Thursday, August 8, 2019

Here A Chick, There A . . . Duckling

Striving to get our chicken flock to a place where we had broody hens who would hatch out their own chicks (and our replacement chicks so we wouldn't have to order chicks from a hatchery) has always been our aim.

The breeds of chickens we've chosen have (supposedly) still had the brooding instinct in them.  Well, that hasn't been our experience.  When hens in a hatchery consistently have their eggs taken away from them and hatched in an incubator, how can they be expected to maintain their natural instincts?

The only chickens we've had go broody with any consistency were a couple of our little bantam hens.  We lost the last of them this spring at the ripe old age of 104.  Actually, we lost track of her age but she must have been somewhere around eight years old.  And she gave us one last egg (remarkably!) about a month before she died.

But, as usual, I digress.

Lo and behold, our Muscovy duck hens have proven to be good setters and wonderful mothers.

Several weeks ago, two of them decided their maternal instincts had come to the forefront and they wanted babies.

Papa Pea moved both of them and their clutch of eggs (a duck egg and several chicken eggs -- sneaky, aren't we?) to their own maternity ward where they've been happily (although seeming to be drugged . . . how can they sit and sit and sit for weeeeks without going completely bonkers?) keeping their eggs protected and warm.

About two weeks ago, three little chicken babies hatched under the first duck hen.  She seemed oblivious of them as they bounced around her, hopping up on her back, napping beside her and burrowing under her to sleep next to her remaining eggs.

Then three days ago, one more egg hatched and it was a duckling.  Mama Duck must have known there was one more viable egg she wanted to hatch out!

One brown chick and duckling in front,
one black chick and
another brown one behind.

Now Mama Duck has taken all four of her babies out into the big world of the poultry yard and the little family couldn't be happier.

And we're happy, too, to have some replacement chickens for our flock.  Good job, Mama Duck.  You've more than earned your keep.


coffeeontheporchwithme said...

Awww! How freaked out will she be when the chicks don't want to go in the water? (Or do they not have a body of water to go into?) Do the bigger birds keep away from the chicks? We've never had chicks with older hens, but young birds have always been picked on terribly. Just wondering. -Jenn

Rain said...

That's really sweet! I love the photo too! I think it's great that she is mothering all of them like they were her own!

Mama Pea said...

Jenn - This isn't our first batch of mixed birds a mama hen has hatched. As for the duck mamas, when she takes her brood down to the pond, the duckling or ducklings plop into the water right beside her and no one seems freaked out. The chicks just stay around the edge pecking away looking for good things to eat. They instinctively know they shouldn't go in the water and don't seem to have any desire to do so. Last year, a duck raised 6-7 ducklings and one single chick. The chick thought she was a duck in every way except going swimming in the pond.

We've never had the bigger birds pay much attention to or bother the little ones scurrying around. I think that probably has a lot to do with the very large pasture area they all share.

Rain - Yep, creatures other than humans have a lot less prejudices, don't they?

wisps of words said...

Just precious!!!

And it's wonderful, that Mama takes care of all of them.

All getting along, probably does reflect the joy of living on a large area of land. Not being confined to a sort of a pen. In closer quarters, smaller ones would probably be more apt to be picked on. Guess it's just nature.

Yours are so *dern* lucky!!!! :-)


Mama Pea said...

wisps of words - Yes, when animals (and fowl) aren't confined in small areas that are "unnatural" for them, everyone does seem to get along. The one drawback to our large pasture (surrounded by electrified fencing to keep wild critters out) is that we have had young ones taken by hawks and once even in the daytime by an owl. We didn't see it but suspected a crow took two young ducklings once, also. :o(

Michelle said...

Squee – thanks for a POULTRY post! I was worried you'd lost them all to a predator or something, it's been so long since you mentioned or showed them.

Mama Pea said...

