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