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February 16, 2018

Are my eggs fertile?




A common question that we get is if the eggs, whether they are the eggs they receive from us, eggs their own ducks are laying, or eggs they find out in the wild, are fertile. The simple answer is that we do not know.

One way to find out if your egg is fertile is to crack it open. While this does prevent you from incubating the egg, it does tell you if an egg is fertile. Maybe you just wanted to check to make sure your single male was fertile. It is also a great way to check fertility if you are eating some of your eggs. If you look closely at the yolk and see a white doughnut shaped spot, then the egg was fertile. If the white spot was solid and irregularly shaped, then it was infertile.

Fertile egg
Infertile egg

The only way to find out if your egg is fertile without cracking it open is to incubate and then candle the egg. This normally takes about six days before you can clearly see development in the egg. You can use our candling photos on our website to track the development of your eggs.

If you do not see development after six days, we suggest you continue incubating as it could be that your flashlight is not strong enough (see our candling page for explanation). If you don’t see anything by ten days, then you know for sure your eggs were either infertile or died very early in development.

We guarantee that 80% of our eggs will be fertile and alive at first candling. This does not mean that we guarantee 80% hatch as there is also a spike in mortality the two days before hatching.The most common times for the embryo to die are the first several days of incubation and the last several days before hatching. So an egg that died early in incubation was truly fertile as it started to grow, but oftentimes these early deaths and truly infertile eggs are called “infertile”. This early death can be caused by many things and is typically caused by incubator conditions - over which we have no control.  

The Power of Science

In the future, there is a possibility of identifying fertile eggs without breaking them open or incubating them. Several research teams have been developing processes to determine the fertility and even the sex of an egg without cracking it and before it goes into an incubator. Egg Farmers of Ontario in concert with Michael Ngadi from McGill University have found a way to determine fertility and sex of an egg using various light waves and are working to make it commercially available to hatcheries. At the same time, Vital Farms in the USA and Novatrans in Israel are looking to put their invention into commercial production which uses the gases exuded from an egg to determine fertility and sex.

This is exciting for large commercial hatcheries producing laying chicks as they do not have a market for the male chicks and currently put down the excess males after hatching. If they can determine the sex before incubation, the male eggs could be sold for consumption. Likewise, infertile eggs could be sold for consumption and money would not be spent on labor and equipment to incubate infertile eggs that have no chance of hatching. These processes should be available to large hatcheries within several years, but when this technology filters down to us and hobby hatcheries

is anyone’s guess. So until that happens you have to do what has been done for the past century - break the egg or incubate it to determine if it is fertile.

February 09, 2018

Swedish Duck



Records of the Swedish duck begin in 1835 in Pomerania which comprised parts of the current Germany and Poland, but was once a part of the Kingdom of Sweden. The Swedish duck was introduced to America in 1884 and became a part of the American Standard of Perfection in 1904.

The Swedish duck was bred for utility, has a calm disposition and ranges in size from 5 to 6 ¼ pounds. It lays a modest amount of eggs at about 150 eggs per year and has great foraging abilities.

Black and Silver Swedish
Its most prized attribute, however, is its coloring. Swedish ducks sport a white bib and the last few primary feathers of each wing are white which offsets the darker feathers on the rest of the body. Their bills are a gray color while their legs are a redish brown. Unlike the Swedish duck females, the males’ head feathers grow in a slightly darker color.

Blue Swedish ducklings
Black Swedish duckling
We offer Swedish ducks in the Black and Blue variety. Black is simply black, but the blue is more of a slate gray than an actual blue. When breeding, the Black Swedish breeds true, meaning their progeny will look the same as their parents, while the Blue Swedish do not. If you were to breed a Blue Swedish with a Blue Swedish, on average 50% of the progeny will be blue, 25% will be black, and 25% will be what is called silver or splashed white.

In order to produce 100% Blue colored birds, we have two pens of breeders. One pen has Black Swedish males on Silver females. The other pen has Silver Swedish males on Black females. These pens produce 100% Blue colored ducklings. In June of each year, we switch the males so we have a pen of Silver males on Silver females and a pen of Black males on Black females. We hatch Silver breeders for two weeks that we can use as breeders the next year. After two weeks we then switch the males back to their original pens so we can then hatch 100% Blue Swedish for the remainder of the year.

Blue Swedish male
Because of the versatility of the Swedish duck, they are excellent additions to your farm or home.


