The Retarded Ducklings

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These are 5-week old ducklings and they look horrific. There were 17 of these hatched and as of today there are 5 ducklings left. How can such a thing happen?

Three weeks ago our sow Number 1 farrowed. This meant all of my attention went to Number 1 and her piglets. I also became very busy with the boar Bootleg who became sick and didn’t eat for nearly 5 days. With all of my time devoted to the pigs, I delegated the feeding of ducklings to someone else.

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The result are these. These ducklings were overfed. Their crops expanded bigger than their bodies. These ducklings were also overfed with adult duck food: hog mash with rice hull mixed with chopped banana trunks. Such types of food given at enormous quantities block and damage the crops of these birds. This result to a distorted growth and shape of the ducklings and an appearance that make them look stunted or retarded. Their eyes are sunken and stark as if they were mad.

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A couple of months ago, I was able to salvage a group of ducklings from a similar morbid fate. I saw the signs of overfeeding: blocked crops larger than their bodies, stark look in their eyes, wet and unruly feathers. If not too late, the ducklings may be rescued by changing their feed immediately to one that is easily digestible, for example, a simple pelleted feed base that has at least 14% protein. To help the ducklings unblock their crops, I placed a small basin of sand and water in their pen. Ducks use sand and small rocks to aid in digesting and grinding food in their crops.

However, 12 of these duckling were beyond repair. The remaining 5 don’t look any better. I didn’t see the problem sooner. For some reason, no matter how many times we explain, our caretaker couldn’t quite understand why animals shouldn’t be overfed. Out of a great love for the creatures, she became quite capable of killing them.

So, if you’re keeping ducklings, don’t overfeed them. Ducks are natural gluttons and they will gorge themselves, something which can be fatal to young ducklings.

As they say, if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. You can’t go on a holiday.

The Infanticidal Duck

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Several months ago, we decided to buy a pair of coloured ducks. Since all of your ducks are white (with the exception of Twisty which was given to us in exchange for one of our white ones), we thought it would be a good idea to introduce some colour into the flock.

The pair are adults, mature and suitable for breeding. Because of their colour, we call them “Daffy.” They came from a farm similar to ours which allows ducks to open range. We placed them in the duck fattening pen to get them used to the new place and prevent them from escaping and returning to where they came from.

In “captivity”, the pair mated and produced 11 eggs. Before the duck hen sat on the eggs, she took one egg out and broke it. This, in retrospect, was a sign of stress. Something which I should’ve addressed immediately.

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The eggs were laid on the ground, as ducks often prefer, in one corner of the pen. We placed a sack on one side of the pen in order to cover the eggs from view. However, the duck hen and the eggs are visible at the back and side.

When the duck hen sat on the eggs, we took out the drake to prevent him from forcibly mating her. Our alpha drake, Daddy Duck, encountered this new drake, danced along with him and started a fight. The new drake was easily subdued. This ritual, which would take place again in the next couple of days, established the hierarchy in the flock. After such, there was peace and order.

In the meantime, the duck hen dutifully sat on her eggs and I thought it was fine. Until after 35 days when the eggs hatched in the late afternoon, the nightmare would become apparent in the early morning.

I heard cackling noises from the fattening pen, the type of noise made by ducks when they are angry. When I looked, I saw the massacre of ducklings. Two ducklings still inside their eggs were pecked to death, two ducklings were crushed in the nest, five ducklings were found dead outside the pen as if desperately trying to run away from something. I found one duckling still alive, placed it in a box with a heating lamp but it died within a few hours.

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The duck hen, new to the environment, surrounded by unfamiliar people and ducks, was deeply stressed and threatened, prompting her to break one of her eggs and thereafter killing all her ducklings. I am yet to become familiar with signs of stress in ducks and I did not see this until too late.

The duck hen has since been released with her mate and all the other ducks. Both are doing fine. We provide shelter and nesting covers for our ducks and leave it to them to choose where they would like to nest. The drake has sired one duckling as seen in the latest hatchling, and we hope he will have more. The duck hen, in the meantime, has not yet laid new eggs. Perhaps later, in her own time and place.

