Our Call Duck Adventure
This summer we have hatched & raised our own call ducks. Call ducks are known to be one of the most difficult breeds to hatch. They have a short breeding season and their small bills & short necks make it hard for them to hatch without assistance. Bearing these points in mind, we took this on with mixed feelings - keeping our hopes low to avoid disappointment. Our end goal was to have a breeding pen of apricot/silver call ducks for next spring.
This story has a happy ending, but it was a steep learning curve with mixed results along the way....
Our first hatch of 12 eggs resulted in 1 duckling.
Hatching a single duckling can result in huge time commitments & problems. The duckling was lonely & thought we were it's parents - becoming distressed when we were out of sight and peeping constantly. After 24 hours of this, we decided to give the duckling to a broody hen we had. Usually broody hens will take to a young duckling and raise them as they would their own. Sadly this duckling wriggled away from the hen overnight and became cold, and was dead the next morning. We had paid a substantial amount for the hatching eggs (call duck eggs aren't cheap!), so this end result of zero was a huge disappointment to us all.
Did we give up? No, not us! We went ahead and ordered an even larger amount of hatching eggs. This time, from 3 breeders in 3 colours - white, apricot/silver & butterscotch. We also spent some time researching. A friend gave us step-by-step instructions for how she hatches her call ducks. These instructions, which we followed meticulously, bought much better results. We hatched 1 White, 2 Butterscotch & 4 Apricot/Silver. The eggs were all shipped to us through the post, so some were infertile before incubating. Considering this, we are very pleased with the results!
Having better results and a bit more confidence, we decided to try and hatch one last batch of apricot/apricot silver calls from another breeder, so that we could have some unrelated birds to pair for breeding. Sadly we didn't have huge success with those, resulting in a single duckling again.
Fortunately we had chicks hatching a few days later, so this duckling wasn't alone for long. During that time we found a mirror to be a great way of keeping him amused! Without his "mirror friend" he would peep for us constantly, but with the mirror he would sit restfully looking at himself!
It wasn't many weeks before he was old enough to be integrated with the other young ducks. He's still firmly imprinted on us - following my girls around the garden!
The ducklings provided us with endless fun through the summer. We all agree that they have a lot more character than chicks - but weren't prepared for the mess! Well, we knew they were messy but.....! Ducklings love water. No matter how hard we tried, we couldn't keep the brooder dry. Fresh bedding, food & water always resulted in slop as the ducklings went from food to water, food to water, sloshing, splashing & mixing as they went.
Recently we have sold the white & "butterscotch" ducks, (see note re "Butterscotch" below) and bought female apricot/silver calls from another breeder, which completes our breeding group of Apricot/Silver Call Ducks.
Note re "Butterscotch". The butterscotch eggs were purchased through ebay turned out to be impure brown mixtures. The seller has refused to respond. Unfortunately this is one of the risks of buying online.