creative 1975

Second Season

In Non-Fiction, Poultry on January 24, 2016 at 10:20 am

It’s my second season of breeding Muscovy ducks. They truly are endearing creatures. I’ve mentioned before in my posts that I began breeding so ‘my girls’ can do what’s natural—have their clutches of eggs hatch out (instead of brooding all spring and summer), and let them raise their young. Usually they abandon them at around 8 weeks, sometimes later and that’s when I can move all the very-quickly-grown ducks into their own enclosure, where they’ll be safe. Also this means that when they do move to pastures new, I’m not running a marathon trying to catch them in a net. This is the usual practice! I expect it’s quite amusing to watch if you’re the observer (my husband), surveying as I run around in my pyjamas—big net in hand—on collection days. Becomes increasingly harder too when they begin to fly! With exception of the drakes who are too heavy to get off the ground and much easier to capture, but heavier to carry—by the time I sold my last few drakes last season they were bigger than their fathering drake!

They are not ducklings for very long. Therefore, fortunately I have more options this year as Mr C put his constructing skills (yet again) to good use and has extended my enclosures, adding a new one for this precise time of the year.  During the winter it can remain empty where I can either re-seed with grass or something productive to benefit the hens and ducks.

I don’t think I could tire of holding and watching newly hatched ducklings, although sometimes difficult to hold depending on the mother’s mood. I find the best time is when she’s still sitting waiting for others to hatch; once they’re all out you can forget it! And rightly so, it’s her job to protect them, you have to respect this. There are times when they don’t make it out of the shell or they make it out and die, for reasons that can’t be exactly determined. Not hard for them to get squashed under big clumsy mother duck or for the shell to crack and dry out.

I kept the first one to hatch last season and named her Bella. I purposely haven’t let her nest this year; she’s tried a few times. Three ducks nesting is plenty as they can nest up to three times in one season. All my three Muscovy hens nested twice last season, resulting in sixty offspring, which I was fortunate to sell on to new homes as well as the males for meat. By selling them I was then able to put the money towards their food bill for the ducks and chickens, which usually runs into debt throughout the winter, as they eat more and lay less, resulting in less eggs for me to sell to cover their food. Food for my poultry never comes out of our own income; the eggs always manage to pay for the weekly food bill along with selling the ducks, it allows me to sometimes buy new water feeders or laying chickens. I also grow some basics, which is more of a treat with extra nutrients. I’ve just planted some silverbeet (known as chard, Swiss chard and seakale beet, similar to spinach but has a stronger flavour), so they’ll enjoy that when it’s ready.  So far there are twenty ducklings of various ages, thirteen still with their mother duck. Some are ready for new homes. I get some wonderful colours—black, white and green, just white, as well as black and white, blue and white and a lovely smoky grey.  There is one girl that I will be keeping! Last year Mr C told me I wasn’t allowed to keep any. He said, “If you keep one, then another and then before you know you’ve got twenty ducks”. Well it’s true and I’m not naïve to this fact, but I wanted to keep one!

One day Mr C asked “who’s that one over there?”

“That’s Bella”, I replied.

“Bella” he said, thinking to himself how he’d never heard that name before. “Who’s she then?” he asked.

“She was the first one that hatched out, she’s Daphne’s— I’m keeping her”, I answered with a grin.

He rolled his eyes, “You weren’t supposed to be keeping any …hmm”.

When I told Mr C this season I was keeping ‘the black and white female from that wee group of Daphne’s because I don’t have that colour in my flock, he didn’t say anything, well …not aloud anyway!

 

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Muscovy duck (Cairina moschata) is a large duck native to Mexico, Central, and South America.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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