Breed
Temperament
Weight
Egg Production
Mothering
Bluish Eggs
Egg Size
Black Swedish
Calm
5-6.25 pounds
130-180/year
Fair
20%
80-90 grams
Fertility
APA Class
Foraging Ability
Conservation Status
Our Show Quality
Flying Ability
Origin
85%
Medium
Good
Watch
Average
None
Germany


Breed
Temperament
Weight
Egg Production
Mothering
Bluish Eggs
Egg Size
Blue Swedish
Calm
5-6.25 pounds
120-180/year
Fair
Less than 5%
80-90 grams
Fertility
APA Class
Foraging Ability
Conservation Status
Our Show Quality
Flying Ability
Origin
85%
Medium
Good
Watch
Average
None
Germany
Information from our Duck Comparison Table




February 02, 2018

Determining How To Supplement Your Duck’s Diet With Niacin


-John Metzer

There are four easy ways to supplement your bird or flock’s diet with niacin (vitamin B3) if you feel it is necessary: tablets, liquid, vitamin packet or Brewer’s Dried Yeast. We will explain how to supplement with each of these.

We are going to assume:

1) Your current feed has no niacin and therefore we we have supply 100% of their niacin needs. This is not accurate as all poultry feeds have some niacin but this way you know the maximum you should supply and we found no research that indicates a double or triple dose of niacin will harm your birds.

2) Your bird is eating about .35 pound of feed a day. This is typical of a Pekin at about three weeks of age when niacin deficiencies normally appear. Other breeds are probably eating .2-.3 pounds per day at the same age and an adult laying Pekin is eating about .45 pounds per day.

Niacin Tablet
If your duck is eating .35 pounds of feed per day and they need about 55 parts per million (ppm) of niacin a day, this means they need about 9 mg of niacin a day (.35 x 55 / 1,000,000 x 454 x 1000)).

Tablet
Most tablets contain 500 mg of niacin. So if you divide 500 by 9 you get 55. This means that one tablet can supply enough niacin for 55 doses. Those 55 does can be used for 55 ducks in one day or 55 days for one duck. Or you can simply mix it into feed. If one dose is for .35 pounds of feed, then one tablet is for 19 pounds of feed (.35 x 55). Just make sure you grind the tablet well and ensure it is mixed thoroughly in the feed.

Liquid
Liquid B3 Vitamins


In one liquid supplement product we found, there were 12 mg of niacin in 10 drops of liquid. This means that each drop has 1.2 mg of niacin (12 / 10). Therefore, the daily dosage is about 8 drops (9 / 1.2). The problem with adding niacin to the water is that ducks typically don’t drink all the water they use. How much do your ducks splash and waste? Of course if you use nipple waterers waste is minimal and you can assume they drink all the water they use. Then you can add liquid niacin to their water. As they drink about .17 gallons per day at this age, then you need to add 47 drops per gallon of drinking water (1 / .17 x 8). Of course you can always add eight drops to each duck’s feed each day. But don’t mix more than one day at a time as the increased moisture might lead to mold which is not good for waterfowl.



Poult Vitamin and Mineral Packet

Another alternative would be to use the PoultVitamin and Mineral Packet we sell. This packet has 7500 mg of niacin in it and is designed to be added to 128 gallons of water or 1/2 teaspoon will treat 3 gallons of water. If you treat using this method, your birds will be consuming about 10 mg of niacin a day (7500 / 128 x .178) in addition to supplemental levels of other vitamins and minerals.

Brewers Dried Yeast
There are two types of Brewers Dried Yeast – human grade and livestock grade. Human grade has 5 mg of niacin per 15 grams of yeast (one tablespoon). Livestock grade has 1.5 mg per 15 grams of yeast. So if your duck needs 9 mg per day, they need slightly less than two tablespoons of human grade (9 / 5) or 6 tablespoons of livestock grade yeast (9 / 1.5) per day. If you want to mix the yeast in 50 pounds of feed, you would need to add 285 tablespoons of human grade yeast (50 / .35 x 2) or 855 tablespoons (50 / .35 x 6) of livestock grade yeast. As there are 64 tablespoons in a quart, this amounts to 4.5 quarts of human grade or 13 quarts of livestock grade yeast added to each 50 pounds of feed. As this is a significant amount of feed you have added to a balanced ration, you have now thrown off the balance of all other nutrient levels. Hence it is probably best to add additional niacin with tablets, vitamin packets or liquid niacin.


