June 2, 2016

No Hope for Ducklings?

When the Muscovies started laying eggs, they did so in the goat shed. I was always amazed that their eggs didn't get stepped on, considering how close they laid them to the much-visited hay feeder. After seeing the chickens lay their eggs in the hay feeder, the ducks started laying there too. They didn't mind pushing the chickens out of the way and my poor broody hen was forever losing her chosen setting spot. No matter, I didn't think the goat shed was a good place for either of them to raise babies - too many goat feet around.

About a week or so ago I could only count four ducks. There should have been five. We began to suspect that, like our first drake, one of the ducks had been taken by an owl. In some ways that didn't seem all that likely because the ducks are actually pretty heavy; they barely can fly to the top of the goat shed to roost at night. It would have taken a pretty stout owl to carry one off. But there were no body remains and no other explanation as to what might have happened.

Last Sunday we found half of a duck eggshell in front of the cattle panel hay hut. There was a little blood inside the shell but no trace of the rest of it. The ducks have never laid outside the goat shed or chicken coop, so it was another puzzle.

The next day Dan said he heard one of the ducks putting up a terrible fuss. He went to see what it was and saw her on the ground near the hay hut, wrestling a huge rat snake! He dispatched the snake immediately and watched the duck head back under the hay house platform. He peered underneath and could see her settling down in the farthest back corner.

A quick head count told us that was our missing duck! She has been hiding under there for a week at least, maybe more! That can mean only one thing - she's sitting on eggs.

With the snake gone we thought all was well until dusk when I went to close up the chicken coop and shut the gates. I found another duck eggshell in about the same spot; this one had a hole bitten out in order for something to get to the contents. Considering all the trouble we had with rats several years ago, Dan set the rat trap and placed it under the hay hut to one side. It was empty the next morning.

Two days later Dan found another rat snake in one of the compost bins. We're hoping that there was only two of them and that's an end of the problem.

I read that Muscovy eggs take an average of 33-37 days to hatch. I don't really recollect exactly when our duck "disappeared," so my best guess is that if she has any eggs left and something doesn't get them, we just might see ducklings somewhere toward the end of the month.

No Hope for Ducklings? © June 2016 

32 comments:

  1. Will rat snakes eat eggs as well as rats? I would think they would be an asset if you have a rat problem . . . unless they eat chicks and ducklings, too. :-/

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    1. Rat snakes eat rats and mice, but also chicks, ducklings, songbirds, and any kind of eggs. They climb trees to steal baby birds and eggs. :( They really like eggs and are not welcome in the poultry house or the barnyard!

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  2. Wow! Growing up we had ducks nesting in a lot of odd places (cattle feeders were not uncommon), but tucked in between bales of hay was usually the choice. I don't recall having issues with rat snakes but we never had great hatchings and maybe that was why. They are common thoughout the state.

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    1. If you don't actually see the snakes, it seems to be that the egg count drops from what's expected. Mama Duck is still on the nest. I just hope she hatches something to pay for all her work.

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  3. We always had problems with snakes and opossums when it came to raising eggs. The opossums were the worst offenders.

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    1. We've had opossums get chickens, but I never thought about eggs. Mama Duck is really well hidden, so I have no clue what's going on in her nest.

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    2. I have "fond" memories of getting home late from basketball practice and going to collect eggs in the dark. I reached in under what I thought was a chicken to collect the eggs but instead found my hand soaked in yolk. I pulled a flashlight out and turned it on only to see my hand under a opossum! Made me jump about ten feet backwards!

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    3. Now that's a critter tale!

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  4. Hello Leigh! long time no blog (on my part). I was held hostage by The University of Illinois, but recently released I'm back out in blog land. We don't have a rat snake problem but will lose ducklings from time to time when they wander though our pig pen. The red Wattles see them and think " Yum! Horderves!" Now I'm going to spend four or five days and catch up on your farm life. Here I go....

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    1. Donna! So good to hear from you. I'm glad you've been able to follow through with your goal to go to school. I hope you have some time for writing now too.

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  5. I hope you were able to get all your snakes. poor duckies.

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  6. Nice post. Thanks for sharing!

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  7. Leigh,

    It sounds to me as if you have more than 2 snakes enjoying themselves. Keep an eye out!

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    1. From what folks are saying in the comments, it could be any number of things. I just wish Mama Duck had chosen a safer spot to set.

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  8. Poor little ducks, they can't get a moment's peace, huh? I truly hate snakes, and now I hate them even more! Hoping to see baby ducks soon on your blog!

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    1. Snakes are predators so they are definitely not favorites around here!

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  9. I do hope you get some ducklings after all this. Snakes! Yuk! Nancy

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    1. I just wish she'd chosen a better spot!

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  10. Oh I hope your duck survives and hatches her babies. Those darn snakes! Last year our muscovy sat on eggs under our little tool shed. My husband killed one snake that was after her but then there was another snake attack and that snake won. It was a job getting her body out from under the shed. Sometimes I wonder how any babies are hatched and survive. It is a constant battle with the chicken snakes out here. Hope you have good luck.

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    1. Oh that is so sad. :( Poor mama. I haven't seen our mama duck today so now I'm worried about her. With her being so hidden there's no way to check on her and her eggs.

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  11. Darn snakes. I hope that there aren't anymore lurking about!

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    1. Unfortunately Dan found one more the other day. It's worrisome because we can't be certain they're all gone.

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  12. Do you remember which Barbara Kingsolver novel had the snake taking the baby birds? Gosh, it was heartbreaking.
    I have more trouble with hawks than snakes here. In fact, I'm grateful for the garter snakes I see around my place, and hopeful that they will help with the mice which are really getting on my last nerve this year!

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    1. Prodigal Summmer...one of THE best books ever written.

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    2. I love Barbara Kingsolver! I will definitely have to see if our library has it. Thanks Quinn and aart!

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    3. Barbara recorded the audiobook, which I highly recommend if you are a book-listener :)

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