September 1, 2017

A Duck Tail of Woe

This is both a tail of woe and a tale of woe.

M.O.M. (Mother of Muscovies) and Big Duck

We keep one breeding pair of Muscovy ducks (because Muscovies are very prolific and one pair produces more than enough ducks!) In April Mama Duck hatched out a dozen eggs. Once the ducklings were grown she decided to set again. I don't know if that's typical for Muscovies, but she hid her nest so well there was no way to discourage her. For her nesting spot, she chose a place in the thick hedge of Beauty Bushes on the side of our front yard. Once or twice a day she would show up for water, something to eat, and a bath.

One day she didn't appear at her one of her usual times. She didn't show up the next day either, nor the day after that. We began to fear something had happened to her. Then the neighbor two doors down came by to say they had found a duck which apparently a dog had gotten. It appeared to be injured, but was alive. Could it possibly be M.O.M.?

We went to go see and sure enough, it was M.O.M.! She seemed to be okay but was missing most of her tail and couldn't fly very well. But would she let us catch her? No way! After chasing her all over their yard we finally went home in hopes she'd return on her own. Two days later she did.

Half of her tail feathers had been pulled out.

We can only assume that she walked! Big Duck was ecstatic!

After she got food, water, and a bath she waddled up the driveway to check on her nest, but she wasn't gone long. It had been too many days and assuming the eggs were still there, they were cold with the ducklings lost.

About a week later another neighbor came over to warn us that he thought he'd heard coyotes the night before. He said it sounded like someone was getting killed, although he didn't see anything. We have coyotes on occasion, but so far they've never been a problem. Could that have been what tried to get M.O.M?

The next day we heard a ruckus somewhere beyond the back of our woods. It sounded like - coyotes! The sound sent all of our cats scrambling for hiding spots. All four of them had been choosing to sleep indoors lately, which we thought odd, but obviously they knew something we didn't?

Able to fly again and pretty much back to normal.

That night Dan made rounds several times to keep an eye on things. When he shined the flashlight up the driveway he saw what he thought at first was a dog, but realized it was indeed a coyote!

Coyotes normally don't bother us, but their diet does include small animals. A few folks around here keep chickens, but we have the most animals in the area.  Folks with goats, like me, worry about them, of course, especially when the kids are small. Mostly coyotes don't attack adult deer or goats, but apparently it depends on the pack. Some packs are more aggressive, so a wise stewards will take measures to protect their herds and flocks.

All of this "comes with the territory," as Dan likes to say. We do our best to protect our critters from predators, but the reality is that predators do get some of our poultry on occasion. Hopefully the coyotes will pass on through like the others we've seen before them.

A Duck Tail of Woe © September 2017 by 


Goatldi said...

Now that is cause for concern. Especially if those critters are in a pack. Coyotes are very intelligent and work stock if there are multiple animals in a pack. One reason that more often than not one will see a pair of livestock guardian dogs rather than just one. As the coyotes will attempt to divide and conquer. One dog can't be everywhere at once and the strategy of sending one or more around front to distract a single dog while the rest of the group goes in for the kill from behind is tried and true. So having more than one dog helps to prevent this from happening. Also coyotes a pretty lazy and if too much energy needs to be exerted to find a meal they will opt to go down the road to easier meal. Hope this group on interlopers leaves town soon!

Leigh said...

Indeed. I so wish at least one of the three livestock guardians we've had in the past had worked out. For now, all our critters get put up for the night.

Renee Nefe said...

Glad that your neighbors are looking out for you...and your critters.

Mama Pea said...

Our poultry is locked up for the night on our place, too, because we have a lot of predators who would like to snack on any of them. The birds' "houses" are all within electric fencing but that doesn't stop flying predators. One night last week we were late getting out to close everyone up. Because of this, just as we were arriving on the scene close to dusk, an owl swooped down out of the woods and took one of our half-grown Muscovies. You do what you can, but when there are predators around you don't always win. Glad your mama duck made it.