Michelle - It just occurred to me a couple/few days ago that I hadn't posted anything about them in a long time. Why is that? Dunno. Things have been in a transitional period around here this summer (nothing bad, just working toward making ourselves and surroundings better and more balanced) and I admit to being a wee bit off kilter. Making changes is never easy even when the changes are good!

Lynne said...

It's just wonderful how the mama duck sits on the eggs like that, even tho they are not her's. Just love the way that works! Also how she take care of them too!!

Leigh said...

We've had the same problem with our mail order chickens! None of them will finish out the 21 days to hatch their eggs. Our only hatchee is grown now, but completely ostracized by the others because she isn't one of "them" (original mail order chickens). Our Muscovies are constantly broody! But with no drake they are setting for a hopeless cause. Why didn't we think to give them some chicken eggs?!? I guess because we needed you and Papa Pea to figure it out for us. :)

Susan said...

Sweet! I have heard that Muscovies are wonderful mothers - now we have proof! Congratulations!

Mama Pea said...

Lynne - When we had the bantam chicken hens and we put regular sized chicken eggs under them, they looked like they were setting on a lumpy pillow, but did so and hatched out babies just the same! Then she raised them and they quickly grew to be bigger than their "mama!"

Leigh - Your female Muscovies will be thrilled to be given chicken eggs to hatch out for you! They're worth their weight in gold for that alone so have at it. Wonder why your hatchee was not accepted by the others? Guess we'll never completely figure out our animals, will we!?

Susan - Yes, they certainly are . . . and for that we're really grateful!

susie @ persimmon moon cottage said...

I enjoyed reading about your Mama Duck and the baby chicks. Such a cute picture, too.

When I was a little girl we had a Bantam hen and rooster. My mom thought it would be fun for me to watch some eggs hatch, so she bought some from the egg man who used to sell eggs in our neighborhood. Mom and Dad set up an incubator made from an aquarium and I don't remember what else, on the buffet in the dining room. I watched those two chicken eggs hatch, and we kept those little chicks inside until they were ready to be outside. Among my best memories from childhood was going out in the back yard (every morning), could that be right?, do Bantam hens lay an egg every morning? and getting the one little bantam egg that Reddy the hen laid and bringing it in and my Mom frying it for my breakfast. Reddy was a plump, little reddish color "banty", as my Mom used to call them, hen. A little skittish and never got tame. The rooster, Ruff, was beautiful with dark rust, and iridescent bluish green and black tail feathers, loved my Dad and would follow him around and practically beg to be picked up. With me, that Bantam rooster was a little Hellion. The minute I came out the door, he ran after me kicking and spurring me with his leg spurs. He stalked me and really had it in for me, but not if my Mom or especially my Dad was anywhere in sight. One morning my Mom looked out the kitchen window and I was on the ground with that rooster on me, jumping up and down on me spurring and kicking, and flapping his wings, with me screeching. I was only maybe 4 or 5 years old and must have tripped and fell. Mom had to rescue me from that rooster. After that I took a break from playing out in the back yard and would only make a quick, very cautious trip out there to get my morning egg.

We had Ruff and Reddy for a few years, and then a neighbor started complaining about Ruff's crowing, and we re-homed them with a young man who was just crazy about Ruff the rooster and wanted them for pets. He had them for a few more years. They lived for several years.

Mama Pea said...

susie - What memories those little banty chickens provided for you! Yes, some chickens will lay an egg every day and it seems your little hen did that just for you! Roosters will get very territorial and sometimes downright mean, but they're just protecting their flock with some age old instinct they have. We've had to get rid of roosters that continued to attack because they can really be dangerous. Thanks for sharing your story!

Sam I Am...... said...

How fascinating. I always learn from you and I had no idea that chickens lose the brooding instinct but it makes sense.

Nancy @ Little Homestead In Boise said...

Sweet, congrats!

Mama Pea said...

Sam - It's sad the way most chickens are raised but in this day of big business, I suppose the hatcheries can't do it any other way. But does it make sense to breed the good characteristics out of animals? Don't think so!

Nancy - Thanks!