We stopped turning the eggs three days before they were due to hatch. This is because at that point, which is commonly called ‘lockdown’, the duckling will get into hatch position, which basically means they position themselves with their head under their right wing and their beak positioned against the membrane separating the embryo from the air space at the blunt end of the egg. Turning the eggs after lockdown could disorient the duckling and result in it not being able to break out of the shell.
20.04 – We’re starting to see cracks and movement in our duck eggs. A lot of love and care has gone in to setting up our duck eggs and Ioan and Finny have taken their responsibilities very seriously. We are hoping after last candling the eggs on Day 21, that the eggs remaining in the incubator all have a chance of hatching.
We added a hatching mat, to provide some friction on the bottom of the incubator. We didn’t need this when the chicks hatched because they were able to move around easily, but the ducklings have webbed feet, making it hard for them to move inside the incubator without slipping over.
Ioan gently placing the eggs on to the hatching mat.
The first sign of hatching is the “pip“. The pip is a small hole that the duckling breaks in the eggshell at the rounded end.
While inside the egg, the embryo is able to gain the oxygen it needs from the outside thanks to the porous nature of its eggshell. As the duckling grows inside the egg the amount of oxygen it’s able to obtain in this way is no longer enough. By the time the duckling is ready to hatch, a special muscle, known as a pipping muscle, on the back of its neck has developed, and a protuberance near the end of its beak, known as an egg-tooth, has grown.
This ‘pipping muscle’ and the ‘egg tooth’ come into their own during the pipping and hatching processes. Using its ‘pipping muscle’, the duckling drives its ‘egg-tooth’ into the air sac at the blunt end of the egg to create a hole. This provides the duckling with enough oxygen to give it the strength, after several hours or even days, to break through the shell of the egg itself, ultimately, to hatch!
Cian was very excited by the pipping process, 28 days is a long time to wait when you’re two years old!
Once the duckling has broken through the membrane and shell and is breathing on its own the air in the incubator, it will often rest, sometimes for hours. During this period it’s important not to open the incubator, despite any pleading children!
When you take the lid off the incubator all the warm moist air is let out immediately. This is not a problem early in the incubation cycle, but once the eggs are pipping and hatching it will cause the membranes to shrink and trap the chick inside.
Once the duckling has made the pip hole and rested a bit, it will continue working on breaking out of the shell.
We could hear some peeping coming from inside the egg as it began to crack a circle around the top of the shell. This is called “zipping“.
12.57 – Cian was very excited to see the duckling’s beak. The process was taking a long time, so now he was keen to crack open the egg for the duckling. It can take ducklings 36 hours to hatch and we were only 17 hours in, so a lot of patience was required.
13.55 – The first duckling had nearly cracked a line around the middle of the egg. The final stage in the zip, is to kick against the inside of it’s shell with it’s feet, widening the crack with each movement.
13.57 – Having pushed the top of it’s shell off, a second duckling started to emerge. Cian insisted on bringing a banana for each of the hatching ducklings. In true toddler fashion, once the first duckling had hatched, he became fascinated by our next door neighbour cutting the grass and dragged his steps to the window to watch that instead!
14.02 – The first duckling finally pushed the top of it’s shell off. You can see it kicking it’s legs. Even with the friction of the hatching mat, it was struggling to get a grip with it’s webbed feet. You can see why why the hatching mat is so important.
14.05 – Having lost interest in the lawn mower next door, Cian came back to check on the progress of the ducklings.
14.06 – Cian was worried one of the ducklings couldn’t get it’s foot out of it’s egg and was stuck.
14.26 – The second duckling had moved round the incubator to snuggle up with the first duckling.
15.43 – Ioan and Finny were back from school and very excited to see the three ducklings. You can tell how excited Finny was from how high pitched his voice is! He was very excited to see that one of the ducklings had an orange beak.
15.45 – Ioan was very happy for the three ducklings to be cuddled up, as there’s nothing our three Curley boys love more than snuggling up together!
15.46 – The three hatched ducklings were really starting to move around now.
These sudden bursts of energy were always followed by periods of complete exhaustion, where they would just drape their weary bodies over the nearest egg.
18.56 – Ioan saying goodnight to the ducklings.
18.58 – Finny coming in to see Ducky, Dillo and Dilly Dally before bed.
18.59 – “Night night duckies, we’ll see you soon!”
I don’t think it was any coincidence that as soon as the boys went to bed, the ducks dropped off to sleep.
07.03 – Coming in to see the ducklings before breakfast.
07.06 – “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch..”
07.19 – The fifth ducking had zipped nearly all the way round now and was busy trying to push it’s way out.
Once all the ducklings have started hatching, it may look very crowded inside the incubator. This worried Ioan, but we explained that they would look exactly the same under a mother duck.
You can see the ducklings that have already hatched scrambling around inside the incubation chamber; knocking eggs from side to side as they go. The movement and sound of the hatched ducklings will actually encourage the unhatched chicks to break through their shells. In the videos above and below, you can see that sometimes the hatched ducklings helped the unhatched duckling break through their egg.
07.22 – Other ducklings “helping” the fifth duckling.
07.31 – The duckling had had it’s head out for a while now, resting. When it started to try and get the rest of it’s body out, Cian counted to see how long it took.
08.21 – It’s technically Day 29 now as the eggs went in the incubator in the evening, so last night marked the end of Day 28. Ioan and Finny were reluctant to go to school with our eggs still hatching.
07.06 – More eggs had starting pipping, but it was getting harder to observe as the incubator was getting fuller!
Our ducklings were still hatching, but the incubator was getting a little foggy as the duckling’s feathers act as an evaporation surface and moisture fills the air. This made it a bit tricky to see clearly.
By the end of Day 30 we had nine ducklings that had hatched and the boys couldn’t wait for them to dry out and fluff up so they could meet them.
DfES Outcomes for EYFS and National Curriculum (2013)
Science Year 1 programme of study
Animals, including humans
- identify and name a variety of common animals including fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals
Science Year 2 programme of study
Living things and their habitats
- identify that most living things live in habitats to which they are suited and describe how different habitats provide for the basic needs of different kinds of animals and plants, and how they depend on each other
- identify and name a variety of plants and animals in their habitats, including micro-habitats