Hmmm so it helps if you press Publish if you want people to read what you wrote eh? ohhhh riiiight… geeez… This has been sitting in drafts without me being aware of it… blond moment! Lets get started then!
So on the 9th of January Mummy and her 9 babies appeared in the carport emerging from the nest under the house. I’m assuming that they were a day or so old by that time as it was the first time I’d seen her but I’m taking the 9th as their birthday. 9 on the 9th. They all looked identical except for one which had a slightly lighter colouring. I initially had a mini freak out not knowing what to do or what to feed them how to protect them etc as I hadn’t really prepared for their arrival (bad grandma I know!). In the grand scheme of things there’s not much I can do apart from give them food and water as I can’t keep them in the coop (Mum always flies out if I’m late in the morning) and I’m not home all day to watch over them so I just had to trust Mum to take care of them and let nature do the rest as if they were ducks in the wild. And they’re thriving! She’d taught them to chase and eat flies after the first week and they’d spend most of the day out foraging in the grass. I got some duckling crumbles for morning and evening feeds and they loved getting the veggies in with the evening feed (which I usually do for the older ducks). They LOVE peas! Peas are like crack to these lil fellas. It took a while for Mummy to trust me near her babies as she’d hiss at me if I got too close but she slowly worked out that I wasn’t going to hurt them and now I can even touch them without her getting narky. In fact I had to protect them from Dad at feeding time as he’d peck at them to get some of their food so I started feeding them in two separate areas which kinda solved the problem. He still pecks at them a bit when I go to let them out of the coop in the morning but it’s probably cuz he’s a cranky ole bugger.
(this was the first day she brought them out and everyone was allowed to meet them. I don’t normally feed them in the carport but she looked so tired and hungry and I wasn’t sure if she was going to keep them under the house or in the coop so put food and water out for her and the babies there – which of course the others tried to gobble up! Click to enlarge)
One weekend when they were about two weeks old I heard a massive commotion outside and went to have a look what was going on only to spy a giant goanna in my flower bed with one of the babies in its mouth 😦 It was already dead and the goanna was in the process of trying to swallow it whole. So sad. The drake and the other two gals were all puffed up and vibrating at the goanna so I think they’d been attacking it before realising it was too late. I couldn’t look away while the goanna was eating it – I was fascinated, horrified and so sad at the same time. A very odd emotion. I had expected snakes or foxes or even the eagles that fly around the area but hadn’t even considered goannas.
(the babies at feeding time, still quite yellow and little feathers just starting to appear. click to enlarge)
Unfortunately he worked out that he was on to a good thing and about 4 days later I came home to find another one missing from the brood. And then about another 4-5 days later another one was missing by the time I got home from work. When I went to herd them all down to their coop for the evening lockup they were all acting really weird and I couldn’t really get them down there so I went to investigate only to find scattered bits of duckling in the coop yard. So horrible. I thought maybe it was cats or foxes as the goanna had been eating them whole. I had to pick up all the pieces and sweep out the yard before I could get the family to go anywhere near the coop. Poor traumatised things I can imagine. That one was the lighter coloured duckling who kinda was my favourite for being the oddball. I was really dying to know what colour it would have turned out to be.
(starting to get a little paler as more feathers come in, love their fuzzy faces and black leggings! click to enlarge)
Then about a week later, again on the weekend, I could hear this banging noise on my water tanks and the ducks making a ruckus so went to the windows overlooking the tanks to spy the goanna with a dead duckling in its mouth, thrashing about while Mummy was attacking it. Not much I could do but let it eat it, such a terrible helpless feeling.
So I’m down to 5 from the original 9 now. They’re 6 and a bit weeks old now and getting so big! Mr Goanna has taken 4 but I think they’ve gotten too big for him so he hasn’t taken one for a couple of weeks now but he’s got a new snack… more on that in a sec. They’ve started getting their feathers and are starting to lose the baby fuzz. My babies are growing up *sniff*. I haven’t wanted to pick them up but they will let me stroke their fuzzy rumps with a finger while they’re distracted and eating. Their beaks have started fading from the full black and now have whitish tips and are starting to get pink around the edges where their caruncles will grow. They still look like they have leg warmers on as most of them have black legs and yellow feet. I think I have 2 boys and 3 girls. They say you can tell by body size and also the size and shape of their legs but I won’t know for sure for a while.
