something stripped all the feathers off my ducks back!!

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by Trent Hardy, Sep 26, 2014.

  1. Trent Hardy

    Trent Hardy Out Of The Brooder

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    Jul 30, 2014
    Newfoundland, Ca
    Hi Everyone,
    I'm wondering if anyone has encountered an animal that would pull all the feathers off of the back of a young adult muscovy? As an FYI, here is the back story:

    We live on the Avalon Penninsula in Newfoundland and keep a small flock of muscovies in our back yard which we started this year. Our flock as of a couple of days ago consisted of:
    1 mature drake
    2 mature hens
    3 young adults (hatched back in July - 2 hens and a drake)
    5 1 week old ducklings

    We keep our ducks in a pen approximely 30'x30'. It is constructed of wood fencing and 2" chicken wire. Honestly it is not really secure with regards to rodents as we never fully surrounded it with chicken wire on the bottom. We have noticed rodent holes under the fencing all summer, but were not overly concerned about it as our pen is back a good ways from any houses, and we just figured rats would only eat the grain. It is, however, realtively secure from most other predators on the island (Newfoundland is fortunate in that we don't have racoons or skunks). We have a large (8' high) fence all around our backyard, as well as two dogs that spend a lot of time out there, and the duck pen has netting put over top to discourage birds (crows, hawks etc) from entering.

    About two days ago, I got home from work and noticed that one of the ducklings had gone missing. We had heard that rats would take ducklings, but had never been too worried as there was always lots of grain around. But since this happend, we decided to try and intall chicken wire all around. Did that, then got up the next morning and another duckling was missing (2 down in 16 hours!!). I did find a hole that had been dug under the fencing, so I still figured a rat must be preying on the young ones.

    So, with this in mind, I decided to move the ducklings into a secure rabbit pen we also have. I caught the three remaining ducklings, then went back for the mom. However, I lost track of which of the hens was the mom, so, I had to catch them both. At this point, I figured that everyone should be good. The young ducklings were in a secure cage and the drake and three young adults are large enough to take care of themselves.

    I went off to work figuring it was all good - wrong!!!! I got back from work and while the ducks housed in the rabbit pen were fine, the original pen with the big drake and young adult ducs looked like a slaugher house. All four ducks were huddled in their houses. The adult drake had all of his flight feathers pulled out, and one of the young hens was dead. She had all the feathers stripped off of her back, but otherwise looked unharmed. Another young hen appeared to have gotten off relatively unharmed, but the third (a young drake) seems to have sustained similar injuries. A large portion of his feathers have been stripped from his back, as well as all his tail feathers (we're still not sure if he'll recover, but is moving around and taking food).

    I'm wondering, has anyone encountered this before? Below is a list of possibilities as well as my thoughts on them:

    1) Rats - we defintely have rats around the area, and they were my main suspect for the young ducklings, but would a rat actually try to take on a healthy adult muscovy?

    2) Weasel - small enough to get in though the same openings as a rat, and a pretty saveage predator

    3) The ducks themselves - I wonder would the stress I caused by removing the young ducklings as well as the two adult hens cause the remaining birds to do this kind of a thing to one another?

    4) We have dogs, and the younger one has figured out that she can with a bit of effort get in the pen, but she has usually just chased them around a bit and then left off. Would a dog just pin a bird down and pluck it's feathers, then let it go?

    Also, I have my thoughts on other predators that one may encounter in my area.

    1) Fox - I can't imagine a fox would do this. My understanding is it would carry off a bird and that'd be it. Also, we have a high fence and two large dogs that patrol the yard

    2) Mink - we have lots of these around, and I do know they're known as one of the worst culprits, but my understanding is mink will attcke the throat of a bird. Also, no smell when I arrived there

    3) Birds (ie crows, seagulls, hawks, owls) - we have a net put over the entire pen. No way for a bird to enter

    4)Stray cats - lots of these around, but no claw marks on the dead bird.

    Any thoughts/experiences with this type of thing would be appreciated. We have since this incident re-located the three surviving ducks to another part of the yard in a smaller, but much more secure pen. I have set traps in the other pen but have yet to catch anything. Have a good one.
     
  2. farm316

    farm316 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jul 28, 2014
    Is it easy to get into the adults coop?? What type of latch can you upload pic of your whole coop for the ducks.

