A few months ago, near the start of lockdown, Charli Lello got furloughed from her job as an assistant retail manager. With a lot of extra time on her hands, she turned to social media, as one does, and spotted a video of someone hatching baby quails from eggs at the supermarket. Lello, who already raises chickens at her home in Hertfordshire, UK, thought that sounded cool, so she went to her local Waitrose supermarket and bought a carton of quail eggs. On impulse, she grabbed some duck eggs, too.
The quail eggs turned out to be a no-go, but, as she told CNN, “after 6 days in the incubator I checked the duck eggs and could see veins and a very tiny wiggly embryo. Then the excitement kicked in.”
A few weeks later, the first duckling, Beep, hatched. It took two days, and Lello was “glued to [her] incubator” the whole time. Peep arrived two days later and the final ducking, Meep, hatched a week after Beep. They are very cute. Lello plans to keep them inside until they are fully feathered, then they’ll go live with the chickens.
In a statement, Waitrose expressed surprise that such a thing could happen, but acknowledged that without incubation, fertilized duck eggs are indistinguishable from unfertilized duck eggs. Clarence Court, the farm that produced the eggs, was also surprised, but in a statement added that sometimes it’s hard to tell female ducks and drakes apart. “Duck egg production is a very small industry, and the separation of males from females relies wholly upon the skill of very few qualified people.”
Well anyway, comparatively few people buy duck eggs and odds are that even fewer have an incubator or the time to watch ducklings hatch—although both Lello and a real-life acquaintance who had a nest of duck eggs in her yard this spring say it’s very rewarding. So no need to worry about accidentally cracking a duck egg open and getting anything besides a nice, fat yolk.