The Majestic Monthly

WATERFOWL NEWS FLOWN IN FRESH OFF THE PRESS

Issue 7: July 2005

In This Issue...

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Drakes, Drakes, and More Drakes!

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Drakes are worth it

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Too many Drakes

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Get to know your predators: Fisher Cat

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All about Runner Ducks

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Recommended Reading:
One Duck Stuck

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Reader Poll #7
 

Get to Know Your Predators: The Fisher Cat

We have received a number of emails from folks all over New England regarding sightings of this predator, so we decided to make them our predator of the month. Thank you, everyone, and keep those emails coming!

A female Fisher Cat tends to weigh around eight pounds and males around twelve pounds. The Fisher Cat is a ferocious nocturnal predator. They will kill anything they can overtake. Fisher cats are very fast and extremely agile. They can elongate their bodies and squeeze into small holes and gaps.

These solitary predators are designed by nature to climb over, dig under and gnaw through obstacles, so be very wary of them. Locally we have heard of one animal breaking into a turkey farm and wiping out dozens of birds during a bloodthirsty rampage.

Your best defense against this predator is a tight daytime enclosure and a well built nighttime lock up. Remember these predators are designed by nature to squeeze into holes; be sure your waterfowl enclosures don’t allow for this type of entry.

The Month in Photos

Kim with Jake & Elijah in arm

Kim with Winston & Mr. Pearl

Joven on the pond!

Playing in the lily pads...

Vida in the grass

Peek-a-boo, Mr. Pearl!

Jezebel and a pink lily flower

Vida and a pink lily flower

Recommended Reading


| Ordering information |

One Duck Stuck
By Phyllis Root
Illustrated by Jane Chapman

Description

"Splish, clomp, pleep, plop, plunk, sloosh, slosh, slink, zing." Who can resist a read-aloud featuring sounds like these? When, "Down by the marsh, by the sleepy, slimy marsh, one duck gets stuck in the muck," who comes to the rescue? Two fish, splishing, for starters. Then three moose clomping, four crickets pleeping, and so on. Still, "No luck. Still stuck." It takes a whole lot of teamwork to get this particular stuck duck unstuck from the muck, but this cheerful bunch is definitely up to the task.

From one duck to 10 dragonflies, the muddy fun never stops in Phyllis Root's chunky little board book. Young readers will giggle their way through the numbers, and by the time the duck's foot is released with a "Spluck!" counting will be a cinch. Jane Chapman's lush illustrations are full of marshy colors and muddy detail. The right side of each two-page spread shows the hapless duck earnestly waiting for liberation by its lively rescuers, while on the opposite side the featured number is printed, large and bold, over the text, and the splishers and ploppers are depicted again for easy counting.

Reader Poll #7

Question: If you had the space, would you want multiple drakes in your flock?

Yes
No
Depends on the breed

Voting Has Closed.
Please see next issue for results.

Results of Reader Poll #6

If you determined that some wild ducklings or goslings you found were orphaned, what would you do? (Be honest!)
 

Care for them myself.  80%
Contact a wildlife rescue center or licensed rehabber. 0%
Contact Majestic Waterfowl Sanctuary for advice.  0%
Leave them be and let nature take its course.

20%

   

Contact Us

Majestic Waterfowl Sanctuary
17 Barker Road
Lebanon, CT 06249
director@majesticwaterfowl.org

 

Our Newsletter

The Majestic Monthly is published 12 times per year. Back issues can be obtained online from our Newsletter Archives.

 

Drakes, Drakes, and More Drakes!

Managing a waterfowl flock with multiple drakes is not always easy, especially in the spring and summer when hormone levels are elevated. However, it is extremely rewarding to have more than one drake in your flock and experience a whole new level of group dynamics. The question many people have is how they can protect their drakes from one another and whether or not their hens will need protecting from their drakes.

