Chicken hatches and raises duckling

Published: Jan. 20, 2021 at 2:39 PM EST
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NORTHFIELD, Vt. (WCAX) - Caleb and Courtney Sugarman were looking for something to do to keep them occupied at the start of the pandemic. So in April, they bought some ducks for pets. A few months later, they got Silkie chickens from a friend.

One day, they noticed in their outdoor pen one of the chickens was sitting on a duck egg. The Sugarmans don’t know how the egg got there.

“I didn’t think anything would happen with it, so we just kind of let her be,” Courtney said.

A couple of weeks later, along with the duck egg, the chicken laid about a half dozen of her own eggs. The Sugarmans numbered the eggs to keep track of them. Just before Christmas, two of those chicken eggs hatched, but that wasn’t all.

“We looked under her and saw a duck bill coming out and we were like, Oh, my gosh! It actually hatched,” Courtney said.

“It was the wrong beak,” Caleb said.

“It’s a great surprise story,” Vermont State Veterinarian Kristin Haas said.

While Haas says a chicken hatching a duck egg has probably happened before, it’s the first time she’s ever heard about it.

“It takes a little longer for duck eggs to hatch, about a week longer than chicken eggs. As long as they’re warm and in good shape, then I suppose it’s possible that it could hatch,” Haas said.

Mom and her kids are in the Sugarmans’ home, keeping warm this winter. Sage the dog is making sure they’re all doing well. Baby duckling is growing pretty quick, despite its size. It thinks it’s just one of the chicks.

“They kind of play like football when you drop peas in there. It definitely wins. It still tries to climb under the mom almost every night,” Caleb said.

The duck is just a few weeks old, so it’s going to stay in the Sugarmans’ pen until the end of the season. Hopefully, when it gets warmer, the duck will join the other ducks outside. That is, of course, if it’s not too attached to its chicken family.

“It seems to have adapted well to that is their flock,” Caleb said. “We’re interested to see what happens.”

“The other ducks we have love to swim. This one freaks out. It doesn’t want to be in the water as much as the other ones do,” Courtney said.

“I would imagine that this duck’s instinct would override other things over time,” Haas said. “Ducks need water in a different way than chickens to keep their feathers waterproof and they use water when they’re eating.”

A hobby to pass the time during a pandemic becomes a biological and social experiment, and so far, the results are just ducky.

In a few weeks, the Pekin duck will go through an awkward stage where it sheds the yellow and start growing its white plumage. It’s around that time where the Sugarmans will figure out if it’s male or female.

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