Hatching Ducklings in Autumn

      10 Comments on Hatching Ducklings in Autumn
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The ducklings on their first day outside.

Pekin ducklings from a previous hatch.

Coming Soon – Autumn Ducklings!

You might think I’m a bit crazy for hatching ducklings (or chicks) in the fall. Why would anyone think of incubating eggs at this time of year? You can read more about my reasons for Hatching Chicks in Autumn, if you like. The short answer? I would like to raise one more batch of meat ducks for the freezer this year and I’d also like a few duck hens to start laying eggs in the spring.

The lucky ducks.

Pekinย ducks in my mixed flock.

The Cycle of Life in My Coop

I keep most of my chickens and ducks for one or two laying cycles. I process them for stewing when they go into their first or second molt. It costs too much to keep older birds that only lay a couple of eggs a week but still eat the same amount of feed. So the ducks that hatched last fall and started laying eggs in the spring will, most likely, go into a molt next spring or early summer. I want to have several replacements for them so I don’t run out of duck eggs. You see, I’m sort of addicted to duck eggs for my home-baked goodies!

Lovely duck eggs

Why Duck Eggs?

If you’ve never baked with duck eggs in place of chicken eggs, you don’t know what you’re missing! They have more protein and fat than chicken eggs and baked goods made with them come out so moist, fluffy and delicious. There I go, making myself hungry for something yummy…please excuse me while I go bake something. ๐Ÿ™‚

Ducks, skinned, vacuum sealed, and ready for the freezer.

Ducks, skinned, vacuum sealed, and ready for the freezer.

Putting Ducks in the Freezer

I have found that raising Pekin ducks for meat is a great way to be a little bit more self sufficient. I used to order Cornish X chicks from a hatchery for our meat birds. They grow quickly and have a lot more meat on them than heritage chickens. However, I don’t like depending on hatcheries for the chicks. I wanted to hatch my own meat birds and I’ve found that Pekin ducklings grow fast and provide about the same amount of meat as the Cornish X chicks, in about the same amount of time.

Homemade Duck Sausage

Homemade Duck Sausage

I like knowing that my birds have been handled as humanely as possible from hatch to processing. Hatching and raising them myself saves cash and provides the highest qualitly meat for our family meals. Some of these ducks will be kept whole for roasting, while others are cut up for boneless, skinless breasts and pressure canned meat. The older ducks are great for grinding into sausage.

I don’t want to count my ducklings before they hatch, but a dozen birds for our freezer and a half dozen for eggs next year, sounds just about right. I have 11 eggs saved so far and over the next few days I should have enough to start my new hatch.

 

Do you hatch in the autumn? Have you found more pros, or cons, for fall hatching? Do you raise your own birds for meat, or only for laying?

 

 


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10 comments on “Hatching Ducklings in Autumn

  1. priscilla Brown

    I purchased 8 duck eggs from an Asian market today. I had planned to use them instead of chicken eggs in a cake tomorrow. But, the eggs, when I removed one from the carton seemed extraordinarily heavy. So, I decided to crack one open, and I screamed. It was a duck almost completely formed with an eye looking at me. Is that a normal sale? Should I try to hatch the others or is this a return product? I am truly traumatized.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hi Priscilla,
      Yes, that would freak me out too! Apparently some Asian cultures boil unhatched ducklings to eat as a delicacy. It is possible that this is what you bought. It is also possible that they were just not careful about collecting the eggs on a daily basis and some of them were partially incubated by the mother.

      I doubt that any of the embryos would still be alive and capable of hatching. They need to be kept at a temp of about 99-100 F to hatch and it seems unlikely that they were warm enough to live. I’m sorry that you had that experience. Did the little duckling move at all? I’m assuming that it was no longer alive.

      They may have had a sign in another language to let people know about this, but it would seem like a good idea to warn people if you are indeed selling duck embryos rather than duck eggs! But for some people, they just want to make the immediate sale and don’t think about future sales.

      You could steel yourself and crack the rest open to see if they are just regular eggs, or if they have embryos to see if you can use them. I like duck eggs best in my baked goods…but I would need to really up my baking game, as I have about 5 dozen duck eggs in my refrigerator right now! None of them have embryos, I’m quite sure! ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Reply
  2. erinblegen

    My ducks never go broody until late summer/early fall. So we always have ducks this time of year! We’ve had 4 separate hatchings so far- one of them just last week and another due any day now…I think the best time to hatch is determined by the mothers…they do such a great job caring for them ๐Ÿ™‚ And it’s fun watching nature take its course ๐Ÿ™‚

    Duck meat is divine…and I too adore their eggs. They slow down and about stop this time of year until spring…those first eggs are a treasure for sure! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply
    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hi Erin,
      None of my ducks ever go broody, so I think it’s great that you have duck mamas! How wonderful to have baby ducklings! I am down to just White Pekins and it seems like they have less of a maternal nature than some other breeds. But they also lay right through the winter…which is great. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Sorry I’m just answering your comment now, for some reason the comments don’t show up in my feed. :/

      Thanks for stopping by!

      PS: I did not end up having a successful hatch…so no ducklings this fall. I will try again in the spring.

      Reply
  3. linda steiger

    My muscly ducks have been prolific this year. With 7 hens we now have a flock of 41 and found 2 more hens setting just this week. Help!!!!! Haha

    Reply
  4. jenpowell1976

    I have a broody hen right now, I’m letting her stay broody. She has 6 eggs under her that are due to hatch next weekend. I thought I might be taking a risk by letting her try to hatch them this late in the year, but I will have to see how it goes. It’s nice to know that other people try hatching birds this time of year too. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply
    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hi Jen,
      As long as they have their own space away from the rest of the flock, they should be fine. It’s also best if they are kept in a warmish place with smaller feed and water containers that the chicks can get to without drowning.

      I’ve hatched even later in the year, and that can be more problematic. Last November I hatched out chicks and ducklings and then I hatched more chicks in Frebruary. I know going in that I will have to have a 250 watt heat lamp for them in the barn to keep them warm enough. I also have an insulated brooder room where they aren’t exposed to the cold temps.

      I’m sure that your hen will do a great job! Have fun watching the little ones. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  5. Tamara Smith

    We are new to the homestead idea and things are going well. Was wondering what brand of vacuum sealer you use and the best process for getting them in the freezer. We have some mixed flock hens, a few roosters, several Muscovy ducks and sadly our two turkeys to harvest soon. I especially appreciate your post on preparing to butcher. I will have to find what works for me but I know it must be done.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hi Tamara,
      I have a Foodsaver V2240 and it works pretty well. I think if I were doing it over, I would have bought a model with a bit more power, but this does the job and cost a bit over $100 several years ago.

      After you dress the birds and wash them, it is best if you can chill them overnight in the refrigerator before freezing them. I don’t always have room, especially if I am doing a large batch. When I pull the bird from the freezer, I make sure to thaw thoroughly in the fridge. Cooking a bird when still partially frozen can make the meat tough.

      If you are vacuum sealing your birds, make sure that you have drained as much liquid off the carcass as you can to prevent getting moisture into the moter as it sucks the air out of the bag. A sealer with a ‘moist’ setting is helpful, but can only handle so much liquid.

      If you have older birds to process, they will be most tender if you pressure cook them, or remove the meat from the bones and grind it. Older birds are great for sausage!

      I hope this helps. Best wishes with your processing this fall! I’m glad that my posts helped out. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply

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