If the behaviour of breaking eggs and killing ducklings persist, the duck hen will need to be culled.

Duck Tape

This isn’t really about duck tape (not even duct tape). This is about duck rape. I just didn’t want to use that “r” word all over this blog post. I have a feeling search engines will allocate this blog post (or even the entire blog) into that category of No Return. So, when I talk about duck tape, you know what I mean. ūüėČ

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One morning, while feeding the ducks, I saw this (above photo) under the house. On the left is a coconut tree stump that ducks use as a nest. Penny covered it with a sack and some pieces of wood for privacy. On the right is a dead duck hen.

I investigated the scene and made the conclusion that this duck hen — mother of 6 eggs in that stump — was a victim of duck tape. Judging from the flattened appearance of the duck hen, I’m not going to assume she was run over by a steamroller. She was run over by a mad drake.

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The first time we encountered something like this was in early 2015. In Do Ducks Know How to Grieve, we actually saw a drake mating with a duck hen and it didn’t look very nice. We assumed it was alright but we were wrong. We culled the drake that killed the hen.

But this time, we ave absolutely no idea who the tapist was. There are two suspects: Daddy Duck and Daffy Duck.

Anyway, tape is supposedly not as common amongst Muscovies¬†as it is¬†amongst¬†mallards. With that, I consider ourselves¬†quite lucky to have only two fatalities in the two years we’ve been breeding ducks. We also cull drakes (they are large and meaty!) to avert violence.

To learn more about this, the following links are provided:

Female Ducks fight back
Some female ducks and geese have evolved complex genitalia to thwart unwelcome mating attempts, according to a new study.

Ducks Are After You
Ducks have a mating ritual scientifically known as “rape flight”, which can involve multiple drakes attacking a single lady-duck, often drowning or pecking her to death. Ducks are not nice.

Man Accused of Taping Duck
A man in Turkey is being accused by his in-laws of an ugly crime.

PS. We transferred the orphan  eggs to another nest and the amazing duck hen hatched out all 17 eggs!

The Duck Butcher

OK, since nobody wants to buy any ducks we decided it is time to slaughter some ducks to reduce the rapidly growing population! Our butcher for today was Bebe, a guy who has a lot of experience as butcher of a variety of animals: chicken, goat, cow, pig and snake. Bebe said that he can slaughter 15 ducks in one day! But for now, we asked him to slaughter 8 ducks. These ducks will be part of our meals over the next several weeks.

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Previously, it was Terry who butchered our ducks. This time having the expert, we learned lots of interesting things — for sure, Bebe is much faster and thus¬†accomplished a very humane way of duck slaughter. He also advises not to put the un-plucked carcass in cold water but rather to put it in boiling water immediately after slaughter. This method ensures that there is no off or overpowering gamey taste in the duck meat.

Bebe’s wife, Penny helped pluck the ducks. This is meticulous work since ducks have very fine feathers. I have also asked Penny to catch the ducks for slaughter, telling her who to slaughter and who NOT to slaughter! Daddy Duck and the best duck hens are not slaughtered, neither Twisty nor the black and brown coloured duck pairs we purchased from another duck farm in a nearby village. It would be horrific if the wrong ducks were slaughtered!

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Lunch and dinner are two version of duck stew with vegetables. I find this to be the best way to cook the less meaty sections of the duck such as the wings, backbone and neck. The legs and breast will be prepared as confit.

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We still have a lot of ducklings — about 17 of them — which will soon be placed in the fattening pen. There are also a good number of ducks laying eggs and duck eggs are large, delicious and nutritious. The fact that ducks are so easy to raise for food makes them a very ideal part of a self-sufficient and self-sustainable homestead.

So if you’re interested in getting some ducks — particularly duckling — just let us know, before they get fattened and butchered in the next couple of months! Duckduck! ?