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New to ducks - some questions about Muscovies

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Hello!

 

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
post #2 of 10
When possible, could you post a picture? Look for the curled tail feather too!
post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 

I will try to get a picture tonight.  Any advice on the rest of it?

post #4 of 10
Thread Starter 

Best pictures I could get.  The probably-drake is at the front of the first two pictures and at the back of the third. I think he's a boy, I got a good look at his legs tonight and they're tree trunks.  Any guesses as to their approximate ages would be appreciated.

 

 

 

post #5 of 10
He does look like a male. He is really big...but most male ducks have curled tail feather
post #6 of 10

None of my Muscovy drakes have curled tail feathers either.  I would agree that the white and black looks like a drake.  As far as egg laying, it sounds like the birds are still a bit stressed, which will affect their normal behaviors.  Give it time.  We added 10 to our flock in January and only a couple of the ducks have settled in enough to lay eggs.  You're on the right track with giving them a place to grow accustomed to and to feel secure in their surroundings.  I think most animals instinct is much better than ours. Your ducks do look to be young, probably a year or close to a year old.  But that's coming from a very inexperienced eye when it comes to ducks.  We just got our first few last July.  But what we've learned in less than a year... And learning continues to take place every single day.  I think once they get used to the area you've set up for them and get comfortable with you and any others who feed / protect, they'll start laying.  Patience; easier said than done.

 

Cheers and congrats on your new additions!!!

 

Troy & Tina

post #7 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by brookesducks View Post

He does look like a male. He is really big...but most male ducks have curled tail feather

 

I believe it is only drakes from the mallard derived breeds that have the curled tail feather. 

post #8 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by bh1duck View Post

I believe it is only drakes from the mallard derived breeds that have the curled tail feather. 
are black Indian runner ducks derived from the mallard? He has a curled feather too
post #9 of 10
Thread Starter 

He does not have a curled tail feather and I have read both yes and no about muscovies having that.  So I'm not sure!  But I'm assuming that he's a boy.

 

I will definitely give them time to settle in before expecting eggs, I just would have assumed that if they were a year old they would have begun to lay in their previous home.  Oh well, they will have a good start now.

 

Are ducks like chickens in that I should be providing them with any extra calcium via oyster shells or something?

post #10 of 10

I set out a container, old pie pan, with oyster shell in it for the ducks.  I never see any of them getting into it, but it gradually goes away.  So, someone is taking her fair share.  Drakes will leave it alone, they know better than we do.  As far as sharing space, I have no idea!  I've got eggs being laid all over the place and have tried to relocate them for the girls that are laying, but none of them are broody and not sure at this stage any of them will.  We're almost to the point that I hate to keep wasting eggs and this weekend we'll probably just start picking them up and eating them.  Those that have been laid, I'll leave them out a while longer to see if any of the girls decides to settle down and hatch a clutch.  They are all just shy of a year old right now, so this first year may be a waste.  But we're the eternal optimist and continue to think good positive thoughts.

 

Troy & Tina

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