    We had a weasel or a raccoon pull of one of our chickens tail feathers
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2014
  3. Ol Grey Mare

    Ol Grey Mare One egg shy of a full carton. ..... Premium Member

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    My Coop
    I would take rats, the other ducks and stray cats off the list of suspects given the damages. The dog is a strong suspect, imo, especially given a history of having entered the pen and harassed them before -- escalation is natural, so the fact that there has not been actual contact and damage before means little. What, if any, changes and improvements were made after the previous encounters where the dog made entry to the pen?
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2014
  4. Trent Hardy

    Trent Hardy Out Of The Brooder

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    Jul 30, 2014
    Newfoundland, Ca
    Yeah, as I said, the original pen is not overly secure. We don't shut them in overnight or anything. They just overnight in a few low shelters made from plyboard. The walls of the pen are a combination of wood plank fencing (~1" spacing) and chicken wire (1" and 2"). Sorry but I don't have any pictures to upload. The entrance is just a swinging door with a hook latch. We don't have raccoons in Newfoundland, but a weasel is definitely one of our main suspects. Apparently small enough to squeeze into a <1" hole and savage little buggers besides. I didn't smell any musk when I went down there though....
     
  5. Trent Hardy

    Trent Hardy Out Of The Brooder

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    Jul 30, 2014
    Newfoundland, Ca
    Ok, thanks. The only thing about the dog is she had absoluetly no blood or feathers on her (forgot to mention that). She's a Bernese mountain dog, so if you're not familar with the breed, they have a big white chest, that I would expect to get a bit stained up. The ducks themselves looked like they'd been through a battle - the big drake especially who had blood all over his back (I assume from having those big flight feathers ripped out.)

    When we lost our first duckling, we assumed it was a rat and so we tried lining the lower part of the pen walls with 1" chicken wire, coming out along the ground ~6" to help prevent burrowing. However, we did notice that something still did get underneath that night, and that same night we lost another duckling. I didn't make any real improvements to the door, as I assumed the animal was entering from somewhere off our property.
     
  6. farm316

    farm316 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Yeah if you have a bermese mtn and you see nothing on the pure white coat then your dog is off the list. Your drake on the other hand could've gotten into a fight with one of his females or something, But that wouldn't be the clue for the feathers ripped out. Do they free-rang?? And you also said that you don't lock them up every night?? If you don't lock them up every night then there are going to be animals attacking your ducks. anyway, I would consider Weasels or rats. We have weasels down here in FL,
     
  7. Trent Hardy

    Trent Hardy Out Of The Brooder

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    Jul 30, 2014
    Newfoundland, Ca
    Yup it's definitely a mystery :). As for your question on locking them up, nope we've never bothered. A lot of the larger nusiance critters that many people encounter (i.e. skunks, and raccoons) do not live in Newfoundland. Until only recently, we didn't even have coyotes, but they (if they're about) and foxes, dogs, and stray cats are generally discouraged by the presence of a 8' high fence surrounding our back yard and the two 100+ pound dogs that tend to be hanging out back there day and night :)

    We have our ducks in a ~30'x30" enclosure in our back yard, in which I guess you could say they free-range. It has a net covering to discourage airborne predators - of which there are quite a few ( crows, seagulls, hawks, owls, and bald eagles). I have been pretty concerned all along about predation from some of the smaller mammals including mink, weasel, and rats, but I figured that rats would just focus on the grain instead of trying to tackle a 15 pound (?) bird, and I haven't seen (or smelled) any sign of mink or weasel in the area.

    I've got traps set, so we'll see I guess.
     
  8. fultonfamily

    fultonfamily Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 25, 2014
    We had a duck pull alot of feathers off the other ducks back. My daughter got 2 ducklings, they were both boys. When they got older they would pull feathers off each other, then 1 got way worse, the other would end up bleeeding and got a bald patch, He also got more aggressive towards us, He would latch onto my dogs tail and get pulled around and pull his hair out too. We ended up giving him away and got a female welsh harlequin. They did pull some feathers off each other at first but noe it seems more like grooming of each other. So depending on the scene there, its possible the stress caused the ducks to turn on each other. Perhaps if so, maybe they will work it out now that the change is somewhat normal? I would assume if they were watched, you would see sign of them fighting amongst themselves. Then you could rule that out. good luck, Im curios to see what you find out.
     
  9. Trent Hardy

    Trent Hardy Out Of The Brooder

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    Jul 30, 2014
    Newfoundland, Ca
    Yeah, we had a friend with a good deal of experience with ducks drop up. She believes that the larger drake we have is the culprit. While in the past we had noted he would make a few small nips at other ducks, it was never that bad. Maybe the added stress of having the other hens removed from the pen made him flip out :). I have caught nothing in our traps except a mouse, but did locate a rat den under an old tree stump. On the positive side, we have constructed a new pen for our birds - got the whole thing lined with chicken wire and buried it a few inches below the surface. So they should be secure for the winter. All the ducks were super excited when we re-united them, and we have thus far had no further losses. One bird is still on the mend, and spends quite a bit of time lying down, but he is eating and seems alert, so we'll see.
     
  10. Trent Hardy

    Trent Hardy Out Of The Brooder

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    Jul 30, 2014
    Newfoundland, Ca
    Well, we caught the rat that was killing our ducklings. He managed to get another one before we did though. So that's 4 birds lost to one rat. Gonna have to go nuts with the chicken wire.
     

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