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. 😉

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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!

Looking Forward

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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! 😝

For Sale – Muscovy Ducks Breeding Pair (1,000 pesos per pair)

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We have about 5 pairs of ducks ready for dispatch. The male ducks (drakes) are 6 months old and above, mature and already capable of mating. These drakes were also part of our duck fattening program so they are large and meaty birds that will make a fantastic duck stew. But because these drakes grew very quickly, they have “angel wing syndrome”, presented as a deformity of the wing. This does not affect the breeding or genetics of the ducks.

The drakes come with female ducks that are 6 months old and above, some have already laid their first clutch of eggs. So when you buy a breeding pair, you don’t need to wait 6 months to start having eggs and ducklings.

helloduck2If you would like to start your own family of ducks, call or text 0929-8057723 to make an appointment to visit Duckduckbro!

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Turkey Daddy invades the Duckduckbro premises! 😜

What?! Prefer turkey?

Sure! We don’t have them! 😂 But our neighbour does! 😄 She sells turkey chicks at 250 pesos each. When you come and visit, we can check them out.

Rooster-for-Hire

Our neighbour has a large kabir hen. They want to breed it. Someone gave them a native rooster. But the kabir hen was so big that it frightened the rooster.  So our neighbour asked to borrow our rooster. I decided to lend them one of our red native roosters. It was a reasonably large rooster. But the kabir hen intimidated it. Our neighbour asked to borrow our white rooster.

Now this white rooster is My Rooster. It’s a big mature rooster with huge spurs. I agreed to lend my white rooster. Here he is with the kabir hen.

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After several weeks nothing happened. As it turns out, the kabir hen is just too large such that it wasn’t possible for any native rooster to mate with it. What a pity! So now our neighbour will slaughter the kabir hen for a birthday on June 4.

Here are some photos of my favourite rooster.

We breed native chickens for meat. In March and April we sold a fairly good number of native chickens we’ve raised wondering about in the backyard. March and April was graduation month and fiesta in a few places. We also sold a pig for someone’s graduation party.

We keep a couple of roosters for breeding. We don’t keep roosters for cockfighting. The very first time I witnessed a cockfighting derby was last week on Pamilacan Island. They were having their village fiesta and cockfighting was one of the special events. I was able to take a couple of videos.

I personally don’t know what to feel about cockfighting. I’ve seen roosters fighting as they often do in nature. It is bloody, violent, deadly. But it takes hours. And of course, before the fight becomes deadly, the rooster is free to run away — unless they were tied up as they often are to prevent them from escaping or getting stolen.

In a cockfighting derby, because of the frighteningly sharp steel spurs attached to the roosters’ legs, the fight only takes a few seconds, sometimes a couple of minutes. Sometimes the losing rooster dies, sometimes it lives to fight again another day. At the Pamilacan Island derby, there was a veterinarian tasked to provide care for wounded or injured roosters. Perhaps for people too!

PS. Cockfighting in the Philippines is regulated by law.

The Fat Duck

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I learned about the duck fattening phase via a website dedicated to promoting awareness of foie gras production and animal welfare. My interest in the finishing stage for ducks came about because of the need to raise the best quality duck meat. This means lean, plump meat that is also tender. At 6 months, duck meat begins to become tough so the goal was to raise fat ducks suitable for consumption by the time they are only 3-4 months of age.

It was necessary to conduct several experiments to figure out exactly when our ducks reached the fastest growth spurt. I tried giving a protein-rich diet ad libitum to ducks at 10 weeks, 12 weeks and 14 weeks. This protein diet lasts for only 2 weeks. I found that our Muscovy ducks are suitable for finishing stage at no less than 12 weeks and no more than 14 weeks.

How much and how often do I feed the ducks at fattening? I visit the duck fattening pen at least 3 times a day and when the feeding tray is empty, I just fill it up. It is also necessary to provide lots of water. For fattening, I also had to make a separate pen to keep out the other older ducks. When the fattening phase is finished, the ducks are released with all the rest.

The results of the fattening phase are very good. Previously, at 4 months of age our ducks would only have a dressed weight of about 1.6kg (male) and .8 kg (female). With the fattening phase our ducks at 4 months of age have a dressed weight of 2.4kg (male) and 1.5kg (female).

To make the scheme economical, I needed to find a cheap source of protein to feed the ducks. In our village, one of the cheapest source is fish. Depending on the season, anchovies can be as cheap as 25 pesos per kilo. Ducks at fattening would need about 20%-24% protein so I simply mix the boiled anchovies with bulk food stuffs such as chopped banana stalks, seasonal windfall fruits, corn-based or wheat-based mash or pellet feeds, etc.

If the ducks get a lot of protein and grow too quickly, their wings tend to become deformed — something called angel wing syndrome. I often get this with the duck fattening phase. Sometimes the deformity sorts itself out.

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Since ducks are a natural glutton, feeding them to fatten at younger or older ages is just not economical. There is a fattening or finishing age for ducks and that is something that you must find out for yourself by experimenting. I assume not all duck breeds or flocks are the same when it comes to fattening, this is why I suggest that people who are raising ducks for meat conduct their own experiments.

Duck Ballet

Our ducks learned to dance sometime before the drought. This is behaviour so far observed only amongst a few of the younger (less than a year old) female ducks. I associated this behaviour with the drought. Third week of May it finally started raining heavily. And the ducks are still dancing. But not as often as before.

I just feel grateful that the long dry spell has finally been broken. Over the past several weeks temperatures have been reaching a rather uncomfortable 35°C – perhaps not too bad if you live in a nipa house surrounded by trees. For now, it’s 29°C at high noon and probably will be raining later in the evening.

We Have Duck Eggs Again!

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The last clutch of duck eggs were laid in December and hatched in February. Over the next 3 months, we didn’t have any eggs. The two drakes stopped courting the duck hens — they all stopped mating. I would’ve thought that – like chickens – duck hens would continue laying eggs even without a drake, but this wasn’t the case. Just like the drought of now 4 months, the ducks expressed their own response to the dry spell.

The strange dance that some duck hens began exhibiting in January (and a couple of them continue to do so) suddenly have new meaning to me.

Then earlier this month, it started to rain, not very much, but at least, the earth gets a bit to drink! And the drake began his dance, and now, we have eggs again!

 

With that, our alpha drake has become more aggressive with regard to enlarging his territory. Here, in the video above, he has engaged one of the roosters in a fight. The drake uses his weight to pin down the rooster and his wings to beat him, while the rooster uses his sharp beak in several attempts to inflict wounds on vulnerable areas of the drake’s body such as the eyes.

It looks like a nasty fight but neither animals really get hurt. Roosters fighting are bloodier and deadlier with their sharp beaks, claws and spurs.

Looking on are 10 young ducks (of 4 months age) that have been released a month ago from an experimental fattening program I started in early January. Note that some of the ducks have “angel wing syndrome”. This wing deformity seems to appear when young ducks are fed large amounts of protein, thus motivating a growth spur much faster than their bodies could take. This leads me to think that this breed of Muscovies should start fattening/finishing at 12 weeks of age minimum instead of 10 weeks.

Later, I’ll write more about this new fattening phase program I am implementing as I am getting very good results!