This is poor Sir Winston (or Sir Winnie for short) the Muscovy drake. Doesn't he have an interesting face (maybe interesting is just being kind)! Sir Winnie is the King of the Chickens and Ducks. He's a huge duck and he likes being the boss. My son has had a few run ins with him when he challenged him "just for fun". I've never had a problem with him and he often comes to sit near the back door hoping to score some leftover cat food or just sit basking in the sun.
All summer he and his girls would find a shady spot to sit during the hottest parts of the day to emerge ready to join us at the fire pit for supper. Between the chickens and the ducks there are never any leftovers.
We have three Rouen ducks - they look similar to mallards to the untrained duck-eye. Two of them hang around with the Crested White Duck below and they are the best of friends. They are always together wandering the property, drinking out of puddles after a rainstorm or waddling off to find some adventure in the paddock. So far their farm value has been mostly the entertainment factor with a few eggs thrown in.
Our Crested Duck sat on a clutch of eggs early this spring and hatched out a bunch of ducklings but I don't think any of them where really hers - note the colors of the ducklings - she didn't seem to mind. One of those hatched drake ducklings grew up to hang out with a misfit Muscovy hen and they've been in love ever since.
Yesterday we welcomed three new black Muscovy hens to the farm. Sir Winnie lost both his girlfriends in the last two weeks. They had been roaming off without him and we think they may have been a coyotes lunch. Sad. They were really sweet ducks who put up with lots of our attention and on occasion being carried back to the barn when they moved too slow for our liking. The new girls are locked up in a pen getting to know Sir Winnie and I'm not sure they are too happy about it but I can hardly blame them. They came from a beautiful farm near Balieboro where they had the run of the farm and a huge pond. Farmer Sue and Farmer Rick helped us catch the girls who were roosting far above our heads in the barn - it was quite the run about! After several attempts with a huge net we finally captured them but they most certainly didn't want to get into that cage. All of our Muscovy's up till this point have been almost pure white. These new girls are mostly black with a little white on their throats - very pretty! No pictures yet because the barn is too dark for a good shot.
There is another duck sitting on a nest at Farmer Rick and Farmer Sue's and if all goes well we agreed to take them so we may have some baby ducklings in a week or two. The momma's on their farm come and go from the barn at will and spend most of their time on the pond. The last batch this particular momma hatched out waddled across the yard and down the steep slope into the pond and learned to swim at THREE DAYS OLD! Rick and Sue were a little concerned that the water temperature and the predators would probably wipe out the babies this late in the season so we're doing an intervention! Yeah - duckies!! We've kept other ducklings in the house under a heat lamp in the past but we also need them to get used to the colder temperatures outside so it may be a heat lamp in the barn for them. We can gradually raise the lamp to adjust the heat. The best solution would be for another duck to adopt them but that hasn't always gone so well. I guess we'll wait and see.
I had a chat with my farming friend - farmgal - the other day - you can read her blog here. We were discussing how prolific her ducks were (hatching out 25-30 ducklings a year EACH) while I lamented that mine were laying fine but not hatching much of anything out. Well - no wonder! We were doing a few things wrong and once corrected I hope we have better success. Their nesting area was shavings on top of concrete and this is not optimal for ducks because the nests actually need a fair bit of moisture to hatch. The shavings and the concrete were working against us. Farmgal suggested dumping dirt (in my clean pen!!) to a depth of 6-8 inches and then laying straw over the top. The mommas also need to be able to leave the pen every day to have a bath,get something to eat and do their business. In trying to keep the chickens out of their nests we didn't always let them out. There's a solution to everything and it usually involves in talking to an expert!
Now we need to wait till spring to see if the changes will make a difference...is winter over yet?