Last week, as I was cleaning up the duck run...I found the first duck egg in a little nest made in the ducks' house! It was a beautiful light blue shade. My ducksitter found two additional eggs while we were out of town and this morning I found two more! That's a total of 5 eggs since last week that Fonce and Abbey have laid. Check 'em out:
For a size comparison, I grabbed a large chicken egg (white) from the fridge and held it next to the duck egg ("blue"). One duck egg = two chicken eggs when cooking/baking. The first few eggs I'm going to blow so that I can use them as decorations (learn more here about egg blowing).
With the good news, comes some less than thrilling. Of course, by now, all my ducks are sexually mature. As a result, the three boys are competing with one another and my two girls are being "overwhelmed" shall we say. With the feather nipping that occurs with such behaviors the oils get worn away, making their feathers no longer water repellant. With the cold temperatures and wet of winter...that's not good. I have a heated lamp in their duck house so I've been locking a couple of them in there for an hour or so to dry off, hopefully preening enough to reestablish their feathers water repellency. It has worked so far, but I will not be able to keep this up when I return to school. The reality that I will need to find a new home for Hugh and Sgt. Pepper, for the sake of all my ducks' well-being, is sadly sinking in. I don't know that I have an alternative...but I'm looking for one.
With an eventful summer break and then the hurried nature of the start of a new school year, I have neglected recording and reporting the development of my duck family. So, with great anticipation, I bring you new duck details! Last I posted in June, I was still incubating my new eggs. All three hatched and I managed a few Facebook posts (friends and family who follow my Facebook page can skip down for more recent duck dialogue):
June 13th--Ducklings 3 and 4 hatched during the night so I didn't get to witness them, but it made for a nice morning surprise to see two more babies in the incubator. All three have been moved to the brooder and are drying out and resting. Total count: 4 Anconas + 1 Rouen + Mama & Papa "duck" = 1 duck family! Pictures to come later...Ben and I are out for the day.
June 15th--My three new babies discover water tonight!
By the end of July we were done traveling. My last post to Facebook went like this:
July 21st--I am happy to announce I have named my older two ducks now that I'm fairly confident of their sexes! Introducing Fezzik and Fonce!
And that brings us to the present! Here is my flock as of today...
My older ducks' names (Fezzik and Fonce) were explained above in my final Facebook post, but I had yet to name the younger three. I had to wait for a while to allow their quacks to develop to determine their sexes. Because the Ancona breed came from Great Britian, I felt it appropriate to name my younger ducks accordingly. Sergeant Pepper was the first to hatch of the three. At first he was a very bold little duckling, but has morphed into a more docile, submissive baby. His black and white coloring made me think of pepper and thus his name! Abbey (as in the Beattle's Abbey Road Album) is my only other female duck. She is a very vocal young lady and has no problem putting the male ducks in their place. She was the second of the three to hatch and her coloring is chocolate. Finally, Hugh (yes, as in Hugh Laurie because I have, I don't know...an obsession with the man? And it was all too convenient that he's British!), the last to hatch of the three and the smallest in size, at least initially. I was concerned about Hugh during his early days because his brother and sister picked on him regularly. But once I got the little ones outside, Hugh emerged a different duck...an adventurer, an independent boldly forging where no duckling forged before! Ever since then he holds his own and is now the largest of my five ducks, surpassing big boy Fezzik. The little coloring he has (compared to the rest of his family) is a strange mix of blue (gray) and perhaps chocolate? His coloring is somewhat like Fezzik's back, but retains a completely white breast. Fezzik's breast is a relatively rare color (or so my duck book says) called fawn.
While a rocky transition at first, all five ducks have been living in the duck run together. It was interesting how they came to be a cohesive flock versus the older ducks constantly "discipling" the younger ducks. We had a thunderstorm come through our area one day and the thunder startled the ducks enough to make them huddle together for safety. Since then, the older ducks have stopped regularly picking on the younger which finally allowed their pecking order to be established. For those who have met my ducks, there is no question who sits at the top of the pecking order...Fonce retains that position with her faithful Fezzik just below her. The third and fourth positions are still in limbo as Abbey and Hugh seem to be of equal authority. Perhaps in adulthood one will emerge higher than the other. Lowest on the pecking order is definitely Sergeant Pepper. He does not get picked on all the time, nor does he instigate conflict. He sticks to himself and remains the shyest to take treats from my hand.
