Teen hatches duckling from supermarket egg using incubator

An unlikely cross-species friendship has blossomed after a teenage boy hatched a duckling from a carton of supermarket eggs.

William Atkins, 14, lives in England's West Midlands. His family had discussed whether it's possible for ducklings to grow in commercial eggs under the right conditions, and he wanted to test it out for himself.

Poultry farms separate male and female birds, with male chicks usually killed at birth. This means commercially laid eggs are extremely unlikely to have been fertilised - although it's more likely to happen on a free-range farm as drakes could sneak in amongst the flock.

In his research William read about someone who had successfully hatched a quail egg they'd bought from a shop. The curious teen bought a cheap incubator on eBay and some quail eggs from the supermarket, but had no luck.

He tried again with half a dozen duck eggs and hens' eggs, placing them under the warmth of the incubator in his bedroom. Three days later he shone a torch over the eggs and was astounded to see a beating heart within the shell of one of the duck eggs.

William watched with fascination over the next three weeks as a new life developed inside the egg. Eventually the egg began to rock, and 28 days after he began the experiment a duckling pecked its way out.

He says the birth of his new friend came as a total surprise to his family.

"I love anything to do with wildlife so no one took much notice when I started incubating the egg," he told The Daily Mail. "They were stunned that I hatched one though  especially mum, who is not sure about me keeping a duckling in my bedroom."

It's too early to determine the duckling's sex, but William intends to name it either Jeremy or Jemima. Once it's big enough it will leave home and go to live at a farm nearby which houses rescue ducks in its pond.

"It will live the happiest life there and I will be able to visit," he told The Daily Mail.

A spokesperson for Clarence Court, the brand of duck egg William bought, says the likelihood of hatching a duckling is slim but not impossible.

It's believed either a wild drake infiltrated the flock or a sexing error was made at birth, meaning a male duck was allowed to live among the female egg-layers.