Sunday, November 11, 2012

Duck update...

[caption id="attachment_963" align="alignnone" width="300"] Snowball and Sweetie grazing in the yard[/caption]

My friend Cora tells me that I left her hanging with the duck situation. Back in April I was complaining about our over-loved hens and over-amorous drakes... See here to catch up .

We got a new female duck, Daisy to help with the ratio, but it just made things worse...  The two males turned their attention to the new duck.  She couldn't move without one of them pinning her to the ground.  They were so mean.  It wasn't long until her neck was going bald and bleeding from duck "love" bites.

So we spent most of the summer scolding boy ducks and rotating the males from the females. It was a lot of work, we had to section off the pen and be vigilant about who we let out when. We knew this was a temporary solution because winter was coming and at some point they would all need to go in their house...together.

We decided instead of adding more hens we should subtract one drake.

We had a few offers from people to take one of our male ducks. One wanted to eat him. Another needed a companion for his other duck who had lost his partner and someone else had a big flock of drakes (no females) and we weren't sure if he would be happy there...

As it turns out, the neighbor behind us got ducks. She had four females and one male, but her male had recently died. The ducks weren't the same breed as ours (Pekin), but they were also heavy breed (big) ducks. So we dumped Nibbles over the fence and he happily became an alpha male duck to his new harem, I mean flock.  We can see him happily swimming in his pool with his new ladies.  Sweetie has been much better behaved around Daisy now. Apparently the two boys were fighting over her and neither wanted the other to win so they worked this out in true boy fashion, by beating on her.

Peace had been restored to the duck pen. Sweetie has his three girls and Daisy's neck feathers have started to grow back in. Since things were going so well we decided to go to a poultry swap and came home with two new ducks. A male/female pair. They are light weight, black east indies ducks that are iridescent green and blue in the sunlight.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="183"] Black East Indies Duck[/caption]

J named them Ana and Jones (get it - East Indy Ana - Jones). Thankfully Sweetie is not threatened by this small drake. The Pekins seem to have accepted them into the flock and while they keep a bit of a distance from the bigger ducks, they all fit comfortably in the duck house.

[caption id="attachment_957" align="alignnone" width="300"] Ana - who almost didn't make it onto the blog...and looking a bit rattled after her morning encounter with a hawk.[/caption]

Lately our biggest problem is hawks. We have a juvenile hawk that keeps attacking our ducks. This morning was the closest call we have had yet. My daughter actually saved Ana's life. She looked outside and saw a hawk next to the ducks pool (while all the ducks were in it). J ran outside yelling at the hawk. It had picked up Ana and was trying to fly away with her.

Thankfully J caught up to it in time and the hawk dropped the duck. She was unharmed, but a bit rattled. Her mate, the drake had hidden behind the pool.  Coward!  Sweetie and the other ducks just sat in the pool and watched the whole thing.  These ducks run in their house when a plane flies overhead, but they sit and watch a hawk attack.  Odd.  I believe there comments were, "well at least it's not me..."

We may have a Red Tailed hawk looking for a duck dinner.

Diet (from wikipedia

The Red-tailed Hawk is carnivorous, and an opportunistic feeder. Its diet is mainly small mammals, but it also includes birds and reptiles. Most commonly reported prey types include micegophers,voleschipmunksground squirrels and tree squirrels.[22][23] Additional prey (listed by descending likelihood of predation) include lagomorphsshrewsbatspigeonsquailcorvids, waterfowl, other raptorsreptilesfishcrustaceansinsects and earthworms.[4] They can also prey on marmotsWhite-tailed Jackrabbits, small domestic dogsdomestic cats, or female Wild Turkey, all of which are easily double the weight of most Red-tails.[4]

File:Red-tailed hawk02.jpg

It looks like we may be building an outdoor bird pen and covering it with netting to keep the ducks safe while outside in their pool - so much for free-range ducks  (sigh).

[caption id="attachment_958" align="alignnone" width="300"] the current flock - Sweetie, Snowball, Ducky, Daisy, Ana and Jones.[/caption]