Chickens and Duckies

Did you know more babies are born in April and May than any other month? Okay, I’m not actually sure if that is true for humans….but it certainly seems true of everything else! Spring is past but just a couple months ago all the wild things in the woods were having babies, and so were some of the less-wild critters we share a home with. In April we were gifted a dozen baby chickens and we now have five more born the last days of May and the first of June; this time Muscovy ducks!

This being only our second year on the property, we have only invested in chickens and ducks for livestock. Up until this April our little flock of chickens was made up of 20 Buff Orpingtons, 3 Rhode Island Reds, and 1 retiree of unknown breed (‘Blondie’). Over the winter we rescued Anna and Draco here, two Muscovy ducks that were nearly freezing to death in somebody’s backyard just south of us. While we fully expected a few of the chickens to go broody (Buffs are terrible about it) we didn’t expect our female duck to try so soon! Sure enough though at the end of April we came out to find she had built up a clutch of eggs and was no longer interested in leaving; she’d gone broody.

 

 

However we ran into a problem: Muscovies take a long time to hatch eggs. A normal chicken takes 21 days to hatch and most ducks 28. Muscovy ducks take anywhere from 35-37 days to hatch little ones. Such a long time on a nest can of course stress any mama, especially during one of the hottest Mays on record. The daytime temperature last month averaged around 85 with several days nearing 100 degrees Fahrenheit. With her nest inside a tin coop there was no escaping the stifling heat and no easy way to increase air-flow. Despite our best efforts the inside temperature still neared 120 on the hottest days, and our worries were amplified when we went out on day 21-22 and found two baby chickens beneath her(a hen snuck in an egg or two). They had just hatched and as far as Anna was concerned, they were hers.

We let her keep the chicks a couple of days while we moved the April-babies to a new section of the adult coop, but we were concerned if we left them much longer she might leave the nest. The April-babies had grown enough to keep warm without a heat lamp so we quickly cleaned out the brooder box we’d made for them and after a bit of a fuss, stole the two chicken-babies from Anna and put them in the brooder box. While she wasn’t happy with us she (thankfully) stayed put on her remaining eggs.

After waiting another 12 days for ducklings we began to worry. We’d lost a good hen to the heat and Anna was starting to look weak when she got up to drink. We finally decided if no babies were seen by June 2nd we were going to take her eggs for her own safety. Thankfully the universe was intent on proving our worries pointless because on June 1st we came out to find our first duckling! Over the next three days we had four more hatch; three on their own and one with human-assistance. The natural-hatchers were strong and healthy and while we got a bit scared for the baby we helped, a night spent in mama’s bra to keep warm found him steadily improving (if you’ve seen our instagram you may know him as Little-Bit).

So here we are at the end of June and baby season is finally over. All the eggs are hatched and all the babies are growing fast. The duckling we assisted hatching imprinted on us and he and the chickens Anna hatched are now best friends. The April-babies are nearly old enough to go in with the adult-birds full time (we are currently in the process of integration), and Anna’s four other ducklings are happy and healthy and learning to explore! There are still a few months of ‘growing pains’ but the hardest part of the year is officially out of the way and while we love the little rascals in all their cuteness…..we are thankful it is over (for now!)

And for one last dollop of cuteness before you go….how’s this? 

 

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