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Posts Tagged ‘Muscovies’

Pond Nazi

pond nazi fences free rangers

You were expecting a picture of a pond, perhaps.  Yes, we have a pond – in fact, we have two up on the pastures.  And we have ducks; thirteen now, soon to be a smaller number; Muscovies, as you might be able to tell by the prominent red caruncles around their eyes in the photo above.

You would think that ducks and ponds go together.  In fact, they do, but to a fault.  The fault is, once the ducks make it to the pond, that’s all they ever want to do; that’s the only place they ever want to be.  They camp on the pond.  It’s ducky pond camp.  They trample and poop around the edge, and swim off into the middle whenever I approach.  They won’t get out of the pond and go back to their hooch in the evening.  The pond, for the ducks, is Nirvana.

But it’s not where I want them to be.  Paddling around the little pond all day and sleeping on it unprotected from predators, is not what I’m paying them to do.  They’re tree ducks, actually, and their owner’s manual specifically states that they do not need a pond to live well and prosper.  They have plastic concrete mixing tubs for bathing and cleaning out their little duck nostrils, which I keep clean and filled twice daily.  They have a nice big hooch with lots of bedding to snuggle into and locked doors at night.  They have cow paddocks to forage bugs and fly larvae in.  They have an always-full feeder of delicious high-protein crumbles.  They don’t need a damned pond.

But the ducks love the pond.  And once they found the pond, they wanted nothing else but to camp on the pond.  So I moved them and their hooch further away, down by the yearlings’ winter paddock, thinking the shift of territory would stymie them.  Oh, no.  The first day at that new location, the very first hour after they were let out in the morning, they hoofed it right back to the pond – a journey of perhaps an eighth of a mile, I might add.   They are pond addicts.

But the pond is mine, and I hired them for pasture duty.  And getting them de-ponded is not an easy task, unless they are very hungry and can be lured off the water with a shaken feed can.  My alternative methods of getting them out of the water ranged from shouting, banging sticks, throwing sticks, chucking stones at them (to scare them out, not to hit them), and attempting to send a dog in after them (to herd them out, not to eat them).  The one night we went up to put them to bed and found them back in Nirvana Pond, the dogs and I had to admit defeat and leave them there all night, after much thrashing about in the dark on the overgrown pond edges.  Sitting ducks, as the phrase goes, and it was just luck they were all still there in their little flotilla in the morning.  The countryside is full of hungry dogs, foxes, and racoons.

So, like the Soup Nazi in the Seinfield episode, I furrowed my brows and in my meanest voice said “NO POND FOR YOU!!!”

Poultry netting got put back up yesterday.  Half the flock figured out how to worm under the bottom of it and spent the whole day back in pond camp, where they got hungry enough to come out of the water when I shook the feed can at them in the afternoon.  So this morning I snugged it all down before I let them out of their hooch, and that did the trick.  Time to start relocating the big boys to the big freezer, though.  I am hopeful that once their numbers are smaller, once the flock is only hens and a couple of drakes, their wanderlust will subside and I can let them free range around their hooch again.  Otherwise, we’ll have to come up with a way of plunking their pen down in the paddocks so they can do what they’ve been hired to do:  catch flies, not fish.

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Thanksgiving duck

I brought home 15 eight-week-old Muscovy ducklings in mid-August, to start a bug-eating flock for the cow pastures.  Fly control, or one element of it, hopefully.

They are now 21 or 22 weeks old, nearly full grown.  There are only 5 little hens in the bunch.  I don’t need 10 drakes to 5 hens, that’s for sure; two will be plenty.  So the extra boys are destined for the freezer, and one will volunteer for Thanksgiving meal duties.

It’s been 30 years since I processed poultry, so I’m only going to do two this first go-round.  I won’t take pictures of all the steps, maybe just one before and after.  We’re assembling all the items needed and test-firing the scalding pot today.  I built a killing cone yesterday out of scrap sheet metal, using dimensions I found online.  Hopefully everything goes smoothly, although I’m not looking forward to the hand-plucking.

Bear is here on his first semi-annual visit, over the Thanksgiving holiday – so nice to have him here.  With any luck, we’ll have a succulent young roasted duck with our mashed potatoes, stuffing and gravy this year.  Bon apetit!

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