Brewer's Yeast
As stated earlier, these formulations are for a bird that is not getting any niacin in its feed. This is not realistic so if you are wanting to merely supplement in case your feed is short in niacin, then you may want to add half the recommended amounts of supplemental niacin. In addition, niacin deficiency problems normally only occur when your birds are growing at their most rapids rates - from two to seven weeks of age. Therefore, supplementation is rarely needed past ten weeks of age.

January 26, 2018

Buff Ducks! What are they and Where are they from?



William Cook is the father of the Buff duck. Born in 1849, he specialized in Orpington chickens and ducks, named after the town his farm was in, Orpington, Kent in England. At the time the buff color was popular as it was the same color as the waistcoat of the Royal East Kent Regiment. Wanting to capitalize on this, William started breeding Cayuga, Runner, Aylesbury, and Rouen ducks together in order to produce a buff color.

In 1897 William introduced the Buff Orpington duck. It was a medium sized duck, ranging from 6 to 7 pounds. It was considered a great all-purpose duck as it’s meat offered a decent sized breast in 8 to 10 weeks and could lay about 200 eggs a year, making it a good year-round layer.

William brought the Orpington buff duck to America in 1908 and showed it in the Madison Square Garden Show in New York City. In 1914 it was admitted into the American Standard of Perfection as simply Buff, making it the first breed to be named by only its color.

Today the Buff is a threatened breed. The Livestock Conservancy’s 2000 census has identified 793 breeding Buff ducks with only 11 people currently breeding them. It is still prized for its coloring and dual-purpose flexibility. In fact, many believe the buff feathers are easier to pluck than the white feathers of more popular meat birds.

We offer the Buff ducklings typically from mid-February through November each year. They are a calm, beautiful duck that is very popular.

~~~

Want to know how to take care of your ducklings? Read our series of posts about what you need to know!

~~~

Breed
Temperament
Weight
Egg Production
Mothering
Bluish Eggs
Egg Size
Buff
Calm
5-6.25 pounds
130-180/year
Fair
20%
80-90 grams
Fertility
APA Class
Foraging Ability
Conservation Status
Our Show Quality
Flying Ability
Origin
85%
Medium
Good
Threatened
Average
None
England
Information from our Duck Comparison Table



January 19, 2018

Niacin: What is it and Why do my ducklings and goslings need it?


-by John Metzer

Niacin is also known as Vitamin B3and is vital for good health and growth in waterfowl. Compared to chickens, waterfowl need 2 to 3 times the amount of niacin in their diet during their initial growth period, hence the occasional problem with low niacin levels being fed to waterfowl. Once they are grown, a niacin deficiency is very rare. Most owners do not know that there is a niacin problem until signs of a niacin deficiency occurs.

How to Identify a Niacin Deficiency

A niacin deficiency can be seen in the legs of the bird. If the legs are bent or “bull legged”,are pigeon toed, splayed to the sides, or are unable to support the weight of the bird, there is a high likelihood that it is due to a niacin deficiency. Such legs make it very difficult for the birds to move, preventing them from getting adequate amounts of food and water.


 


Remember, ducklings do the majority of their growing in the first 10 weeks of life. About 90% of niacin problems occur during this time.

Causes of a Niacin Deficiency

Typically poultry feed has enough niacin in it. If it doesn’t that means a mistake was made in making the feed or the feed is not formulated with enough niacin for waterfowl. Unfortunately poultry feed manufacturers are not required to put niacin levels on the feed tag. If you have a concern that your feed is low in niacin, you can phone the feed manufacturer and ask them how much niacin is in the feed. The feed store will probably not know, you will need to contact the feed manufacturer directly.

How to Fix it

Chicken feed, while it can be used as a starter, sometimes needs to be supplemented by niacin in one form or another. Supplements include niacin tablets, Vitamin B3 drops, and brewer's yeast. These supplements can be found at your local feed and vitamin stores.



Determining how much to supplement with niacin tablets, vitamin B3 drops, and brewer’s yeast will be covered in a future post.


Recovery?

Customers have said that a limping problem has been fixed after supplementing with extra niacin. However, if you do not correct the problem immediately and the bones become deformed, the legs cannot be straightened once you start supplementing with extra niacin. Hence, you must supplement as soon as you are suspicious you have a niacin deficiency.

Side Note

We have been asked if it is possible to overdose on niacin. Because of how small the amount is, it is easy to think you can give your birds too much. The answer is that you would need a lot to overdose. We don't have an exact amount to point towards, but humans can overdose on niacin and that can cause bowel problems. If your birds start having digestive issues, then it's a possibility, but is unlikely.