We have heard a few folks claim that they simply allow their drakes to duel things out without owner interference, but we have received many more emails regarding drakes and hens that have been seriously injured or even killed during these battles for alpha leadership. These devastating mishaps are entirely preventable if you know the signs to watch for and how to properly manage your flock when they become evident. The myth that drakes do not make ideal pets or that multiple drakes cannot be housed together is simply untrue. The situation only need be handled responsibly and with a keen eye.

There are definitely some guidelines to consider before welcoming a drake or multiple drakes into your flock—or even a hen for that matter, but with a little forethought and planning, drakes do make a wonderful addition to your family.

  1. Provide a healthy ratio of drakes to hens in your flock. Most sources recommend at least a 1 drake to 4 hen ratio in order to avoid excessive drake fighting or the over-mating of hens. Hens that experience over-mating are prone to injury of the legs and hips and also can be in risk of oviduct prolapse (where their egg laying tube inverts and comes outside of their body).
     
  2. It is highly recommendable to have hens that are equal to or larger than your drakes. In fact, this can be one of the best gifts you give your hen—an equal or smaller sized drake. This gives her the upper hand, so she can thwart off any unwanted advances.

    If your flock has access to water, too many drakes (or oversized drakes in comparison with hens) can result in hen drowning. Never allow drakes to battle over a hen during mating, especially on water. The interrupting drake will often vent his frustration on the hen rather than on the mating drake. A hen is not always successful at pulling her head above water when two drakes are holding it beneath the surface. If one drake is trying to mate with a hen and a second drake swims over to interrupt, it may become quickly necessary for you to step in and break things up. We have a ten foot extendable pole on hand that can safely nudge an extra drake out of the way.

    If you are seeing irritated bald spots on the backs of your hens’ necks, too many attempts at mating is usually the cause. Their neck should be rinsed with warm water (no soap!) and kept clean since the drake’s saliva can cause irritation. The hen should then be separated to allow feathers to re-grow.
     
  3. Spacious pens are a very good means at maintaining group harmony. Cramped spaces tend to foster misbehavior and territoriality, so consider carefully how many birds can comfortably fit into your barn and enclosures before adding new members.
     
  4. Whenever possible, introduce new flock members in the fall when hormone levels are at their lowest. The fall is usually a time of peace amongst flock members; however, be careful that they don’t mislead you into believing that it will always be this harmonious. Many an owner has bragged about how well their drakes get along during their first year, and we don’t often have the heart to tell them that things may not be so peaceful next spring. It is commonly believed that drakes won’t fight if they are without hens. Although there does seem to be less to fight about, drakes imprinted on humans will often consider YOU to be their “hen.” In this scenario, drakes may fight among themselves over you, although this tends to only occur while you are around and is easily monitored and kept under control because you are always present during any outbreaks.

    All introductions should be carefully monitored, especially if they are not happening during the fall (low hormone season) to ensure flock member’s safety. We highly recommend you keep a close eye on pecking order disputes that arise between any of your flock members at any time. It is completely normal to see temporary squabbling among members as pecking orders are established and reaffirmed. The introduction of any bird, drake or hen, can cause the entire flock to suddenly have to rehash things out. We consider “excessive” fighting to exist if the squabbles appear to be getting too rough (evident by tufts of feathers on the ground or in someone’s bill), too frequent, or does not subside. When these conditions exist, separations are definitely in order to avoid injury to any of your birds.
     
  5. To stop fighting among your drakes, three good options are available to you:
  1. Separate your drakes from one another, and divvy up the hens between them (we try to keep pairs or groups that prefer one another’s company together).
  2. Separate drakes from hens; that is, drakes in one pen, hens in another. This is a better choice when you can see that your hens could use a break as well. Drakes tend to fight less when they cannot mate with the hens. Often times, drakes can reside together with minimal fighting on one side of a fence with the hens in full view on the other. This is not always the case, however.
  3. Separate your drakes from one another, and separate your hens from the drakes (the hens can all stay together). This becomes necessary when the drakes simply cannot get along together and all of the hens could use a break from the drakes.

