April 8, 2017

Make Way for Ducklings!


And I do mean "make way," because Mama Duck will clear the way if you don't!


Hatched just the other day, I count twelve of them. We have no idea how many eggs she started out with because she had hidden them well.


Her open mouth is a warning to stay back. If you get too close she'll lower her head and march straight toward you. Having (innocently) experienced a Muscovy mama's wrath in the past, I know to steer clear (and so do the cats).


After their first outing, she had a little trouble coaxing them back under the tarp where the nest was. I had to go in so I didn't think any more of it until it was time to do afternoon chores. I found that Mama Duck had taken her brood to the goat barn.


This was worrisome because the goats don't take care where they step. She pecked at any goat that got to close, but that didn't deter them. 

The ducks have tried to take up residence with the goats before, but usually abandon the idea after getting stepped on. Dan and I tried to redirect Mama Duck to another location, but she was suspicious of our efforts.


Besides the potential danger of getting stepped on, there are other reasons I don't like the ducks in with the goats. I know multispecies grazing is getting wowed at these days, and while I agree with the theory, the best practical applications are contingent on factors specific to each species.

For example, the Muscovies love clean water and will waste no time bubbling it and cleaning out their bills. They don't scratch like chickens, rather, they scoop through the soil to hunt for food. They need to clean their nostrils out frequently, so duck water is never clean. Since they claim all clean water, that means that the goat water is never clean. My concern with this is that the ducks may be scooping up parasite eggs and depositing them in the goat water. Keeping goats parasite free is enough of a challenge as it is.


Another problem is that the goats will eat all the duck feed. And since the ducks love chicken scratch as much as the chickens do, they get some as well. But scratch is tossed onto the ground, and the goats will eat that as well. Being on the ground, it's back to the concern about picking up parasites. This, in fact, is the number one way goats get worms, from grazing too close to the ground (where the manure is).

That first night I put up the goat gate to keep the goats in and Mama and her ducklings out. The next morning Dan was able to coax them into the chicken yard.


I don't know how Mama Duck feels about it, but Papa Big Duck was happy to see them, and he's doing a very good job of keeping the chickens from getting too curious. We certainly feel like they are safer there.


She ended up taking them out again, and at that point we just had to resign ourselves that she's the mom.

The timing for this has been good, because soon Dan will be needing to get to his lumber pile for his workshop. More on that soon.

Make Way for Ducklings! © April 2017 

21 comments:

  1. Is this your only mama duck this season or are there more ducklings on the way? either way, that's a lot of ducks!
    busy costuming right now...garden is suffering. :( I wish our farmer's market wasn't on Sundays. By the time we get out of Church they're packing up for the day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, these will be the only ducklings. After last year's prolific duck population explosion, I decided that one duck and one drake were plenty for the regulars! Dan finally took a look at the nest and said there were three unhatched eggs plus one that hatched but didn't make it.

      That is a real shame about your farmers market. Maybe it would be helpful to point out to them that they are losing quite a lot of potential customers by only having it on Sunday morning. Because who doesn't want more customers?

      Delete
  2. Now that is a good sized hatch! IF we manage to get some ducklings hatched this spring, I'm a bit concerned, too, because the ducks are in with the geese and I don't know how the geese will be with the ducklings. We could keep the mama duck and her (potential) brood in a chicken tractor type affair, but would rather they could all be out and about and have access to the pond. Keeping things more natural in that way. Do we humans worry too much about these situations? Your concern about the goats and parasites is certainly warranted though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you're right, Mama Pea, I think we do worry too much about the stuff we can't control. Dan and I will do everything we can to make the situation safe and healthy, but we realize we can't control the animals' behavior. If they refuse to cooperate we have to let go and leave it in nature's hands.

      I agree about keeping things as natural as possible. I'll be curious as to how the geese react to your ducklings! Our mama duck is pretty aggressive in protecting her young 'uns, and so far only the goats are unimpressed.

      Delete
  3. They are too cute! And a bunch of them. Hope Mama Duck knokws what she's doing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We hope so too! But she's pretty suspicious of where we try to herd her, and there's no way to communicate that we're only trying to help protect her and her ducklings.

      Delete
  4. I've never raised ducks but in the past if we wanted to control where animals were, we did so with their food and water source. We only fed and watered them in certain spots and eventually if they got hungry enough and we provided good enough shelter, they would move to where we wanted them. But there were always some stubborn ones that took longer than others to "get the picture".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Food is always the great motivator, isn't it?. Of course the ducks can fly, not well, but they can go where they want and then back again. Ordinarily they pretty much stick to where the food and water is (especially water, they love their water), but the ducklings seem to bring something else to the table. In the mind of Mama, that is.

      Delete
  5. So cute! But with every animal you raise there is responsibility and I just learned a lot about goats and ducks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's experiential learning! We honestly find ourselves serving our critters. And sometimes they know it. I've had goats that would rather lay around the barn and be served hay than go out and forage, LOL

      Delete
  6. Leigh, I just LOVE your blog and all of your farm animals! Those ducklings are adorable...I remember your post about getting "schooled" by a duck! And thanks for the information about the multispecies grazing issues. Do you keep the ducklings?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rain, thank you for your encouraging words, they made my day! The ducklings will eventually be harvested for the freezer. Sad, I know, but eventually they outgrow the cute stage and we end up with an imbalance: too many birds for the land and our feed budget to sustain.

      Delete
    2. Hi Leigh :) I was just talking to Donna from The Poor Farm about the same thing, she just got piglets. I'm a big, make that BIG wuss lol...I have dreams of meat chickens but honestly, it likely won't happen because I still have issues killing the fish we catch and so does Alex. I guess that's the city-folk that is still lingering in us. I think it's great that you have animals to process, it's that self-sustaining lifestyle I want so badly. I may have to really challenge myself in the future. Killing a fish would be the first step I think, then seeing if I could eat it.

      Delete
    3. Rain, we don't like killing animals either. Dan is always the one who does this part, but we work together as a team from catching the animal to either freezing or canning. It all boils down to making the decision and then just doing it. At least we know our meat animals had a happy and humane life, and a swift end. It's better than overcrowding or sending them to someone who may not take good care of them. And we have better quality food to eat. It's just one of those realities that we have to live with because of the lifestyle we chose.

      Delete
    4. I don't think anybody does Leigh, but you are so right, it's better quality, we're eating meat anyway, it's better to know where they are coming from and how they've been raised. I'm just hoping down the line that I'll have a good neighbouring farmer who has meat to sell. I really am impressed by all you two have done over the years!

      Delete
  7. I've tried to influence where my rabbits will give birth a time or 2 - they nest where they want to despite my well-intended efforts. I can't imagine trying to convince a duck. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've had rabbits but never bred them. Seems like all critters have their own opinions about things like this, and we humans just don't count. :)

      Delete
  8. A bigger concern than parasites is coccidia, which the ducks have a fairly symbiotic relationship with, but which can cause diarrhea in other animals (to the point of killing them, especially the young or frail). Ducks should be housed by themselves if at all possible. In with the chickens is better than with the goats, but anatomical differences can cause issues if your drake is feeling amorous (he can kill your hens).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good point about cocci. I do know that coccidia is species specific, i.e. chickens can't get the kind goats do and vice versa.

      We would love to house the ducks by themselves, but so far they go where the want to go, not where we want them to. :)

      Delete

Welcome! Thank you for visiting and taking the time to comment. I try to reply to all comments and return blog visits if I can.