Category: Ducks

Mallard ducks

The Mallard, or Wild Duck (Anas platyrhynchos), probably the best-known and most recognizable of all ducks, is a dabbling duck which breeds throughout the world including North America, Europe, Asia, New Zealand (where it is currently the most common duck species), and Australia. It is strongly a migratory bird. It is the ancestor of all domestic ducks, and can interbred with other species of Genus Anas. This interbreeding is causing both the Mallard and rarer species of ducks to become genetically diluted. The male birds have bright green heads, while the female is light brown. It is a noisy species – the male has a nasal call, while the female has a “quack” stereotypically associated with ducks.

Mallard

Mallard drakes have bright green heads, while the female is light brown

The Mallard lives in wetlands, eats water plants or grazes. It usually nests on a river bank, but not always near water. It is highly gregarious outside of the breeding season and will form large flocks, known as a sord. Mallards form pairs only until the female lays eggs, at which time she is left by the male. The ducklings are precocial, and can swim and feed themselves on insects as soon as they hatch, although they stay near the female for protection.

ducklings

Mallard ducklings can feed themselves on insects as soon as they hatch.

Mallards are also causing severe “genetic pollution” of South Africa’s biodiversity by breeding with endemic ducks. The Mallard duck can cross breed with 63 other species and is posing a severe threat to the genetic integrity of indigenous waterfowl. The hybrids of Mallard and the Yellow-billed Duck are fertile and can produce more hybrid offspring. If this continues, only hybrids will occur and in the long term this will result in the extinction of various indigenous waterfowl.

Clutch: 8 to 13 eggs per clutch, up to 40 eggs a year over.

Incubation: 27 to 28 days

Fledgling: 50 to 60 days to.

Size: 0.9 to 1.2 kg

Mallard ducks

Brooding Ducklings

Muscovy Ducklings

Muscovy are superb mothers and protect the young form predators

Muscovies lay up to 4 clutches of eggs per year  and are superb mothers and brooders. They will protect their young from predators even if it means their own life in order for the young to escape. Keep as pair or 1 male to 3 females.

Small groups of ducklings can be brooded by broody chicken hens or Muscovies as females of most other breeds of domestic duck are very unreliable at sitting on their eggs and raising their young. If the ducklings aren’t hatched by the broody female, place them under her at night so that she will more readily accept them.

Ducklings can also be brooded artificially. Due to their rapid growth, ducklings will need heat for a shorter period of time, and floor space requirements will increase more rapidly than for chickens.

Ducklings can also be brooded artificially on absorbent litter material such as wood shavings

However, young ducklings rely on their mother for a supply of preen oil to make them waterproof, and a hen does not make as much preen oil as a duck; and an incubator makes none.

Any small building or garage or barn corner can be used as a brooding area. The brooding area should be dry, reasonably well lit and ventilated, and free from drafts. Allow ±0,05m2 of floor space per bird during the first two weeks and double the area by 4 weeks.

Cover the floor with about 15cm of absorbent litter material, such as wood shavings or chopped straw. Litter dampness is more of a problem with ducks than with chicks. Good litter management is imperative, so remove wet spots and frequently add clean, dry litter. Be sure litter is free of mould.

Muscovies lay up to 4 clutches of eggs per year and up to 21 eggs per clutch

Infrared heat lamps are a convenient source of heat for brooding small numbers of birds. Use one 250-watt lamp for 30 ducklings. Heat lamps provide radiant heat to the birds under them. Since the air isn’t heated, room temperature measurement isn’t so important.

When using hover-type brooders, brood only half as many ducklings as the rated chick capacity. Because ducklings are larger than chicks in size, it may be necessary to raise the hover ±15cm. Have the temperature at the edge of the hover at ±30°C when the ducklings arrive. Reduce it ±3°C per week.

Confine the birds to the heated area for the first 3 to 4 days. Watch the actions of the birds as a clue to their comfort. If they are too hot, they will move away from the heat. If too cold they may pile up and be noisy.

High temperatures may result in slower feathering and growth. By 4 weeks of age, the ducklings should be feathered enough to be outdoors except in extremely cold, wet weather. In some areas attention to predator control may be necessary when the ducklings are turned out.

Brooding Ducklings

Muscovy Ducks

The Muscovy Duck, (Cairina moschata), is a large duck, native to Mexico, Central and South America. Although a tropical bird, it adapts to cold conditions down to –12°C and below, without ill effects. They are the only domestic ducks not derived from mallard stock. In the wild their colouration is black and white, but domestication has produced many different colours. Muscovies are unique because of the bright red crest around their eyes and above the beak.

Their feet are equipped with strong sharp claws for grabbing tree branches and roosting – they prefer to roost in trees. They do not swim as much as others as their oil glands are under-developed compared to most ducks. When they wash, they are incredibly thorough and most of the water is dispersed over a wide area.

Muscovy has a bright red crest around the eyes and above the beak.

The only real illnesses they get as a breed other than those suffered by all breeds, is a tendency to anaemia if not allowed sufficient foraging or supplementary feeding with scraps. This is very obvious as they lose colour around the eye and become listless. This is easily rectified by supplements of meat or tinned pet food.

They’re self-dependent, better foragers than other ducks, they grow fast and they seldom get sick. Wild Muscovies feed on the roots, stems, leaves, and seeds of aquatic and terrestrial plants, including agricultural crops. They also eat small fish, reptiles, crustaceans, insects, millipedes, and termites, they are food “hoovers” and quite happily eat small vermin including mice, rats and even snakes.

Although relatively silent, the male produces a low hissing sound, and the female has a short, weak “quack.” but “chirps” and talks to the eggs as they hatch making the babies very independent as they recognize their mothers’ alarm call.

Muscovies lay up to 4 clutches of eggs per year,  and are superb mothers and brooders. They will protect the young from predators even if it means their own life in order for the young to escape. Keep as a pair or  1 male to 3 females.

When a Muscovy is crossed with other breeds, it produces a sterile offspring called a mule which is a good meat duck.

Birds reach full size in 120 days, but can be slaughtered after 90 days. The meat yield is higher than any other duck, with 50% more breast meat, which is 98% lean, and the skin has 50% less fat than other ducks.

Eggs: weigh 75g and are cream, ranging from 8 to 21 eggs per clutch, up to 195 eggs a year over a 40-week season. They’ll nest three or four times during the season, hatching up to 20 ducklings a time.

Incubation: 35/36 days maturity, not the 28 for most ducks

Uses: fine down, meat (fine texture, very little fat, and a unique and delicious flavour), foie gras and eggs.

Size: Drakes – 4.5 to 6.5 kg, Ducks – 2.2 to 4.5 kg. Average drake dressed weight – 3kg

Muscovy Ducks