While this drama was unfolding in the chicken coop, all of my Ancona ducks came into lay. When I started to see some fertile eggs in the mix (here's how you can tell if a duck or chicken egg has been fertilized), it finally dawned on me that I could use Goldilocks to incubate some duck eggs. We weren't planning to hatch a bunch of ducklings until after our Cream Legbar chicks leave the brooder, but surely a handful of ducklings wouldn't hurt anything, right?
I put five freshly laid Ancona duck eggs under Goldilocks on February 20th. Their potential due date would be in 28 days - March 20th.
|Brr! Snow didn't stop this mama|
The next day we had a huge snow storm and snow sifted in through the cracks around the nest box door. It didn't stop Goldilocks, but I did brush the snow off her tail.
I paid a close attention to Goldilocks over the next week. She seemed to do a good job, though sometimes she would get back into the wrong nest after one of her short food/water/pooping excursions. That is why it is best to separate a broody hen into their own coop, but we were just winging it. I also wondered if she was turning the eggs appropriately since they really didn't seem to change positions in the nest.
I candled the eggs after seven days had past. I was pretty sure that two of the eggs were infertile as they showed no signs of development, but I decided to give them a couple of extra days just in case my candling skills weren't up to par.
Eleven days after I put the eggs under Goldilocks, I walked into the coop to find that four of the eggs were pushed out of the nest box and lay cold on the coop floor. Sometimes a broody hen will discard eggs that she knows are dead, so I took them indoors and candled them.
Two of the eggs were the infertile ones. The other two had some development.
I had to open those eggs and see what I could learn. I steeled myself for something really yucky and smelly, but I shouldn't have worried. I found it really interesting to see how much had changed inside those eggs in just 11 short days.
WARNING - IF YOU DON'T WANT TO SEE DUCK EMBRYOS, DO NOT SCROLL DOWN ANY FURTHER.
I have opened other eggs in the past that failed during incubation. All of them had blood rings like in the photo below.
|A blood ring indicates an early death of the embryo|
Image source: http://animalscience.ucdavis.edu/avian/pfs32.htm
A blood ring means that the embryo died early on in the development process. I knew that there would be when I opened these two eggs because I saw a lot more than just a ring when I candled them.
This is what was inside egg #1. Click on the photo if you would like to see it up close.
|Duck embryo after 11 days of development. You can see the eyes, beginnings of wings and legs, and |
where the veins attach to the abdomen.
|The embryo is encased in a membrane and had an extensive blood supply network|
The second egg had obviously died a bit earlier than the first one. It had less veining and appeared to be decomposing a bit.
|Egg #2 quit a bit earlier than Egg #1|
This was absolutely fascinating to me. I wish the ducklings had developed properly and hatched, but at least I learned a little bit about their development. Goldilocks is still sitting on one egg, so we'll see if she becomes a mother yet!