My e-mail has been running hot with folks who want to find out how Matilda the Muscovy Duck and her brood of little Muscovites have fared over the past few months. If you didn’t keep up with that soap opera style saga from last summer suffice it to say that we had a domesticated duck named Matilda who decided to lay and hatch her eggs in a number three washtub full of potting soil on our back deck. Along the way we had to perform nightly bed checks on the eggs, make sure that the nest had fresh soil added and even fight off evil snakes who wanted to make a meal of Matilda’s unborn chicks.
What I can report to you is that the soap opera continues unabated.
This past spring turned out to be what might delicately be called high breeding season (explanation forthcoming). Prior to that surprising development the chicks had grown at an astonishing pace and before too long looked to be full grown. I suppose that they actually were full grown because at the first sign of winter’s end those young Muscovy’s had put out “No Trespassing” signs and had laid claim to both ponds on our place. On an early spring morning I witnessed a group of them noisily running off a pair of wild geese who had the temerity to land close by.
Earlier I used the term “high breeding season” which is a pretty accurate description of what recently took place. Beginning in late March our little band of brother and sister Muscovies were fully engaged in noisy trysts and those actions were a regular occurrence. It surprised me that this was going on before they were even a year old. This young generation of ducks sure do grow up early.
A month or so later, and to no one’s surprise, the prospective mama ducks were busy digging out nests, most of which were in the pine straw around the edge of our house. Every day I’d notice a new one and, of course, there ultimately came the morning when I spotted the first egg in one of those nests. From that day forward for the next couple of weeks one or two new eggs would show up in the nest and before all was said and done there were 18 eggs in that single nest and several others in other places scattered around the base of our house. We could have had the greatest Easter egg hunt of all time.
I did a little research and found out that multiple ducks would lay eggs in one nest and thus we had a dozen and a half potential little chicks on the way. Of course these weren’t protected like the ones we’d raised in the number three washtub and inevitably the nest was found by what I assume was a family of raccoons. Every night for the next week roughly three of the eggs were broken open and devoured by, what is now a very healthy clan of raccoons. There were no surviving eggs. Other eggs showed up in various nests around the house but alas none of them made it either, so as far as I know we won’t be having any more babies this year. Probably a good thing.
So to wind up this report we had 12 new chicks that hatched last August and as best I can tell we still have about eight of them still hanging around. They spend their days vigorously eating the free corn I give them, running off intruders and trying to make more little Muscovies. Not a bad life.
Of course our story would not be complete without an update on Matilda the Muscovy Duck, the mother of this brood of young hoodlums and the one who got this whole thing started. Shortly after Matilda got her chicks up to speed on the basics of swimming, flying, birds and bees concepts and the finer points of corn eating she was up and gone. One day she was here and the next day she wasn’t. I can only assume that she and her husband decided that the kids were too much aggravation and just flew the coop. You know how it is – the grass is always greener at another pond.
So we carry on with the ones that are left and they are a mess but there’s always a new adventure to watch as our little band of ugly ducklings go about their daily routine around our house and ponds. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see some new chicks running around this year if they can find a way to hide the eggs from marauding raccoons and if that’s the case we’ll be sure to send along the birth notices.
(E-mail comments on how to make ducks behave properly can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org)