The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Newsflash! Mrs Boss the bantam has hatched three ducklings and is still sitting on eggs

Indian Runner ducklings and bantam henHatching has stretched over three days now. Freddie (hatched Tuesday) and Tipex (hatched Wednesday) with an ultra white tip to his bill. This morning we opened the side of the castle and discovered Eric standing a bit wobbly on dark black legs with matching feet and bill.

Mrs Boss is still sitting so there still might be more ducklings. This evening she had that glinty look again. Perhaps she was protecting another hatchling.

Having spent a day alone with Mrs Boss, Freddie seems much closer to his surrogate mum than the others. There is a definite bond. He appears to enjoy loads of communication and preferential treatment. He clearly has been detailed to teach the other ducklings to eat and drink as they watch his every move. But Freddie can’t give them the warmth and affection that they crave.

When Mrs Boss hopped off the nest this morning and started moving the scraps of eggshell from the nest into the castle grounds, we had a few moments to examine the three remaining eggs. One was piped. By tomorrow we should know the final size of Mrs Boss’s new family. At the moment she is torn between looking after her new brood and hatching out the rest of the eggs.

Meanwhile the ducklings are developing fast.
“You can almost see them grow.” S told us last week. “They develop much more quickly than chickens. That’s why it’s unwise to mix duck eggs and hen eggs in the same nest. The ducklings would just take over. It’s a question of size.”

Indian Runner ducklings with eggs on nestLeft to right Tipex, Eric and Freddie..

If you have ducklings, chicks or keets it’s important to check that all is well a few times a day even if the have an attentive mum like Mrs Boss. The water fountain will be fouled by immature birds and the water needs to be changed every few hours. If you do not have a miniature water fountain, a saucer with a large stone in the middle is a good alternative, or put pebbles in the base of a normal sized drinker to prevent the young birds from drowning. Ducklings, chicks and keets drink a lot. Make sure that they always have plenty of fresh water available.

Hatchlings eat chick crumbs (these should be available from your pet shop or grain supplier). These contain a good balance of vitamins and the vital ingredient to combat coccidiosis to which young chicks are particularly susceptible. A clean, damp cloth is handy for wiping the feeder. Remove any fouled feed and replace with fresh.

Make sure that your hatchlings are protected at all times from cats, dogs and even the rest of the flock. Ours will stay in The Emerald Castle and grounds until they are old enough to hold their own and join the mature hens and guineas in the big run.

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  1. Judith

    I wondered if someone could help with a querie? We have finally had a successful hatching of 6 Call ducklings under a bantam last night. The bantam is borrowed from a friend. When would be a good time to return her? We have a box with heat lamp all ready for our new babies but they seem to be enjoying being with the chicken and look so cute poking their heads up from behind her wings!

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hello Judith

      If you had a bantam hatching out bantam or bigger hen eggs, I advise three months. The chicks really gain from the upbring and learn a lot from their adoptive mother. They are also in danger of being attacked by the rest of the flock until they are at lest a third of their adult size. You also have to consider the adoptive mother here – she doesn’t know that they are not her chicks. She has built up a relationship with them and would be distraught if they suddenly dissapeared.

      However, we discovered that rearing ducks is fine for the ducklings but not so good for the bantam. When they started swimming in the water fountain and returning to the nest soaking wet, our Mrs Boss didn’t like the water in her nest and struggled to raise her brood.

  2. hi fiona
    its a bit urgent we have bought two ducklings recently but my problem is that what should i feed them i live in pakistan over here i dont find the crumbs feed that u give to ur ducklings now i wanted to ask is it ok if i feed them the chick feed that i find here in Pakistan for chickens as its medicated so is it safe ?.or should i give them some home prepared feed like milo etc please please help me as we are already in love with our little ducklings .

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hello Erum

      I fed our ducklings baby chick feed – it’s perfect as it contains all the vitamins etc that they need to stay healthy.

      Also remember that the use up a lot more water than baby chickes. Ours seemed to go through about five litres a day as they like playing with water as well as drinking it! Put the feeder near the water as they like to mix the food and the water in their beaks.

      Do hope that all goes well with your ducklings!

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Maggie

    This is unusual behaviour. I have contacted some friends who are experienced chicken breeders and they have never experienced this problem.

    They suggest that you separate the hen from the chicks and the rest of the flock. Keep the chicks penned in a separate area until they are big enough to hold their own in the flock (at least half the size of the other birds). Feed and top up their water twice a day and make sure that they are all safely settled and secure at night. If you have time, try and give them some attention during the day.

    I’d be really interested to hear how you get on.

  4. maggie

    My bantam has just hatched five chicks. They are now about four weeks old, and mama is good with them but is now pecking them on the back near the tail and leaving patches. She is also doing this to fellow chickens in the yard. I’m completely new at this–is it time for the baby’s to leave mama? If not, when is the best time? One is going to be a rooster I think. Maggie

  5. I have just had one of my chickens hatch four ducks. They are lovely. We live next to a canal. How soon are they able to go on the water, as I have 6 adult ducks, and I am wondering if the little ones will eventually start to follow them?

  6. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Emma

    How exciting! Best of luck with the hatching.

    I would try and keep them away from the pond for the first few weeks. Even thoug they are with a hen (who can drown in water and might try to follow them) they have a love of water etched on their brains. In fact water may very well cause you problems. They can empty a large water fountain within an hour as they love splashing about and then they get thirsty. Have you read my post about ducklings and water
    There are some useful comments.

    I’d love to hear how you get on.

  7. Hi

    I’ve currently got a hen sitting on 5 duck eggs , due to hatch next week. I’ve never had ducks before and was wondering when the time is right will they venture into the farm pond without their surrogate mum?

    I can’t wait for my ducklings to hatch after seeing your pics!


  8. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Sally

    Mrs Boss is a great little bantam. For years we didn’t appreciate her tendency to be broody. We fought it and generally won but she was an unhappy, bullied soul.

    Now we have realised the benefits of a broody hen. A good hen can raise stock for us or others and feel happy and fulfilled. Looking back her first two years could have been so much better. Hopefully she will have a brood to care for each year until she has had enough.

    A piped egg is an egg with a hole and/or a crack. It can indicate that hatching is starting or an attempt to hatch has taken place. So it™s generally a good thing. Sometimes the fledgling just doesn’t have the energy to get break through. Today I wondered, should I have helped?

    Hi Pat

    They are a joy. As D says, everyone loves a baby newborn creature.

    I feel so proud to have these special ducklings at arms reach. Mrs Boss is the best of mums.

    Hi Magic Cochin

    Mrs B is a wondermum. I watch her and am amazed by her diligence. Everything that is introduced to the run is tried and tested by her before she lets her brood examine and play.

    Hi Jan

    Mrs Boss is very maternal and such a pleasure to watch.

    Hi Veronica

    Mrs Boss has a very expressive head. She is enjoying the ducklings so far.

    Hi Sylvie

    Yes it is exciting and we are learning about Indian Runner ducks.

    Hi Lynnie

    That™s a lovely picture that you draw!

    Hi KJ

    We are having fun with this project!

    Hi Terra
    The ducklings are adorable. We are very fond of Mrs Boss. Years ago she was top of the pecking order but gradually she slipped down to the bottom. These sojourns into surrogate motherhood give her such joy!

    Hi Kate(uk)

    Lucky you with two robin™s nests! I think that we have robins nesting in the front garden. Despite all our hedging we finally have blue tits in our nesting box!

    Hi Michelle

    Yes, Mrs Boss is all set to blaze a trail again this summer!

  9. Michelle

    Yay! Nice to see Mrs. Boss back in action! She’s such a good mum!

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