Thursday, September 25, 2014

Baby (the duck)

So, I have wanted to do an update on the ducks for a few weeks now.

The adult ducks and all the drakes except one are now living on the lake in Alabama. They were doing very well there for themselves when we left. They were suddenly very wary of even us walking around the perimeter and that's great. It means as soon as they had freedom - their instincts kicked in. They have a floating dock with a shelter and enough food for a few weeks. Considering that they didn't touch the food at all the week we were there I will go out on a limb and say that they have plenty to eat through foraging. This is of course what I wanted for them all along. They were given foraging opportunities here, and taught to dive for food to prepare them. The only downside is the foxes and coyotes in the area. It's a concern especially since they are now laying. The abandoned eggs will be a calling card to the predatory animals. Of course if the ducks were more mature and wanting to sit on a nest that too would leave them very vulnerable. So our fingers are crossed that at least one pair will survive through the winter to raise a brood of ducklings in the spring. Meanwhile this fall and winter we will concentrate on predator control. If not I have other plans.

While I understand that it may seem cruel to leave them alone on a lake the truth is these ducks were never intended as pets. There is a lot to eat there for them and other than not being able to truly take flight they are fully capable of taking care of themselves.

The experiment goes on. If these ducks cannot keep from being a meal, there is a plan in the works. Here in Florida we have wild ducks that are considered a nuisance in many places because they breed and reproduce rather prolifically. They are able to avoid being lunch and they do fly. These are Muscovy ducks. I remember as a child a family friend who raised these ducks. While they were a little large for a small child to handle they never did scratch, bite or otherwise terrorize me. They can be, well lets be honest. They can be a little ugly. They have this red warty flesh around their faces and it can be a real distraction from their personalities. But, here's the thing. They don't quack. Nope. They rasp, they hiss, the grumble but NO quack. Love that. So they can fend for themselves, are capable of flight if they choose, and they are quiet? BONUS!

So I set out to do a lot of research. Certainly by now someone out there has started breeding these ducks to have less facial flesh, right? WRONG. The 'standard of perfection' describes large amounts and breeders have been encouraging it rather than eliminating it. (why is beyond me) But as it turns out the Muscovy are excellent meat production ducks as well. And they get the best meat by....crossbreeding with mallard derived ducks. They also get less facial flesh this way. Anything that is not a Muscovy is mallard derived. The results are ducks that are (mostly) quiet, large and capable of taking care of themselves. They are also STERILE. It means overpopulation is not a problem. The fact that they cannot reproduce is both good and bad. It would be nice to be able to put 6 or 8 ducks out there and know that the next year a new generation will take place of any animals that predators or old age take. But, as I said earlier Muscovies are know for being a nuisance due to their ability to reproduce 4 clutches per female per year. YIKES.

So you may ask why I'm concerning myself with all this if that is the case. While the resulting ducklings would be sterile if I use a Muscovy drake over a welsh duck it means that the females will be not only capable, but well equipped good laying hens. So I would have beautiful ducks on the pond that are capable of defending themselves, quiet ducks on my lawn and good egg production, and the excess drakes for my freezer...

Boy I hope I like duck eggs. ;-)

That being said, I'd like you to meet the mating pair of ducks that I kept here for myself.

This is Patrick and Baby.

She is a well marked duck,and he is exquisite in his breeding plumage.
She's not laying yet but is in her final molt before her point of lay so another 2 months or so. 

Bay is the indoor duckling that we had bonded to us. She wouldn't go anywhere without us, and yelled up a storm when we left her. She would have nothing to do with the other ducks and in general was a momma's girl. Now that the other ducks are gone? She won't even come to me any more. At first it hurt my feelings, but I'm so happy for her now. She's got her priorities straight and while I wanted her to stay a pet I'm glad she's figured out that she is a duck.

Hopefully next spring I'll be enjoying ducklings. If not, I'll be enjoying the eggs and that's OK too. 

See you soon.


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