It’s seemingly that no story from Otterridge Creek has garnered extra exclamations of shock than the considered one of a rooster hatching a duckling. “What? An actual duckling?!”
I used to drag out my telephone and showcase a brief video clip of the devoted Black Australorp along with her fuzzy yellow-billed child quacking behind her. It was extremely satisfying.
I’m certain many a yard fancier has puzzled in regards to the prospects of setting eggs from differing species underneath their wistfully ready broody. Maybe your farm is overflowing with spring chicks and doesn’t want any extra, however one other hen is setting, so are you able to give her duck eggs? Pheasant eggs? Turkeys?
It may be performed, if the circumstances are proper and also you make just a few allowances for pure variations. Some issues are merely widespread sense. You wouldn’t need to put quail eggs underneath a goose, or vice versa.
I’ve had some success with cross-species brooding, and I’m pleased to share just a few of my battle tales and tidbits of data I’ve gained alongside the best way.
One of many first issues for brooding is dimension. Ask your self these questions:
- How giant of an egg can match beneath your broody and nonetheless incubate accurately?
- What number of eggs can she set comfortably within the clutch?
- How giant will the infants be proper off the bat?
- Will she be capable to hold them coated and heat as they develop?
Conversely, is the surrogate mom so huge that an unintended step onto the chick would kill it? To keep away from extreme problems, it’s in all probability greatest to match birds with eggs which are near their regular egg dimension.
The usual rooster incubation cycle is a exact 21 days, or precisely 3 weeks. As poultry lovers know, many devoted broody hens will set for much longer if chicks don’t seem on time.
If the incubation temperature is colder than the pure mom’s physique temp, hatching can be delayed. If it’s hotter, hatching can be accelerated. Both possibility tends to trigger deformities or decrease hatch charges within the offspring. (These are widespread issues with novice operation of family digital incubators.)
Learn extra: Is your broody hen too younger to hatch eggs?
The Die-Arduous Broody Hen
Final summer time was busy, to say the least. Broody after broody began setting within the barn, we had been elevating hogs, the cows had been getting out steadily and, in fact, full-time off-the-farm jobs throughout. Since we collect eggs every day and need to put aside eggs for our hens to set, it’s not very shocking that we missed giving one new broody a clutch of eggs for brooding.
“Did you give that new broody eggs in the present day?”
“Ah, no, I forgot!”
So it went, for about two weeks. I believed ruefully that I’d missed the window, and placing eggs underneath her after two weeks of setting can be a waste. They’d seemingly die when she left the nest.
Quick-forward two months and that hen was nonetheless setting!
In fact, I felt horrible. So, after I went into the native farm-supply retailer on Sept. 1 and heard little cheeping sounds, I gravitated over that strategy to examine.
Some younger Pekin ducklings had been contentedly grouped collectively in a brooder. I knelt down to research. Whereas I don’t normally like getting chicks from feed shops, this selection might probably remedy my drawback. I might give that poor broody hen a few infants to mom, then harvest duck meat in just a few months.
Moreover, we had a big swampy pond space that wasn’t being utilized and was the right duck habitat. It could be a win throughout.
One of many retailer staff noticed me learning the ducklings and quipped: “Would you like all of them?!” With out lacking a beat, I replied: “What low cost would that get me?” In any case, it was already chilly exterior. Nobody needed to lift chicks that late within the yr, not even me.
She knelt all the way down to look into the brooder. After a second’s consideration she spoke once more.
“Half-off?” she requested.
“I’ll take ’em,” I stated.
So, as a substitute of simply two ducklings for my long-term broody hen, I left with 19. Oh, nicely—I’m a sucker for an excellent cut price. I’d simply need to arrange a supplemental warmth lamp.
I bought the ducklings house and arrange their brooding circle inside one of many barn stalls. Warmth lamp, waterers, feed, litter—test.
I had a imprecise hope that I’d put one or two of the ducklings beneath the mama in her nest, she’d settle for them, then I’d transfer her into the stall to lift all 19. What an idyllic dream world I had created. Ha.
Lengthy story brief, mama and infants firmly rejected one another, with mama pecking and infants fleeing. I used to be left to lift the ducklings, and mama continued sitting on her nest for an additional full month. (Yeah, I ought to’ve simply given her eggs—4 occasions over.)
The longer you elevate birds, the higher thought you’ll have of how lengthy every particular person is keen to set.
The Turkey Mama
Wishing to develop my poultry operations, I bought a pleasant set of Midget White turkey poults from a good-quality yard breeding program. We stored a breeding pair, and the subsequent yr I watched eagerly because the younger hen set a beneficiant clutch. The turkeys got a separate breeding pen to assist brooding go easily.
When hatch day got here, I used to be delighted to see one of many wholesome yellow poults run out to greet this courageous new world. Figuring out that the hen had set someplace between 13 to 16 eggs within the clutch, I anticipated a big hatch.
