Incubator Duckling Hatch Update #2 – Multiple Days

This post covers several days in our incubated Muscovy eggs timeline. All of the eggs were from our own stock, and the ducklings are about a week and a half younger than Coraline’s babies. We’re binge-watching “duck TV” around here!

Freshly_Hatched Hatched_Drying

5/11: three ducklings had hatched when we checked this morning. Several other eggs showed external pips; one egg, Piper’s tiny green egg, had part of a tiny black foot sticking out of it. The duckling had externally pipped yesterday, but was making slow progress.


The duckling in the tiny egg was struggling mightily to escape. We could see the tip of a foot poking out and the bill, as well, from time to time. The membrane was browning, indicating that it was drying out, despite the higher humidity in the incubator. In addition, the first hatchling kept going back and pulling on the imprisoned duckling’s toes. The unhatched duckling needed some help.

We transferred the three ducklings that had hatched earlier to a brooder and removed the empty eggshells. Those shells were hard. We also took the opportunity to look at the unhatched eggs, and nearly all were externally pipped; the only unpipped one had been set a couple of days later.


Despite its efforts, the tiny egg held the duckling fast. We dampened the membrane near the duckling and carefully removed some of the shell around the large hole the duckling had made. While we unzipped it a bit more, the duckling pushed vigorously, unfolding from its contortionist’s pose, and quickly emerged from the shell…at which point it became clear that the egg was too small for the duckling. Sardines came to mind.

The little one remains in the incubator to dry and grow stronger. It’s very vocal, chirping loudly, and hopping around when not sleeping. We wouldn’t typically have set such a small egg, but the girls weren’t laying regularly when we set the original bunch, so we put in every egg we had at the time (and added a few over the next couple of days).

5/12: as of this morning, the duckling from Piper’s small egg remained alone in the incubator – none of the others had emerged. We moved the duckling to the brooder. He (too early to sex, but we’re calling him Wyatt) was a little unsteady on his feet, but stronger than he was yesterday, and he joined the three earlier hatchers under the brooder plate.

Five eggs remained unhatched. One was a later addition, so could hatch in the next couple of days. Three had pipped externally, but were making little progress. After watching them for a few more hours, we decided to help unzip them – not remove the shell entirely, just make it easier for the duckling to push out. One did not have a discernible pip, and when we opened it, it looked like the duckling had expired a couple of days prior to hatch, as some of the yolk was unabsorbed and it had not internally pipped.

The three partly unzipped ducklings were placed back in the incubator. Soon, two had pushed out completely, and the third was nearly out, looking like a snail with his shell stuck on his back.

Once all three are fluffy and standing, they’ll join the other four in the brooder.

5/13: all three of the little ones were fluffy and dry this morning, so they joined the other four in the brooder. We put both dry chick starter and fermented duck feed (mash) in, and they seemed to like the mash…unlike the adults. The adults will eat the floating pellets, but were unenthusiastic about the fermented version. Maybe it’ll grow on them.

Just one egg remains in the incubator. It was added two days later than the first group, but we haven’t seen a pip or heard tapping or peeping. Candling didn’t help – the shell is mostly dark and full of duckling, but we couldn’t see an internal pip or movement. We put it back in the incubator.

5/14: the seven ducklings are very lively, scurrying around the brooder, into their wet food, and back under the brooder plate. They all seem healthy, though one late hatcher’s eye is still partly closed. We’ve gently daubed it with a wet cotton swab to loosen any gunk that might be preventing it from opening fully, and will continue to do so.

The unhatched egg was “dead in shell” and looked as if it had quit a few days ago. It’s not unusual to have a few duck eggs develop normally but never hatch, but we had hoped every one would emerge. Overall, Coraline had better success (8 of 9 hatched) than we did (7 of 9 hatched), but we did markedly better¬†than the last time. It’s been quite an experience…and the fun is just beginning!