I just picked up four Muscovy ducks yesterday. I am new to ducks but have kept chickens for a few years now. I have done some research but have a few questions that seem to be more difficult to answer so I thought I'd pose them here.
Basically, I want to start a small scale meat flock mostly to fill my own freezer and maybe sell a few to the neighbors. I have ponds and slugs all over my property so ducks seemed like a natural, low maintenance choice (lower maintenance than raising broilers every year I hope).
The ducks I got yesterday were advertised as "one year old" but I suspect they are a fair bit younger than that as the ducks are not yet laying and the probable-drake does not have significant red goobers on his face yet. Which brings me to my first question:
1. the guy I bought him from was "pretty sure" he was a drake and to me he looks like it too; he's bigger than the ducks and when I put them in the crate to bring home, he stood protectively in front of them (while they faced back) and ruffled up his shoulder and head feathers (no obvious crest yet). My instinct is that this is drake-y behaviour but I hope I don't have four ducks. Thoughts? I don't have a good picture since it was dark when I got them home last night and I had to work today.
2. As mentioned, I'm assuming they are younger than advertised since I'd expect that they'd be laying by now if they were a full year but the seller said that "the light wasn't right yet." My chickens are laying like crazy right now and it's nearly easter so this seems like weak reasoning. On the other hand, they were in pretty poor conditions and in a very dark, shaded, enclosed and sodden pen at the seller's place so I suppose it's possible they hadn't gotten enough sunlight to start their production. Is this crazy? Or is it more likely they were hatched at the end of last summer making them about 6 months old (I'm sure he had many chicks from different clutches)? At what age will they begin laying?
3. I have refurbished an old dog house in an old dog run for them for the short term to keep them safe from predators while they are learning the lay of the land here. My intention is to close them up in a shed at night and let them free range during the day eventually but for now, I want them to get used to a bit more freedom gradually and also this way I can get to know their habits a bit better. My most concerning predator is mink - those of you who deal with mink in your areas, are your birds able to safely free range if they are closed up at night? I've lost too many chickens over the years :(
4. Once I move the ducks to the other shed, I intend to use the old dog house as a "maternity ward" of sorts since I've read that the mama ducks need to be kept separate with their ducklings to prevent the drake from killing the babies. Can more than one duck and duckling group be kept together in the same area once the babies are hatched or will I need more than one of these set ups? How old do ducklings need to be before they can be returned to the main flock?
Information is much appreciated. I'm excited, these ducks are beautiful and I'm looking forward to getting to know them.
Edited by Skcup - 3/14/16 at 3:36pm