(they’ve lost all the baby yellow fuzz and only just have a bit left on their heads and backs, beaks starting to turn pink at the edges)
One thing I’ve decided through all of this is that I’m getting rid of all of them. My stepbrother has a farm about 2 hours away from me and he’s willing to take the lot. It’s a hard decision but I really only ever wanted chickens and have a plan for the orchard enclosure etc and there’s no way I could do that with these ducks as they’re used to having free reign of the entire place and would just fly out all the time. It breaks my heart to part with the babies but I’ll still be able to see them grow up a bit as my brother has promised to email me photo updates. I waaaas kinda sposed to already have handed them over to my brother but I’ve been delaying it because I wanted to see what colour the babies turn out. And I just love how they come RUNNING up to greet me, lil wing stumps flapping, peeping loudly, every time I go outside. Fair enough they think I have food for them but it’s just so damn cute and warms my heart. They will probably be going this weekend though. Which leaves me with another problem…..
(Dad the doofus lookin cranky but he’s not, that’s Joan in the background. Mum on a foggy morning and one of the last family portraits I have)
The broody biatch Maisie, who has gone broody 6 times previously, has worked out that laying eggs under the house in the same spot as Mummy is the clever thing to do if you want your own babies didn’t she. She’s been sitting on the eggs for just over 2 weeks so I’m going to have to go through all of this all over again! Not to mention that it’s starting to get a bit colder now so it’s not great timing. I haven’t spoken to my brother about whether he’s willing to take her and the new ducklings as well as he’s already agreeing to a flock of 8 (9 if she wasn’t broody) and then to have another adult and however many babies…. And I worry about the new mum coping without the drake around for protection for the babies. That’s if any ever hatch because ole Mr Goanna has started eating the eggs that she’s sitting on!
This last weekend I was cleaning the house when I heard bumping noises coming from under the house on her side of the house and raced out to find out what was going on. Unfortunately Muscovies are really curious birds and the whole family were all heading up to that part of the house to also have a look, Mummy and babies included. Maisie was attacking the goanna under the house but I’m pretty sure it got one of her eggs as it’s an easy feed. So I can only assume that the ducklings are safe for the time being as eggs are an easier meal to catch than lil growing ducklings. Just makes me wonder if there will be any left at hatching time as I’m sure he’ll be back for takeaway when he’s hungry again. In a way it would be doing me a favour as I can just pack Maisie up in a cat cage and take her to my brother’s farm. I’m just going to have to play it by ear and see what happens. The third option is to just catch her when she comes out and leave the eggs to cool but I’m not sure I could do that… Will just have to see what my brother says about taking more babies on!
So all of that was written about 2 weeks ago… And just to keep you updated, two weeks ago today a fox took one of the babies and left a massive pile of feathers and a mangled corpse by the front gate so I rang my brother straight away and he came that Saturday to collect them. Initially I thought it was Maisie as it was early in the morning and thought it must have got her in the night but on closer inspection (and a check under the house) I discovered it was a baby. Trying to catch them was a bit of a challenge as they’re not hand reared birds! But they’ve settled in nicely at his farm and are all doing well. Maisie is still on her eggs under my house and I’m expecting them to appear any day now if Mr Goanna has left her any. I worry about her and the new babies safety without the rest of the flock around but I have found a new home for them all. I’ll probably wait a week after they first appear and then get the new owner to come out to collect them. I’m going to start feeding them in a cardboard box in the coop when they appear so that hopefully I can just scoop them all up one morning and make it easier and less stressful for them when it comes to moving day. Not quite sure how else to do it but that’s Plan A.
I miss the babies a lot, they didn’t make much noise but the place feels a lot quieter without them. It’s been a week and a half since they left and they’ve left quite a gap. Which I’ll be replacing with chickens but more on that later 🙂 My brain has been buzzing this week but I’m probably giving you eyestrain with this epic tale so I’ll pop it all in the next post (and remember to press Publish this time!!)