While I was away visiting family for the holidays I received a text from my house sitter right around x-mas: “You have a new duckling”.
I knew my two Muscovy hens had been sitting on eggs for some time, but I didn’t expect any to hatch in the cold weather we had been experiencing. Apparently there were initially three ducklings but two didn’t make it past their first day. I gave instructions to add a shallow water dish and change the feed over to chick crumble in order to try to keep the remaining duckie alive.
We’ve been having the coldest winter since I moved here and I wasn’t sure this little duck would be able to stay warm, but somehow he has. He’s a few weeks old now and doing very well. Since the gardens are now kaput I’ve opened up the duck pen to give them free reign of the yard and now they meet me at the back door every morning for their portion of fermented grains. Such a cute little family!
I woke up this morning after about five hours of sleep, which if you know me, you’ll know is VERY unusual. I like my sleep. Anyway, for some reason I felt compelled to go outside and check on everyone. First thing I did of course was to open the nestbox to check on the new ducklings. First it seemed like no more had hatched, but then I noticed a dark lump buried in the woodchips. It was a fourth duckling. It was cold, still wet and had not fully absorbed his yolk… But almost. His eyes were dry and caked open with sawdust. But he was moving, ever so slightly.
I picked him up and brought him inside where I immersed him in a bowl of warm water up to his neck. After a few minutes, he started to revive. I dunked his head briefly to clean out his eyes and he sputtered a bit but then closed them up properly. I kept him in the water until it began to cool and then put him on a towel under a heat lamp. His breathing was a lot better and he was making feeble attempts to preen himself. In the meantime I went out again and removed the remaining five eggs from underneath the duck. After candling, they all turned out to be bad. Hoping the duck would now leave the nest and take care of her young, I kept an eye on her. She left the nest and the three ducklings followed her. However, once they left the coop the larger ducklings began picking on them immediately. The mother made no attempt to protect them, so I made the decision to transfer them to the brooder. The healthy ducklings began to drink and eat right away and snuggle up next to the rescued duckling who is slowly fluffing up. I guess this solves the problem of how to feed them without all the adults stealing their chick starter. I may try to reintroduce them to their mother in a day or two once they are all doing well, but who knows if such a thing is possible. If not, they’ll just get raised in the brooder.
I think I may need a nap later.
Being super busy with taxes today meant I got out to feed the animals a little later than usual. As I was feeding the quail I kept hearing a little peeping sound near the older ducklings. I kept looking to see which one was peeping but couldn’t see any lips moving, ha. Was it the quail? It was a peep that was a little out of place.
Suddenly I noticed a little brown ball of fluff beside the duck pool. BABIES! I grabbed the little guy and put him in a safe spot. When I looked into the nestbox, I saw two more ducklings in with mama, so I put him in too.
I’m so excited! These are the first ducklings that have ever been born here. The colors look interesting and I wonder how they’ll turn out. They seem mostly brownish. The drake, their father, is black and their mother looks like pied lilac. I know Muscovy color genetics are fairly specific and you usually only get one or two colors each time. Generally the ducklings will look a lot like the parents although there are exceptions. You can see what I mean here: http://www.muscovyduckcentral.com/genetics.html
Now I just have to figure out how to feed them chick starter without everyone else eating it all first!