The runner duck eggs are due tomorrow, and we already have our first two pips in the incubator! You can view their progress on the hatch cam here.*
We also had some last-minute additions to the duck incubator this morning. We got the first eggs from friends in our old neighborhood after their duck hen went missing, and then they found the missing duck sitting on a huge clutch of eggs. Soon they had both of their duck hens sitting, so we made plans to build a duck shelter and keep a few of the hopeful hatchlings here.
Sadly, this morning my friends woke up to find both their duck hens were killed by a predator overnight. With no way of knowing exactly how long the eggs were without their mother, we figured we had to at least try to save the ducklings inside. So she nestled them in a big basket filled with pine shavings and immediately drove them up here to join the other ducklings in the incubator.
In my 5 years of keeping chickens, the predator losses have been the hardest part. There’s a lot of guilt that comes with not having been able to prevent the attack, but the fact is that protecting your animals from predators and keeping them happy can sometimes be mutually exclusive. Sometimes foxes happen by later than usual. But does that mean you should keep your chickens in the coop all day? Both are devastating. But I’d rather my birds have one free day than a lifetime of captivity.
The good news is that where there’s pain, there’s usually a silver lining.
The day I lost my first flock to the fox, that silver lining was getting to know my wonderful neighbors. I went over to give them a heads up about the late-morning predator attack, and later that day I opened my door to find their sweet daughter holding a plate of lemon bars and a vase of sweet peas. We became fast friends, and in the years since I’ve learned so much about life, death, joy, and generosity. These are the people who taught us how to butcher chickens and press apple cider on crisp fall afternoons. They helped save our birds when the coop flooded, despite the flooding on their own farm.
I’m so sad at the loss of their ducks, but it gives me a measure of joy that we were in a position to put the eggs right in the incubator. Some are due on the 8th, and others are a couple weeks behind, so we’ll know pretty soon if any survived.
On a similar note, we also have an incubator full of chicken eggs growing for another friend that lost her whole flock overnight (the predators in that neighborhood are motivated, to say the least). So the hatch cam might be pretty busy during the month of July! Stay tuned.
*I haven’t hatched ducks before, and apparently runner duck eggs take a LONG time to hatch (24-36 hours from the time they pip), so we might be waiting a while. The first pip happened about 10 AM today (Friday) so we’re expecting to see hatching starting tomorrow. You can also search for “HatchCam” on the Ustream app for iOS and Android if you want to check in on the ducks from your BBQ. Happy Independence Day!!