Not long ago, I wrote an article for Backyard Poultry Magazine on Muscovy ducks. This was so recent, in fact, that the article hasn't even been published as of this blog post.
As these Muscovy matured from ducklings into adults, I've been learning things about these marvelous waterfowl that I never knew before. The process of researching and writing this article taught me even more. A large chunk of the article was on reproduction and I eagerly awaited our first babies thinking this wasn't likely to be too different from our chickens.
Our first duck to hatch out went missing for several days. Then I went to fill one of the rabbit boxes with hay and there she was! Apparently being closed in isn't something that a Muscovy worries about when given a ready-made nest box.
Shortly after hatching she tried to take her babies down to the pond. However, our rabbit pen was designed for... well... rabbits. That includes making sure the wiring is tiny enough to prevent baby-bunny escapees. Certainly, a match for ducklings. We came home from work to find her pacing between the pond and the rabbit colony, peeping at her babies to get down here right now! So we scooped them all up, walked them down to the pond and gave them back to her.
Only for her to immediately head back up to her box that night, leaving her babies behind again.
It became a bit of a cartoon...
Duck number two was in our firewood lean-to. She refused to leave, despite losing a number of eggs to tiny rodent hands every time she got up to eat. Still she insisted this is the spot and refused to consider moving. Eventually we had the first two cords of firewood delivered and dumped in the driveway. I mentioned to the gentleman delivering "we're going to have to move her out of there. She's never going to hatch those after all this time."
It's super cute when a duck gives you the finger.
Nibbles was our first duck to sit, but our third to hatch. She insisted on sitting in the goat barn initially where she was stepped on by the goats and sat on by a hen:
We finally moved her to the chicken "maternity ward" in an attempt to save her, and while she sat on her eggs for several more days, she absconded at the first opportunity. A week later she was back in the goat barn until they drove her out for good.
Then - ignoring the dangers of rats, weather, rotting hay and more - she nested here:
Despite long odds, she managed to hatch out a good percentage of her eggs.
Then came the aftermath. You see, while dedicated brooders, it turns out that the gray duck (she has no name yet) and Nibbles aren't very dedicated parents. Hatching was fine but then You mean I have to take care of them? Screw that! I'm too young to have my life ruined by those brats!
You see, Whistler really did want to be a mom, but was never able to hatch eggs despite having tried repeatedly all spring and summer. So these are her babies now! She never leaves their side, stomps her feet and whistles furiously is you so much as look at the wrong and will bite your fingers off if you actually touch one!
She is now followed her very own flock of young where ever she goes.
And the black hen? She and her babies finally migrated down to the pond for good before she got semi-bored with mothering. She still eats breakfast with them, but other leaves them to their own devices. Corgi (our tailless little male Muscovy) can often be seen with the babies instead, while Andre the Giant Duck watches over all of them from off to the side. If something scary flies over and there are no adult-ducks to protect them, they run unhesitatingly to the geese who stand over them, despite looking annoyed about the whole thing. Even the chickens occasionally take a turn at watching over them.
All in all it's been an adventure to watch these new mothers with new babies patchwork together their own skills and the local day care to keep these little fluffballs alive.
And this morning our white duck - long lost and thought to be deceased - turned up in the rabbit colony in the nest box....