Ed said...

Back when we used to raise chickens and had lots of outside farm cats, I'm sure the coyotes got their share of both, especially any chicken who didn't get locked up at night.

Despite have hundreds of coyotes around (judging from the yipping at night with the windows open) I rarely see them unless one gets hit by a car and even that doesn't happen too often. But we don't have any small animals at all and at my parents farm they have just a couple outside cats that wisely choose to stay in the garage at night.

Susan said...

I am always relieved when our local pack works their way through and off on their loop elsewhere. When I start to hear the yipping at night, I move the llama and sheep up to the barn closer to the house. My llama now is mostly blind, but her other senses are very sharp. One of my neighbors said he saw a huge coyote in my driveway a few nights ago!

Harry Flashman said...

I've lost six outdoor cats this summer, far more than ever before. I don't know if it's wildcats getting them, or red wolves, or coyotes, or mountain lions. I have perimeter alarms out but however the predator is getting in, they aren't setting them off.

Strangely, I haven't lost any chickens that I know of.

Tewshooz said...

Over the years cats have disappeared one by one and we always figured it was coyotes. Could have been badgers, too. Now, our one last cat comes inside at night. Coyotes are really smart. If we take a shot at one when we see it, it stays away or out of range...usually a young one. At night though, it is a different story. All our critters are locked up at is the only prudent thing to do. Skunks and raccoons get poultry and cats, too. It's a jungle out there!!

Cozy Thyme Cottage said...

Hoping all your animals stay safe! Maybe I wouldn't make a good farmer's wife afterall! LOL Nancy

Anonymous said...

I have 2 packs of coyotes that I can hear from my place. I've been very lucky with them, as they have proved very respectful of my boundaries. I had a friend offer to come wipe them out and I refused. It is obviously great territory, since both bands raise pups every year, so if these packs moved out others would move in. The new neighbors might not be as respectful.

Several of my muscovies will nest again late in the summer. One of my moms just hatched 13 yesterday, after raising 12 this spring. So far this year I've got 17 teenagers that should be in the freezer now, 7 that are 2 weeks old, the 13 newest, and one more nest to go. Full freezers make me happy!

Leigh said...

Renee, we have great neighbors. :)

Mama Pea, we've lost ducks to owls too! They insist on roosting up high, which only puts them at greater risk. :(

Ed, the only time we've seen them around here has been at night. They are pretty shy. Ours seem to cover a bit of territory and I'm thinking we can judge whether they are around by where the cats choose to spend the night!

Susan, coyotes are bad enough but wolves would be scarier! Sounds like your neighbors keep an eye out as well.

Harry, yikes, that's a lot of cats to lose in one summer. But you're farther into the mountains than I am, so I'm sure you have more problems. I like the idea of the perimeter alarms. I wonder why they haven't been triggered by your varmints?

Tewshooz, it is a jungle out there! We've had problems with opossums as well as raccoons, skunks, owls, and hawks. I'm going to protect our critters as best I can, but I don't assume we'll never lose any. :( We've had so many skunks this summer that I'm beginning to think that's why all my honeybees left. Skunks are a real problem for bees.

Nancy, this is the hard part!

Sue, good to hear from you! That's a lot of good Muscovy eating! You make a good point about trying to eradicate any particular predator; the "vacuum" never stays that way. And it's true about never knowing what the new pack might be like, so sometimes it's better to leave be.

Renee Nefe said...

I'm online at a site called Nextdoor, which is sort of like Facebook for neighborhoods. They have us grouped together with other subdivisions in my area. The neighbors who live "out in the country" (just down the road from me) are reporting all sorts of critters this week. One neighbor lost 3 chickens in one skunks. Our voice teacher had one of his horses attacked by a wild cat (don't know if it was bobcat or mountain lion...bobcats are more common here, but don't usually attempt a horse.) And of course it is the season for venison on the grill (of your car).

