NORTH FORK — Arista Flanagan couldn’t believe her eyes when she checked in on the incubator to see if the family’s duck eggs had hatched. Her sons, Devlin and Ryker were excited.
“We have a two-year-old and almost-five-year old, and they have been watching the chicks and ducklings growing in the eggs,” says Arista.
Yet, she felt confused when she encountered the newest hatchlings on Friday, Mar. 31. What she saw was not at all what she expected.
“We went to bed with one duckling in the incubator and two eggs left to hatch. We woke up to four ducklings in the incubator!”
Apparently, Arista had two ducklings hatch from one egg overnight. Twins!
“It totally threw me. I ran into the bedroom and told my husband: ‘so there were two eggs and one duckling and now there are four ducklings and two broken eggs.’ He looked at me like I was crazy, so I doubted what I saw. I went back and counted the two broken eggs and the four ducklings. I think I counted like six times, I just couldn’t believe it. I was told this is really rare, especially that both survived.”
Though she had hatched chicks as a teenager, this is is the first time Arista has hatched ducklings. They are set up in husband Steve’s office; he is a master gardener also known as the Ethnobotanical Permaculture Guy.
“We got two ducks last year and we love them, so we decided to hatch their babies along with some of my parents mixed chicken eggs. They duck eggs are supposed to incubate for 28 days.”
These twin ducklings come from a line of parents by the names of Brad and Larry.
“I named them, as ducklings, after two of my favorite co-workers who are good friends. I thought it would be funny. Turned out later that one was a girl and one was a boy, but we kept their names as Brad and Larry.”
Brad is a rouen and Larry is a runner duck, and together they appear to have produced an anomaly in this set of twins. None of the eggs seemed especially large for duck eggs, says their caretaker. Of the three ducklings that hatched from two eggs, Arista could tell them apart based on how they were drying and fluffing out in the incubator.
“One of them, you can tell right away, it is a runt. The other is pretty close to the other duckling’s size that hatched.”
A friend of Arista’s on the Mountain Area Chickens and Chicks social media page didn’t think it was possible to hatch twin ducklings, at first. Then she did some research and sent a link to an article from across the pond. According to the British news Telegraph, it wasn’t until 2009 that
“A few other people have posted online that their twin ducklings didn’t survive or one does survive but the other doesn’t.”
Other than that, a quick online search of “twin ducks” doesn’t turn up much. It’s easier to find information on twin chicks:
“In one study of more than 1100 chicken eggs, double yolks were found only 3 times–that is, in less than 1/3 of one percent,” reports Laura Erikson in Laura’s Birding Blog. “In another, larger study, 2.8 percent of chicken eggs were double yolked. Very few double-yolked eggs hatch. In that large study … over 64 percent of the embryos died within the first 7 days. Only one hatched into twin chicks. Apparently the two chicks against each other have a very difficult time bracing themselves properly to pip the egg.”
It’s possible that twin ducklings experience the same difficulties sharing space inside the egg. After four days, both unusual ducklings at Arista’s house are said to be doing well.
Since all this happened the day before April Fools’ we had to ask Arista if anyone was pulling anyone’s webbed foot, and she assures us this account is factual. In any case, the unlikely pair has found a good home with the Flanagans. Arista wants to share her concerns about people buying chicks and ducklings, especially around this time of year.
“A lot of people get ducklings for Easter and then they go release them at a lake or pond,” she points out. Arista has lived in North Fork since the age of seven. “Most store-bought ducklings are domesticated breeds. They can’t fly like wild ducks. So, if you can’t keep a duckling and give it a forever home it’s best just not to get one at all. Plus, until the ducklings have all their feathers they shouldn’t be left outdoors: they need to be kept warm.”
Now, what’s the fate of the two newest sensations in the Flanagan* family?
“We are going to keep the twins,” Arista confirms.
And their names?
“Tina and Becky. The parents names are Brad and Larry after my co-workers. Brad is married to Becky and Larry to Tina. So we decided to name them after their wives.”
Lucky ducks, and congratulations all around.
*No relation to the author