Monday, June 16, 2014

Our New Muscovy Duck and Nesting House

New nesting  house near the main duck house.
     Shortly after we moved to the ranch, we moved our flock of Muscovy ducks to their new home.  It was just after winter and boy were they a mess.  Just coming out of winter, they didn't have a place to clean themselves off, so when they arrived here, one of the first things they did was to go and play in the creek and get cleaned off.  We couldn't believe how white they really were under all that "mess."    

     We have always fed our ducks a non-medicated feed but when we moved them to their new home they really didn't seem too interested in it.  They were more interested in all the bugs and things that crawled on the ground, so we stopped giving them the feed and they seemed to thrive. 

     Now, back in Chicago, our property was about 1/4 of an acre and we had plenty of mosquitoes.  Our ducks ate just about every one of those pesty little things that we had on our property.  I say our property, because if the kids went to the neighbors yards on either side of our house to play, the population of mosquitoes was unbelievable!!  They couldn't play outside over there unless they wore bug spray or continued to swat at mosquitoes all night. 

     This flock of ducks is almost a year old and a few of them have started to lay eggs.  And if you have never had an egg from a duck you are really missing out on something.  As much as I love fresh chicken eggs, I love duck eggs that much more.  They are really tasty!!  Every morning, I fry a little bacon in a cast iron skillet until just about done.  Then I put in 2 duck eggs (if I'm fortunate enough to get some that day) and let them cook until the whites are cooked and the yolk is still runny.  Boy, what a treat!!

        Well, after about a month or so of moving the ducks to the ranch, we stopped getting eggs from them.  I have a couple of reasons as to why I think that is.  First, I think it might be that some of them haven't started laying yet and the ones that have, they have already laid their first clutch of the year, so we'll need to wait until it's time for the next one.   

     A Muscovy duck only lays 3 clutches a year.  A clutch is a group of about 8-20 eggs that they will store up in a nest until they have enough, and then they will sit on the nest to hatch the ducklings.  So it might just be that we have to wait until it's time for the next clutch to see more eggs.

     The next reason might be that we stopped giving them their feed so there isn't enough protein in their diet.  But I'm not sure how true that might be because a "wild" duck doesn't get feed and they still lay eggs.

     Another reason might be that they are laying their eggs in a remote area that we can't seem to find.  Or, something is eating the eggs and we can't find any remains.  Even though I have tried to watch the ducks to see if they are going off by themselves to lay an egg and then coming back to the flock, I haven't noticed a single duck doing that.  If they were doing that that would be a sign that they have a nest somewhere and we need to find it because those eggs are too precious to be lost and not found!!

     So, I have come to believe, that at this point, they just aren't laying eggs right now.

     After visiting our friends farm, Vesterbrook Farm, I got an idea for a nesting house for our ducks.

     I drew up some plans for the nesting house and Shane built it for me using some old barn wood and some recycled tin that was left here on the farm.  And I love it!!

The new nesting box for the ducks.
     The roof is hinged so we can pick up the roof and get the eggs out from the top if we want them for breakfast or baking.  The opening in the bottom is the doorway.  The door hasn't been put in place yet because we don't have any hinges to do that right now.  Once we get the hinges and attach them,  we will also put on a latch to secure the door, so if a duck is sitting on a nest we can close her up, "lock" her in, and protect her for the night.   

     My hope is that the ducks will use it to lay their eggs and hatch out their ducklings once they start laying their eggs again.  Hopefully the nesting house will catch on and we will need to make more of them for more momma ducks!

     Thus far we haven't had a problem with predictors and I'm not naive enough to think that we won't at some point.  But for now, as far as the duck are concerned, they are safe.  Every night we put them in their house and lock them up until the morning.  

     The Cowboy said that we needed some color in our ducks so he gave us a boy to help us take care of that.  We'll let you know if and when we get some "color".   

     Here's a link to a post I wrote previously:  The Mother Duck and Her Baby Ducklings

The new boy on the ranch.

Waiting for the "new boy" to join the girls for a drink.

The ducks checking out their new nesting house.

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