Duckling Disaster - What to Do When a Duck Deserts a Nest at Point of Hatch

I live in a forest garden by the sea in an old Celtic longhouse in the Baie de Mont Saint Michel,...

One of the unwritten rules of reciprocal homesteading or smallholding is that animals or birds always choose the time you are away to have a crisis! Our neighbour assured us, before going off on his holidays, that his two ducks always sat together, albeit in separate nests. In the event and unbeknownst to Andy, who went to open them up, the one nest of ducklings had already begun to hatch overnight and the two mothers had both decided to appropriate it and them. It was lucky that we returned, just an hour later to mow the lawns and noticed both mothers were still out and that there were still only seven ducklings.

By the way the ducks were acting, it was obvious that they were neither of them going to return the ducklings back to the duck house in order to sit the remaining eggs in either nest.

Back in the duck shed, the eggs were pipping and one was minus parts of the shell and thus badly dried out, it was necessary to make a quick decision. We scooped up all the eggs and headed back to our house and our broodies. Luckily, as usual, I had quite a few substitute duck mothers and of the four available, I initially chose Pearl, a young Cochin and Mille-feuilles an older and more experienced semi-Cochin.

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Step 1: What to Do

The film shares detailed information such as how we made our broody Cochin Pearl comfortable with hatching the duck eggs and how we went about releasing one of the ducklings from his dried out egg. was a wonderful experience to see him safely hatched.

So far Pearl had hatched seven of the eggs we had recovered from the duck house it was now time to let them all have a snack before going to sleep and then think about how we were going to restore them to their biological mother in the morning.... but that's another story...

There are more pictures and background information on my blog post and you can find it HERE

Part Two will follow shortly.

All the very best,

Holistic Hen aka Sue



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    5 Discussions


    2 years ago

    I had to chuckle when I read this. My friend lives in the country and something similar happened to one of her duck eggs. The hen raised the duckling and the duckling has a fit if she does not get to sleep in the hen house with the chickens. The ducks have a duck house. When my friend has a house sitter when they go out of town, sometimes they forget the one duck goes with the hens at night and they have been known to place it in the duck-house.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Congrats on a successful hatch! I had two baby ducks imprint on me when i was a kid and raising them was wonderful experience.

    1 reply

    Hi there, Thanks! Ducks are incredible. The tenacity of that poor duckling stuck in the dried out egg was unbelievable, he just never gave up, though he was so tired afterwards. It is so true, it is a wonderful experience to raise and care for birds. I really hope you get a chance to get some ducks again. All the very best, Sue


    I grew up on a large pond, and while canoeing one day as a kid we came upon 4 ducklings huddled close together, chirping loudly and swimming aimlessly. They were obviously looking for their mother who was nowhere to be found. We took them in and built them a pen near the water where they slept at night, and during the day they were free to do their own thing. They would eat our of our hands and hop up into our laps. Eventually they taught themselves to fly and would wander off to explore the pond on their own, always flying back to the house if someone called for them. One day they didn't fly back to their pen for the night, and we never saw them again.

    1 reply

    Aawww what a great story! I get a lot of rescue birds brought to me here and some of them do stay on, in particular pigeons as I have many fantails and they tend to fit in very well with wild birds. However, many birds will leave because they pair off - this has also happened to people I know who rescue wild animals - they stay around for a certain time and then suddenly they are gone. It also happens to wild birds who are injured. They will become quite accepting of you and trusting whilst you are tending wounds or hand feeding them but as soon as they get well and know they can stand on their own feet again, you become a complete stranger. I think you did a great job bringing them up and now they no doubt have families upon families of their own and who in a hidden corner of their memories, know that once a human being was really kind to them! Thanks so much for sharing. All the very best, Sue