Keep in mind that the need for separations may vary from one day to the next, from morning to evening, from hot to cold or dry to wet weather and as the seasons change throughout the year. Your ducks and geese have personalities, moods and feelings. Some conditions lead to resentment among members, others to contentment. There are a number of combinations of separations available to you and varying levels of effectiveness depending on when they are used, so be careful not to limit yourself to one remedy.


Drakes are Worth It

It is so easy for us to find homes for hens. They tend to be adopted out within weeks of arriving, but we have such a difficult time placing the drakes. This causes an overabundance of drakes in many animal shelters and sadly, often results in euthanasia. Majestic Waterfowl Sanctuary will not euthanize any animal except to prevent the needless & hopeless suffering of an animal.

Most people will limit themselves to only one drake while others prefer to keep only hens. Many people fear the safety of their hens with a drake around, but drakes don’t have any intentions of hurting your hens. Although the mating routine can be quite distressing to owners who have never witnessed a drake forcing a hen’s head below the surface of the water before, it is all quite normal and natural and owners’ fears soon subside (provided that hens are not too small for their drakes and there are no obstacles in the water for them to get trapped under). Hens will often initiate courting just as frequently as drakes, so you need not worry that they will be taken advantage of.

Having a drake in your flock opens owners up to experience a whole new world of duck behavior. Courtship consists of a wide new array of shameless quacking, head bobbing, flirting and bathing. The interrelationships among all members are heightened and your ducks live more enriched and normal lives.

Multiple drakes are a very viable option provided you prepare ahead of time. As long as you have the means to separate them when times get touchy and don’t mind some extra time and effort on your part they are great fun. Nature has provided a few helping factors:

  1. Drakes tend to fight less fiercely and less frequently if they have been raised from ducklings together.
  2. Many drakes get along wonderfully from Sept-Dec.
  3. As drakes age, fighting tends to wane off between them. This often occurs by their third spring.

The only word of caution regarding multiple drakes is to consider your housing situation before you take them in and weigh whether or not you can accommodate separations. If you can run a three-foot high length of poultry wire through your enclosure and easily divide it spaciously in half, you can successfully care for more than one drake.

Elijah and Jake reside on the left side of the enclosure. Elijah is so big, that Jake doesn’t even try to upset the status quo. The pecking order was instantly established and honored without conflict.

Three hens, Jezebel, Deirdre and Vida reside in the middle of the enclosure. Young Jeffrey and Young Matthew reside on the right end of the enclosure. Having the hens occupying the pen between the two groups of drakes prevents the boys from trying to fight through a shared fence. Proximity to the hens provides contentment for the drakes on both sides of the fence.

Jeffrey & Matthew were raised together as ducklings. They are three years old and barely squabble any more.


Ending Up with Too Many Drakes

This topic brings up an important point of preventative maintenance for anyone considering allowing their hens to hatch out a clutch of eggs. Imagine that every egg your hen is sitting on were to hatch out a drake. Do you have the means to separate and protect them all from one another next spring? If not, you will have a serious problem on your hands next spring. Please do not allow eggs to hatch out animals that will later be homeless.

For anyone thinking that the eggs their hens are sitting on are infertile, I advise that you call any waterfowl rescue shelter or farm sanctuary and ask how many ducks/geese have come into their shelter because their owners didn’t think the eggs would hatch or because they didn’t make an effort to find and remove eggs.

I am often reminded of the line in Jurassic Park: “Nature finds a way.”

If you do not have room for more ducks, search out eggs and remove them. This small effort does wonders for the homeless domestic waterfowl population.


       Majestic Waterfowl Sanctuary makes no representation, warranty, or guarantee in connection with any guidance provided on this website. Majestic Waterfowl Sanctuary expressly disclaims any liability or responsibility for loss or damage resulting from its use or for the violation of any federal, state or municipal law or regulation with which such guidance may conflict. Any guidance is general in nature. In addition, the assistance of a qualified professional should be enlisted to address any specific circumstances.
 

© Majestic Waterfowl Sanctuary 2005