At 6-8 months, ducks reach sexual maturity. I am very concerned about this period in their development because I understand males can become very aggressive. Having three males and two females spells trouble when a ratio of 3-5 females to 1 male is the recommendation! I will have to monitor them closely to make sure everybody remains happy, otherwise I'll have to separate them. Fezzik, as the oldest male, recently started doing a weird honk/whistle thing...like he has something caught in his throat and is attempting to dislodge it. He kind of ruffles up his feathers a bit, stands tall on his feet, straightens his back and arches his neck as he does his honk/whistle thing. I was concerned so I looked it up on-line. I discovered, from other concerned duck owners, that it is a mating call! It is hysterical because it reminds me of a boy going through puberty and his voice cracks. Having learned this, I am scrutinizing Fezzik for overly aggressive behavior towards the other ducks, particularly my little girls.
Ugh! The end of a school year really sucks the life and soul outta ya...so I haven't had time to post anything about my darling ducklings. I finally found a moment to catch friends and family up!
My three eggs that have been incubating are due to hatch this weekend. I can't wait to see the little ones, especially given how much fun my two older ducklings have been. Things continue to look good...the embryos continue to develop and they move quite a bit. Tomorrow is the last day I get to candle them before they're in "lock down" prior to hatching.
The two older ducklings have been enjoying more and more time in their duck run, though they have not been permanently moved to the run yet (they are still hanging in the garage at night). Ben has to finish the electric fence before they can make the big move. They L-O-V-E their pond! Anybody who has ducks but does not give them water to play in should be locked up for cruelty to animals! Here they are with their first encounter with the pond:
As they have gotten older their sweet little duckling peeps have given way to a more adult quack. Their adult plumage is coming in too. I tried to capture a glimpse of it below, but the little suckers won't hold still! The Rouen (the black and yellow duckling) I have determined to be male. He was under the heat lamp one day and I saw the shimmer of emerald green feathering under the darker duckling feathers.
I can't believe how big my babies are getting! They celebrated Week 3 on Friday.
Update on the eggs...three of the four seem to be developing as they should. The one odd egg isn't out for the count yet, but it's usually not a good sign when an egg looks different than the others. The three that appear normal have a distinct embryo and blood vessels. Today was Day 9 for them.
It took them a while, but they eventually wandered out into the deeper end of the tub and discovered the joy that is being a duckling. Splish! Splash! in the bath!
I've been told a 2-year-old could hatch eggs with one of these bad boys! Here's to a 100% hatch rate (assuming my four new eggs are all fertile...won't know that for 7 days) or my being less than a 2-year-old in ability as a mama duck. New hatch date is June 13th.
Unfortunately only one egg hatched Friday...the other four had perished. Below is my lone Ancona (yellow) with a Rouen (black) buddy which we picked up at a feed store so that my duckling wouldn't be lonely (they're social creatures). I'm going to give things another go this week with a set of new eggs and a brand spanking new incubator which is supposed to control everything...temperature, humidity, turning, etc. Hopefully we'll have a higher success rate. In the mean time, we get to watch this little guy or gal grow up! (They're snuggled up to a teddy bear for comfort and warmth)
Egg 4/7a externally pipped yesterday evening and wasn't much further along this morning...but this little duckling was absolutely determined to hatch on time! He/she really picked up the pace and was completely free for its shell at 11:17am this morning. Below is the "play by play":
After candling all the other eggs last night, it appears that at least one is confirmed internally pipped and another close if not actually pipped (it was too hard for me to tell one way or another). 4/9, which was the egg so quick to develop at the beginning of the month, appears significantly different than the other eggs...which is not a good thing and may indicate a late death. That just leaves one more egg and I'm not sure what it's up to. All I (we) can do is cross our fingers and wait...
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those that mind don't matter
and those that matter don't mind." -Dr. Seuss