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!

Cooking with Duck

Earlier this year, my sister treated us to a fantastic meal at a Cantonese restaurant in Quezon City. We ordered the duck, of course! Now if I remember correctly, this was a duck served 3 ways (or was it 4)? Anyway, the duck found in Chinese restaurants are usually the pekin duck and not the muscovy or barbary duck.

Both pekin and muscovy are domestic duck breeds. The pekin breed is descended from the mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) and the muscovy duck breed is descended from the muscovy (Cairina moschata).

The meat of the pekin duck is probably what most people are familiar with since it is the staple in many Chinese restaurants. This duck meat is quite fatty and moist and imparts a taste and flavour that is typically associated with “duck” flavour. The meat of the muscovy duck, however, is quite different. It is not as fatty and it has a flavour much closer to that of sirloin steak or beef.

Anyway, here are a few photos of the meal at the Chinese restaurant. Typically, the duck is baked and the meat is carefully carved. The meat is used to prepare a number of dishes (such as chopped and mixed with vegetables and spices, and eaten by wrapping in lettuce; or wrapped in rice paper with onion leeks and hoisin sauce), and the bones used to make soup. The idea is to use the whole duck to serve a fantastic meal.

Here is a fantastic video I found on The Lexicon of Food (below), showing how duck can be prepared from beak to butt! – nothing wasted. This looks more like muscovy duck meat to me! I love it totally – definitely a must try!

Happy New Year! 🙂

Ducks Mimic Eating Motions

Shortly after feeding the ducks this afternoon, I noticed this unusual behaviour amongst a couple of mature female ducks. These are mature egg-laying duck hens. They have just finished eating when they began to mimic the sweeping motions of feeding with their beaks. Here are two videos showing this peculiar behaviour. The second video shows the ducks stretching their necks, moving their heads upwards.

I assumed it was part of a mating ritual but the first video might dispute this, where there is a mature male duck (drake) nearby, drinking from a plastic basin, and inadvertently pushing one of the duck hens aside, a bit of a scuffle ensuing.

Do you know what this behaviour means?

Wake for a Dead Fish

This fish floated dead* in the pond so we decided to give it to the pigs. They didn’t want it. To the chickens, they didn’t want it. To the ducks, and this was their response. Yet another behaviour that we can only speculate upon. A similar behaviour occurred earlier this year, when a female duck was killed by the alpha drake, see Do Ducks Know How To Grieve.

*We have a not so large tilapia pond. Quite a number of small tilapia have appeared. I wasn’t able to catch any of the large tilapia lately because they have become smarter (and less hungry since it is chesa season and some of the fruits have fallen into the pond). As the fish population grows, the older and bigger ones die.

Providing Water for Ducks

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While chickens bathe and clean themselves by dusting with sand or dry earth, our ducks prefer a good swim. The Muscovy duck is a tropical duck. It prefers habitats with water and sheltered trees. So if you’re thinking of keeping some ducks, you’ll need to make provisions for water.

In the beginning, when we had only a pair of ducks, we managed by providing them with a basin of water. As the duck population grew, a duck pond became a necessity.

A basin of water seems to suffice for one duck.
A basin of water seems to suffice for one duck.
Duck hen with her chicks having a well-accomplished bath in a tray of water.
Duck hen with her chicks having a well-accomplished bath in a tray of water.

Recently, in addition to the duck pond, we have provided trays of water for ducklings. This is a much safer alternative for them. If they joined the larger ducks in the pond, they often get hurt and drown. Usually, the hen will accompany her ducklings to the pond for a swim. She makes sure that they get to swim only after all the other ducks have left. However, that doesn’t always guarantee the duckling will be safe from larger ducks suddenly wanting to jump into the water.

Once, I saw an adult duck using the tray. As they say, if there’s a will, there’s a way. 😉 And she looks very much satisfied with the amenity. Thanks goodness there wasn’t any ducklings in that tray!

The Ugly Duckling …

… is really a bully duckling. It was sometime in March 2015 when I noticed the behaviour of one of many ducklings, one so determined to provoke and beat up anyone it came across. I was able to capture this hilarious though troublesome behaviour on video, below. You can see the mother trying to stop the bully duckling but to no avail.

I don’t know what has happened to this duckling – whether it is still around (unlikely, since all of our ducks are not so unruly but I’m willing to accept that the duckling could’ve undergone a religious experience 😉 ). Or it could have died while still young (we’ve had high mortality rates, as the duck population exploded, mostly due to crushing by larger ducks and aggressive pecking by chickens over food, not to mention being eaten by predators such as cats, snakes, large birds and monitor lizards). Or it could’ve grown up and was made into a stew.

Luckily, as they are free-range, ducklings can get away from aggressive behaviour like this. But once ducklings are kept inside coops and there happens to be a bully duckling amongst them, then there might be some real trouble. For now, we have been keeping very young ducklings in coops to protect them from predators and crushing, as well as to give them the chance to eat and get the strength they need without competition from larger ducks and chickens. So far so good.

If we ever have a bully duckling in the coop, it would be necessary to separate that duckling from the rest. But thank goodness ducks are generally not so prone to fighting as chickens are.