(Author’s note: I’ve had several requests to give an update on Matilda the Muscovy Duck and her brood that we raised this past summer. If you missed those episodes I’m sorry. I’ll try to give a quick synopsis to catch you up.)
This past summer a large, ugly domesticated male Muscovy duck flew up on our high deck and scoped out a number three washtub full of potting soil. That soil had been left there by my wife after a day of planting stuff around the house. Little did we know that he was scouting out a place for his wife to lay a batch of eggs. Matilda, as she would later be named, turned up the next day and laid the first egg followed by 13 more over the next several days.
We watched over those eggs with a devotion akin to a Presidential Secret Service detail. I was even called upon to slay a large reptilian monster who crawled up on the deck to eat the precious eggs. As you might suspect I performed magnificently and beheaded the would-be predator thus keeping Matilda’s eggs safe from harm.
Thirteen of those fourteen eggs hatched and we looked on in amazement as those little chicks ran round and round in that number three washtub. A week later we deemed it time that they should be returned to their natural habitat. With a heavy heart we set them free but worried that the tiny ducklings would get slaughtered in the wild.
To our amazement all but one of them made it to what I would call adulthood.
As it turns out Muscovy ducks eat a lot. We left them alone for a week even though they stayed relatively close by. I assume Matilda taught them how to swim and how to begin fending for themselves. I suppose they learned to catch bugs and eat grass but I really don’t know what they ate those first days.
After a couple of weeks we began to feed them some chick starter and they lapped it up like a bunch of starving dogs. We later graduated them to cracked corn which is like caviar as far as ducks are concerned. They currently arrive at the appointed feeding spot each morning promptly at 8:00 am. If I’m not out there in a timely manner they become irritated and are clearly impatient with my tardiness. When I turn the corner with their ration of corn they used to come running but now they come flying up huffing and puffing with indignation and nearly knock me over trying to get to the grain first.
They are very competitive about their food.
They nip at each other, jockey for position and give little squawks as they tear into what has become their favorite food. Their absentee father has also shown up out of the blue and is quite the intimidator when it comes to corn-eating. I had to pop him in the head with a rock the other day just to cool his jets a little bit and let him know that there are consequences to bullying.
If I happen to miss a morning feeding all I have to do is call them and minutes later they come winging and squawking their way to the dinner table.
The flock is now composed of the 12 Muscovites that hatched plus their mother, Matilda along with the daddy duck who finally showed up after all the hard work of hatching and raising was done. There are also two hangers-on who have joined the group in order to, I assume, cash in on the free corn. I believe that corn is working its magic because the entire group is, as of this writing, the approximate size of small turkeys. I briefly contemplated that fact, it being the season of Thanksgiving, but could not bring myself to consummate that evil thought and wound up going to Ingles for a traditional turkey instead.
There has also been a new development in the food-eating department. I previously thought that their diets consisted of bugs, grass, lake plants and of course cracked corn. There has been an addition to that list. Three days ago I noticed something hanging out of one’s mouth as the hefty little dude came waddling out of the pond – and that something was wiggling. Turns out Muscovy ducks enjoy a side of fish along with their cracked corn. He proudly came up on the bank with a two inch bream in his mouth. Moments later his siblings came rushing over to steal it and a fracas ensued.
Nonetheless we are now raising a bunch of fat Muscovy ducks who absolutely live to eat. If they get too stout I might have to cut back on their rations. If they get much bigger they’ll likely not be able to get airborne. Of course, considering their cutthroat nature about cracked corn I might well get flogged in my own yard by an annoyed bunch of chubby ducks looking for their daily quota and that would be embarrassing.
So suffice it to say that in three short months these birds have gone from little bitty ugly ducklings to big old hungry ducklings that have grown accustomed to high quality food.
One of two things is bound to happen. Either my bill for cracked corn is going to rise or we’ll be looking for recipes for duck soup.
Just kidding. They are here to stay.
(Send your duck-feeding tips to firstname.lastname@example.org)