It's a Ducks Life

by Di Scott

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The phone rings... the daughter yells... MUM IT'S WIRES!!!!!... they need you to pick up a bird....

Little did I know that the call would change my month so much!

So I pop on down to the vet to pick up a wattle bird, a noisy miner, and a crested pigeon. Then just as we finish catching the pigeon that has been flying around the back room at the vets for the last twenty mins getting all the dogs and cats stirred up, the yummy looking vet shows me twelve duck eggs they have had for the last eight days.

The mother duck had been killed by a goanna at Narara skate park and the kids there bought the eggs into the vet.s

OMG what the hell am I going to do with eight duck eggs!

Sure no worries I'll take them I hear myself saying (ahhh). Ok, first thing is to drive home very very carefully!

Ok, I'm home. I'll feed noisy miner - excellent easy feeder. Good, now he can go and join the others in the backyard. Excellent, adopted, good. He's done - I'll keep an eye on him over the next few days I tell myself as I think the mummy and daddy miner bird that live in my backyard are getting wise to me and their large growing family!

Now, the eggs.

Be careful with those eggs Di, it might be too late for them and they could explode in your house. Ok, note to self - buy some Glen 20.

Ok so it is a couple of days till garbage night, so lets give them till then to see how they go. So, I set up my nest - blanket on my desk next to the computer, then my heat mat then the box filled with shedded paper. Next I marked all the eggs with a cross on one side and a circle on the other and I put them in the box all facing the same direction. A towel over the top and then my desk lamp , so they had heat from top and bottom.

Then I got on the interent for hours! Ok, I tell myself, so I really need an incubator. I call around but can't find one. Ok, so I need to turn them an odd number of times a day, I need to keep them moist, just as if mummy duck had just come out of the water and sat on them and I need to keep them at a constant temp of about 37c.

Call for help... HELP!... need a thermostat. Excellent, another carer has lent a fantastic thermostat, turns the light on and off all though the night and day to keep the temperatre right.

Put my daughters put on egg turning duty, and instructed them to quack loudly while doing so!!!

We also misted water over the eggs with a water spray each time and made the towel moist.

After a couple of days I tested the eggs at night over a small hole cut out of cardboard over the desklamp... this is called "candleling". Two eggs were no good, completely clear so out they went, the others were dark and about half full.

Hmm interesting.

We kept on with our routine and about a week later tested them eggs again (before the next garage night) and the eggs were nearly full - OMG it was working!

Then one night when I was "candleing" the eggs over the cardboard and light, we could all clearly see a beak opening and closing and THEN when you put it to your ear you could hear chipping OMG OMG OMG!!!

My family was so excitied. Having a duck quack in your ear while still the shell is quite amazing!!!

Then about two weeks after I picked them up from the vet, with three to five turns a day, the first baby chick started to hatch!

It took forever about twelve hours for each egg to fully hatch, it is an amazing sight to watch. I felt so exhausted for them.

Again I got back on the interent to find out if I needed to help, and also watched chicks hatching on YouTube which helped me heaps, so I know what to expect.

I helped them all at the beginning, but I had to remmber not to help too much. Just moving off the shell that the chick has already broken and not touching the membrane. The blood needs to receed away and don't rush them at the end.

When they are just about fully out, they are still attached to the egg and need to rest and absorb the rest of the liquid in the egg, then that link to their egg dries up and then they free themselves fully, ready to dry out and take on the world.

I learnt so much from this amazing experience. We had a 50% success rate -five hatched, five didn't make it. I did leave the remaining eggs for a few more days, but no life emerged.

But as you can see five very cute Pacific Black ducklings - the blonde one being the boss of all the others.

They got bigger every day. After weeks of getting nothing done - just standing next to their cage in the laundry watching them play and eat, under their light, with their mop mummy - they then went to another carer to grow up big and strong.

Hope you enjoyed my story and my pictures of another new Life.


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