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Bad Experience with Broody Muscovies

 
Posts: 13
Location: Cascade Foothills, Washington
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Hi Everyone,
I wanted to share a bad experience I'm having - maybe it will help someone else, and maybe it will help me feel better to share what's happened, as well as help me get the right lessons from it for next time.

So I have three muscovy ducks that went broody this spring - Ice Cream, Frostina, and Baba Yaga. I'll call them Duck A, B, and C, in that order so I don't have to type the names out a hundred times.

Duck A went broody on 15 eggs first, then B followed along about a week later with 4 eggs. (she's been half-assing it all along and I'm most mad at her) Duck C started sitting on 19 eggs about two weeks after that.

Everything was going great during sitting, they were very consistent, and I was candling every few days and fascinated with the process. About 5 days ago A's babies started hatching, right on time, and I was really excited, but that's when the chaos started. All 15 hatched, and sort of scattered themselves among the other broody ducks. I felt like that was fine, as long as they were warm, I didn't mind them sharing moms. But it seemed to throw off the other ducks' cycles, especially B. It didn't help that 10 babies followed A outside a day later, and the other 5 stayed inside. I started seeing B out of her nest a lot - she'd be sitting ON C, or crammed in A's nest with her, or just outside for really long amounts of time. One morning I went down to check on everything, and she had clearly been out of her nest for a long time - her eggs were completely cold, and when I checked them, one had actually started hatching, so it was really upsetting that she wasn't on them. I decided to move them to Duck C's nest, since she seemed more committed to her 19 eggs. B then started sitting with C full-time, and I thought it might be a good idea to expand her nest a little since there were now 23 eggs and 2 ducks in it - I took the divider out between them, since the boxes are a little small already. Things seemed ok for maybe a day, but then the eggs got really spread out, and it seems that both B and C have given up on them. The babies are with A full-time now, and B's eggs have not hatched. I have an incubator on the way, but I think it's too late for all 23 eggs now, and I really regret not having one on hand before now. I'll put them in the incubator when it gets here and give them a week or so, but I have very little confidence I'll get any to hatch.

So here's the things I think I did wrong:
1. I should have taken Duck B's eggs as soon as she started getting weird and put them in an incubator. I'm not experienced enough to recognize a 'bad mom' duck, but I think this is it.
2. I should not have added Duck B's eggs to Duck C's nest, nor should I have 'expanded' her nest. I think Duck C now feels that her nest has been destroyed, and typing that out makes me feel really dumb. :(
3. I should have had an incubator on hand for anything like this. I'm fairly new to ducks, and had heard that muscovies are really good moms, so it didn't occur to me that Duck B would get all weird.

Questions I have:
1. Is this normal that other broody ducks (or chickens etc) get their cycle a little mixed up when other moms hatch their babies? Will they typically settle down after the excitement?
2. What are some warning signs of a bad mom? I don't know the pedigree of these ducks. A is one I raised from a duckling last year and she's been great, but B and C are from Craigslist that I bought as adults to increase my genetic diversity and they've always been a little janky.
3. Anything else I did wrong here?

Thanks for reading, and your replies. Some hard lessons have been learned this year, and I hope to be a better duck-grandparent next year!
 
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I'm sorry for your struggles - stuff like that is part of the (often heartbreaking) learning curve... I don't know about ducks, but with chickens, it tends to be best to separate the broodies. I had a been go broody, last year. I separated her, and she was doing wonderfully, and about 2 weeks into her clutch of fake eggs, another went broody, but I didn't have a second isolation nest box. Then, we ended up with a snake in a nesting box near the 2nd broody, and she freaked. It was too late to cancel the order, but she never went back to the best, and I had an order of ducklings on the way, that I then had to raise. In the meantime, the isolated one still did great, and raised a lovely little bunch of hens, for me. She just finished sitting on another batch of eggs, last week and is now very happily raising the next generation- mixed, this time, so I can stop ordering and worrying over timing shipments, lol.
 
Bartholomew Olson
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Location: Cascade Foothills, Washington
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I wanted to share two more things for future reference of other struggling duck owners -

I was just down to clean out the nest - they haven't been on the eggs all day, so I gave them a sad little mass grave. :( Despite the incubator coming, I think these have been fully deserted.
But upon cleaning out the eggs, I found the missing chick that disappeared yesterday - poor little guy had gotten squashed under the eggs. So all the more reason to keep the chicks out of other broody hen's nests. They don't seem to keep out from underfoot very well, and I'm sure they can die very quickly if an egg traps them. I'm also sure that's part of the reason that nest started to become abandoned, I don't think they appreciate having that under the eggs, so I had a lot going against me there in terms of getting the other broody ducks back on their eggs.

But I wanted to share something I felt I did right! The other day I had gone down to check on them, and the mom and babies were out on the pond. I checked the shed, and one duckling had gotten left behind in the nest - it was laying flat on it's front, and seemed barely alive. It's eyes were open, and it was tossing its head back and breathing very laboriously, kind of like it was having a seizure. I believe it was unconscious, and that it was really close to death. I warmed it up in my hands for a while, then started getting water in its bill while it was open - I added some food to water, and started getting that inside it as well, and it seemed to be going down, albeit very slowly. Over the course of 2 hours I was able to nurse it back to health. It slept for a while, then pooped what was probably it's first poop (it had just hatched the night before) right on my coffee table lol. Once it started peeping and seemed able to move around, I took it back down and gave it to the good mom. It seemed a little runty, but now I can't tell it from the other ducklings; everyone seems to be getting around really well. So if you've got one that's still breathing, give it a chance!
 
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I’m generalizing about fowl, brooding and chicks/ducklings. They lay eggs for awhile until they think they have enough, then commence sitting. They can’t count. Some will brood a rock, a golf ball another species eggs or nothing at all. Once they begin to sit, they sit until a baby appears plus two days, at which point, the yolk sac has been absorbed by the first hatchlings and they need food and water. This necessitates leaving the nest, abandoning the late bloomers. If you put chicks under a hen sitting on nothing, she will sit in her nest for two more days waiting for other non-existent eggs to hatch, then leave with her chicks.
Your ducks were too close together. When ducklings appeared, they started their count down. When the ducklings went with A, they started sitting again, but then ducklings came back, so no need to sit. Next year, let the ducks sit near each other if they started sitting the same day. If not, separate the nests and block them off so ducklings from one can’t get to another nest. Large dog crates work with netting hung or cardboard woven at the base to prevent ducklings escaping.
Too many eggs, IMO. Let them sit 12-15 max. Mark them with marker and take out latecomers to eat or hatch yourself. Candling is fun but a bit disruptive. Twice is plenty at day 10 from commencement and day 17, if you must, but not necessary. Take out duds and bury them with a plant as fertilizer.
Be careful letting ducklings on a pond. Large mouth bass and snapping turtles make a quick meal of babies.
Have fun with your babies and take lots of pictures. They grow up so fast!
 
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