Leigh said...

Renee, that must be unnerving for your neighborhood! Last night Dan went out to find two large stray dogs in our yard. He scared them off but this morning one of the ducks is missing. People's loose dogs are a big problem for us too. Outside of town limits there are no leash laws, but that doesn't mean it's safe to let dogs run free.

M.K. said...

I'm glad M.O.M. is back home, safe and (relatively) sound. What an adventure! sorry about those babies though.

Sam I Am...... said...

It would be hard to get used to...losing some of your animals to predators but I know it happens. I wanted chickens on my farm but when I was married my husband wanted no livestock....then why get an acreage? We really were from different planets! LOL! But we had coyotes for sure but I also had a Rottweiler and another farm dog that kept the 'critters' away. I had more problems with humans than I ever did with critters! So sorry about your ducks though...I hope they recover. Real life can be cruel.

anonymous said...

We cannot keep any animal outside at night except our big dogs. Goats, sheep, fowl, and rabbits all go in buildings. Our cats all have disappeared except for the ones who know to go in the goat barn at night. We can't leave our chicken coop door open during the day anymore as we've seen coyotes coming out of the coop with chickens and ducks. They are completely unafraid of our dogs or us really. I'll go out with the rifle if I hear the dogs barking, and I got knocked over by a coyote that bolted from under an outbuilding not too long ago. Our neighbors trap and hunt but the coyote population just gets worse. They are sneaky and fast. Much faster than our dogs. In a town not too far from us, a coyote snatched a 2-year-old at a rural 4th of July celebration. The boy was found with non-life threatening bites on his back, but their boldness is concerning.

Chris said...

Yikes, this is scary stuff to talk about. Other people's loose dogs, are my greatest concern - for my four year-old. As we have no fencing, he has limited range to play outside. Literally, just out the back door, where I can see and hear him. People believe their pet dogs are domesticated, and wouldn't hurt anyone, but when they're in new territory and it's not defended, they try and claim it as their own. Which means anything that can be attacked, will be.

Sorry, this has happened to M.O.M. I hope she continues to stay safe.

Leigh said...

Chris, I would have the same concern if I was you. We've had stray dogs do more damage here than coyotes. I think in general, folks have somehow lost (if we ever had it) a true understanding of the nature of animals. It's part of the disconnect that comes from removing oneself from a direct dependency on the land. Domesticated animals are fully capable of having relationships with humans, but they still have the instincts of their species, and no amount of humanizing their personalities can change that. Many a homestead tale of woe began by a neighbor or visitor letting their pet run free because "my dog would never try to catch a (fill in the blank ___chicken____)." The other thing we've noticed from having dogs ourselves, that having more than one changes things the social mix. A single dog is focused on the humans. More than one and they begin focusing on the other dog(s). They are pack animals, after all, and that's their nature. That's what they do.

Rain said...

Scary stuff Leigh, but I'm so glad Mama Duck is okay...poor thing! Alex and I talked about our future homestead. We are both so incredibly sensitive. He said he didn't know if he could handle having chickens and goats because he'd be constantly watching to make sure they were safe and sound. I feel the same way, but Dan is right, it does come with the territory, I still don't know if we're up to it to be honest! We don't have very thick skins! I hope all of your critters are safe!

Leigh said...

M. K., yes, it's too bad about those ducklings. She went back several times to visit the old nest, but didn't stay long. :(

Sam, I don't think you ever get used to it! And yes, humans can be varmints too. :)

Anonymous, those are pretty scary reports about the coyotes. I always thought they were night hunters, but that's obviously not the case! I'm just thankful we haven't lost more than we have.

Rain thanks. There are some hard realities to having critters! I think Dan takes it harder than I do, I'm probably the more pragmatic of the two of us. I finally had to tell myself that death is just as natural as life. I think we humans tend to assume that life is more important than death, but we can't have one without the other.