I began preplanning the sale of Thanksgiving turkeys and the expansion of my flock. Not desirous to disturb the brand new household, I might solely go into the pen briefly to replenish meals and water, then exit.
The younger tom strutted and the younger mama huddled over her nest. I’d wait till mama and infants began traipsing in regards to the barnyard earlier than counting the hatchlings.
A number of days handed, and the turkey hen stayed on her nest. I believed it was odd that each time I went to the barn, the poults wanted to be huddled. After three days, I noticed the tom climb on high of the hen and realized one thing have to be incorrect. Going immediately over to the nest, I moved the mama turkey hen in opposition to her protests. To my horror, the stench of flat, useless infants greeted me.
The hatch had certainly been profitable. However the mounting tom was too heavy for the mama’s legs to help. Not one single poult survived.
I cleaned up the horrible mess, and moved the turkey hen out of the pen to distract her. Nevertheless, the hen instantly arrange a brand new nest on some rooster eggs she discovered. I wasn’t certain how that will prove, so I purchased some contemporary turkey eggs from a neighbor for her.
Success (of a Kind)
Twice, the hogs bought out and ate the eggs from beneath her, but nonetheless she sat, brooding. I lastly gave her a tiny clutch of three rooster eggs. Wouldn’t it, two hatched! (Yeah, I locked up the tom this time.)
So, I had a turkey hen elevating rooster chicks. Proper round that point I misplaced an excellent broody rooster hen, leaving her two chicks motherless. The orphaned chicks had been only some days older than the turkey’s.
Would possibly it’s attainable to get her to undertake these further infants?
I carried the 2 motherless chicks to the turkey space, snuggled warmly in opposition to my torso. Once I arrived, the turkey mama and chicks had been calmly stepping about, utterly unaware they weren’t in any respect associated. Nicely, I believed, “right here goes” and put the opposite chicks down.
A Care Caveat
Now it needs to be famous that chicks hatched by a residing mama, surrogate or not, memorize the sound of their mom’s voice. That’s how they keep in their very own little household cliques out within the barnyard, and conversely the moms know their very own infants.
Nevertheless, often you run right into a mama—whether or not fowl, sheep, cow, and many others.—that merely loves nurturing any offspring, her personal or others’. Such was my hope for the turkey hen. This was her first (nicely, second, technically) hatch, and I wasn’t certain of her mothering preferences.
In any case, she was elevating chickens!
Count on the Sudden
The orphaned chicks, listening to the sounds of their cousins’ cheeping, ran in the direction of the eclectic little household. For one transient second all was good. Then the turkey cocked her head, learning the brand new chicks. Peck! The little yellow chick went down. I hastened to grab it up however couldn’t seize quick sufficient. Peck! A second time. Poor little expensive.
I cuddled the yellow chick in opposition to my chest and went to rescue his littermate, when impulsively I noticed one thing astonishing: The turkey hen had accepted the black chick, as a result of it regarded like those she hatched!
I attempted to sneak the yellow chick in once more, to the identical end result. Nope. She would take the darkish one, however not the sunshine one. I discovered this utterly ironic, as a result of her personal organic infants had been 100% yellow!
All this to say, anticipate the surprising with cross-species surrogacy.
In case you resolve to set waterfowl eggs beneath a land fowl for brooding, akin to a rooster, recall that mama geese sometimes get off of the nest to swim a couple of times per day. They climb again in on high of their eggs with damp feathers, rising the moisture in the course of the incubation interval.
Within the instance of my Black Australorp hen with the duckling, I had tried to compensate for this distinction by including water to the nest often. I’m fairly certain I overdid it, although, since solely one of many eggs hatched.
Moisture content material throughout incubation is necessary, and particular to every species. If the moisture is simply too low, the air house contained in the egg can be excessively giant, the inside of the egg can be too dry, and the chick won’t be capable of flip round in the course of the hatching course of. If the moisture content material is simply too excessive, then the air pocket can be too small and the chick received’t have sufficient oxygen to final via the exertion of hatching.
In both case, the chick will die. Attempt to match related surrogate mothers-to-eggs because of this.
It’s a Danger
Keep in mind that profitable animal breeding is sophisticated sufficient, and cross-species brooding is all the time a threat. Sometimes, nonetheless, surrogacy may be the most suitable choice obtainable.
For instance, it appears guinea hens are chronically poor—albeit very decided—moms exterior of their native desert habitat. Therefore, it’s widespread right here within the excessive north for chickens for use for setting and elevating guinea keats as a substitute.
Chickens have a extra moisture-resistant feather construction and stronger brooding instincts, normally elevating the survival fee of these cute little camouflaged cheepers.
You’ll be glad to know that, as of this writing, final yr’s guinea keats have lastly found out they aren’t chickens.
This text initially appeared within the Might/June 2022 concern of Chickens journal.