Need some Advice for Moscovy hen with ducklings

s.hamptongardener(7b)May 18, 2011

Hi. I've never posted to this forum, I'm more of a back yard gardener. So any advice from people who have moscovies would be appreciated.

My neighbor got some ducks, mostly big black and white adult Moscovies, clipped wings according to him. The smallest two brown ones could still fly and started visiting our yard. Soon their was one brown duck and eggs. Then 12 eggs deep under our deck. Then 10 ducklings.

In my attempt at keeping the flock in our yard (the neighbor got more ducks and another dog) I got Storey's guide to raising ducks, skimmed through it, and got a few things confused. He says to leave natural mothers alone as much as possible and when raising in a brooder make sure litter is clean and changed often. I got it confused and changed out the nest litter, re-read it and put the old nest material back. The mother duck won't go back to the nest and is nesting in the middle of the grass in our yard...predator alley.

Any way to convince her to go back to the nest or at least under the deck? Do I need to let nature take it's course or completely commit by penning her up? We do not have a pen set up because I was debating if I really want to try raising Moscovies in such a suburban neighborhood. We have kept fresh water in different size containers near the deck where they have been the whole nesting time, some corn and chopped greens. She's doing pretty well keeping them dry and teaching them to forage I just want to encourage better night time shelter.

Thanks for any advice!


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I'm not convinced she would have stayed in the nest for very much longer, anyways. They have to go out foraging, on clean ground where there is no poop, this the mother knows.

She may actually feel safer out in the open where she can keep watch on what predator (hawk, cat, dog, snakes, etc>) may try after the chicks.

You can leave her to taking care of the ducklings, and possibly watch them dissapear 1 by 1 (or more) (had this happen in the pond!) or lock them up. If you choose to do this, put some items out for them to get under and around (a kids plastic table, lawn furnature, anything they can get around/behind/and scatter under if attacked.

If you lock them up, it must be very small, strong wire. 1/2 x 1/2 hardwire cloth should do it. Do not use chicken wire it may not be strong enough for say, a raccoon. Wire top, bottom, and sides. Then, don't forget to wire the door closed (weasles) can schimmy in the side of the door (had this happen, too!) and kill them all. Move the pen daily and be sure to supply shade, water, and food. Ideas for a cheap, inexpensive enclosure would be 2 wooden pallets, stood up teepee style, nailed or wired together, then hardwire cloth wound ALL the way around it so nothing can get in/dig in/crawl in. I'd keep them contained until at least 2 weeks unless supervised by you. Even then, you may lose some but at least they have a chance being older.

Also, as a side note, muscovies need more protein than ducks. Provide some extra protein in their diet (worms are good) if they don't have any available. They can become splay legged if they are deficient in protein.

Good luck, ducklings are sure fun to watch!

    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 8:07PM
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Thanks Brendasue. I feel a lot better hearing I didn't completely mess-up the natural order of things.

I think I'm going to leave them free range. We recounted tonight and she may have all ten. They seem to be moving much quicker and getting bigger. She is staying closer to the upper yard and deck and away from the creek where more predators venture. We have several kids items and I did notice they were hiding under them this afternoon. I got unmedicated fowl starter and put out a pool (in ramp and out ramp) that I'll fill tomorrow. Hopefully leaving them to free range in the garden and compost they'll get enough protein but I can add some worms to the starter as well.

Thanks again. I'll probably be back in a few weeks asking if anyone has suggestions on encouraging nesting areas for Muscovies.


    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 10:04PM
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I should have heeded your advice to pen. We lost all ten ducklings at once last night. The momma hen seems pretty distraught.

But a learned a few things and won't make those mistakes again!


    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 9:26AM
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I'm so very sorry Melissa.

Those babies are so vulnerable it's amazing any survive in the wild. If you can catch mama, I'd check her over for wounds. Move her feathers, actively looking for hidden wounds (especially around the neck & breast) the feathers may be covering them.

She may have been surprised, or (hopefully) jumped out of the way just in time. You don't want to lose her too from infection or fly strike in a week or so.

Again I'm sorry for what happened.


    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 5:25PM
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Okay, I'll try tomorrow to catcher her. My first instinct is she is flying well so she must be okay but since I was soooo completely wrong last time I'll shut up and catch the duck. I was thinking a sheet thrown over her might work. Any input on catching her would be appreciated as well.


    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 9:02PM
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I wouldn't do the sheet on the first try. The sheet will be slow falling to the ground offering her ample chance for escape, and by doing that she will distrust you for the next try.

Try using a kennel of some sort. Feed her when she's there (bread, chips?, save any worms you have for later or teasers, see below) making a trail towards the kennel. Be patient, she probably won't go in on the first try. Trail her towards the kennel. Make sure something tasty is inside the kennel (like wiggly worms! They love worms!). Have her follow the trail. Keep doing this trail thing until she goes in the kennel for the worms. Do this several times until you can be close enough to close the kennel on her.

Or with some help, try to corner her under your deck, but again if you fail she will be harder to catch.

She may not have any wounds, but if she does you may not notice them. Birds in my experience are fairly fragile. A couple of years ago one of our visiting canada goose goslings was attacked by something, we could see the baby fuzz all out of alignment so we knew he was hurt. Couldn't catch him....until he was on deaths door, parents rejected and abandoned him, and it was too late for us to do anything. He died. Don't want to scare you or anything just trying to make you aware wounds sometimes are not visible at first.

Good luck.


    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 9:36PM
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Forgot to mention, Muscovy feet have claws. Gently grab a wing near where it connects to the body, then grab the other wing. She will probably try to swing around and scratch you.

If you can't do that, GENTLY but firmly catch her by the neck, push her down while you quickly grab her wing then other wing.

Hold both wings with her back to you, her feet sticking away from you. Hold her firmly, set her down while you check her out.

Those claws can tear your forearm (or your face!) pretty good if you aren't careful & hold her properly. They can pinch with their beak, too, but it's not as bad as those claws.

Added for those newbies to Muscovies: Generally speaking muscovies are a nice breed, curious & fairly friendly creatures. They make nice pets you just should know how to handle them.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 9:47PM
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This is going to take me a little while to get organized. I'll let you know how I do with operation "Catch Quackles"

Thanks again for the help. I really hope she is okay, she's a good duck from what I can see. She just needs a better/more experienced owners...maybe by the end of this that will be me.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 10:14PM
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