eggs takes 28 days. Though the humidity differs within an incubator, it is fairly regular beneath a mother hen. But when the egg hatches and a duckling pops out, will the mother still raise it? Do chickens really know how to raise ducks?
Morsel came from five eggs, which I set under El Pollo Loco, the salmon faverolles, while she was broody yet again. Within the first two weeks, four of the eggs perished due to nest traffic whenever Loco took a break for personal needs. Halfway through the hatching process, Schnitzel the blue silkie joined in on the same nest. The two hens quickly became sister-hens, caring for the remaining egg.
On April 28, the egg pipped. I kept the process updated on the Ames Family Farm page, and friends followed nervously along.
“Don’t shrinkwrap!” one commented, referring to the unfortunate result of hatching in dry air. The membrane between the shell and the baby can dry out, trapping the inside.
“Can that really happen?” asked another. “Can you really trick Mother Nature?” About six hours later, the same person posted, “Huh. I guess you really can trick Mother Nature.”
Morsel hatched successfully, and spent the night in her nest with her two moms. The next day, she went out in the mini-coop, alongside eight chicks that I had purchased from the hardware store. She bonded with both of her moms, and got along well with her foster-siblings.
A few days later, we were hatching more duck eggs in my friend’s incubator. I fell in love with this little duckling horde, and chose five of the cutest. Hoping the hens would adopt these ducklings, though they were already a week old, I put them in the mini-run. Loco took awhile to warm up to the babies, but Schnitzel automatically called them over to nestle in her feathers. The five foster ducklings made friends with Morsel and the other chicks. The two hens proceeded to raise all of the chicks and ducklings.
By the time the ducklings were four weeks old, they had outgrown Schnitzel. By six weeks, they were bigger than Loco. Both hens had no problems raising ducklings, even though the ducklings were massive. Even when I released moms and babies into the yard with the older ducks and chickens, the ducklings kept the bond with their foster moms.