Ducks


It was a grey and cold day when our good friends Cindy and Stanley visited us a couple of weekends ago.  Cindy’s parents were in town for a visit and came along (there were two new donkey converts in the world before they left). As always, Bernard and Ellsworth were excellent donkey ambassadors:

Cindy and Stanley were eager to meet Patrick, Gracie and Buck for the first time:

And Don and I were eager to meet Cindy and Stanley’s new baby, Tristan:

Good friends are such a blessing, aren’t they? As always, they left us with beautiful images of the critters that we love:

Thank you, Cindy and Stanley. ♥ ♥ ♥

Confession time.

If you’re one of the minority out there who actually checks the Morning Bray Farm egg counter, you might have noticed a recent drop in the number of eggs that Emmy and Izzy have been laying.

Up until a couple of weeks ago, the girls were laying eggs for us like gangbusters. But so far in March? Only four eggs. And three of the four eggs didn’t have a shell, only a rubbery membrane.

While Emmy and Izzy otherwise seem fine, the sudden change was very worrisome. I scoured the Internet for possible reasons, but wasn’t able to find any good answers.

Earlier this week, I took a trip to the feed store to see if Junior; our local expert, had any ideas. When I explained that our girls had laid like crazy over the winter and had suddenly stopped, a puzzled look came over his face. “Your girls should just now be starting to lay. They shouldn’t have laid eggs over the winter,” Junior said. Uh-oh.

Our duck expert’s first question to me related to *light*. It was then I had to tell him (shamefully) that our ducks were kept in lighted conditions 24/7 the entire winter. “Yes, we keep heat lamps on in the barn when it’s cold – for both our goats and the ducks,” I said.

Junior explained to me the significance light has on egg production, and we figured that Emmy’s and Izzy’s sudden decline in laying coincided with when I stopped leaving the heat lamps on overnight a couple of weeks ago. Crap.

An increasing day length (January – June) brings sexually mature ducks into egg production and a decreasing day length (July – December) slows or stops their egg production. When I started leaving the heat lamps on, I increased day length for our girls and they ramped up their egg laying. When I stopped leaving the heat lamps on, I decreased their day length and they stopped laying eggs.  

If only we knew what we don’t know. Junior said it’ll be a little while before they start laying again. Uh-oh.

When it comes to being cold, I’m a pansy.

I know they’re ducks…

…but I still worry about them. It’s their first winter, after all.

Izzy, honey. You’re so dirty.

Look at how brown you are, sweetheart.

You need a bath.

Alfie loves taking a bath:

No matter how cold it is:

Because Muscovies aren’t known for being cold-hardy, I fill their pool at lunchtime only on days when it’s warm and sunny. This gives them ample opportunity to dry off before it gets dark.

Jake gets so excited that he starts bathing even before he gets in the pool:

It’s just the cutest thing ever:

But it’s still cold:

And I still worry about them being completely dry before the sun goes down:

Izzy! You’re finally getting in the pool:

And look at how beautiful and clean you are after your bath!

An interesting article, for those who are interested: http://www.muscovyduckcentral.com/marvelousmuscovies.html

Although these waterfowl relish swimming when given the opportunity, they tend to be more terrestrial than other domestic ducks and their feathers seem to have less waterproofing.  As a consequence, a pond isn’t necessary for Muscovies and can even pose a hazard during icy winters, when these ducks of tropical origin may become chilled or suffer frostbite.

August 2011

Welcoming our beautiful Gracie Belle to Morning Bray Farm:

Being mesmerized by Patrick’s transformation:

Always being amused watching Bernard amuse himself:

 

And always being amused watching Bernard amuse us:

September 2011

Loving all of my Ds:

Realizing the way to Nigel’s heart:

We hope you’re enjoying our favorite blog photos/moments from 2011. Remember if you click on any of the photos, you’ll be taken to the original blog posts.

June 2011

The expression on Bernard’s face the day we discovered the donkeys love watermelon:

And the drooling delight of Patrick:

The day Enzi got her very own beach in our backyard:

Ellsworth’s very first trail ride with his trainer, Ryan (I was beaming with pride for both of them):

Watching the ducklings thrive and grow over the summer was awesome:

July 2001

An Independence Day celebration with wonderful family and friends (and Maryland blue crabs!):

My first trail ride with Ellsworth, a.k.a. Big Red:

The afternoon the ducklings sat out in the yard enjoying a summer rain shower:

March 2011

A rare, quiet moment for Meggie Moo:

A tender moment between Momma and Baby Boy:

Ellsworth being an incredible big brother and officially welcoming Patrick into the herd:

A hug from Fergus. I will always cherish this photo:

The simple joy of taking Bernard for a walk around the block:

April 2011

Kassie watching squirrel television:

Patrick learning how to be a donkey and giving his very first hug:

Welcoming the ducklings to the farm:

May 2011

Donkeys and ducklings meeting for the first time:

Whisky romping in the Rio Grande:

The ducklings loving the lawn sprinklers:

One of our many donkey play dates. Oh, how we love our play dates:

Remember if you click on any of the photos, you’ll be taken to the original blog posts.

Emmy getting out of her bath at 31° F:

Canada goose in the alfalfa field:

Gracie Belle and Buck:

Izzy, with her beautiful, blue eyes:

Colors in the barn:

After three days of rain, we had a beautiful day yesterday.

Everyone seemed relieved to feel the warmth of the sun again.

Did you know that ducks thrive on tranquility?

I tend to think that we all do. Just look at Emmy thriving here in her new home:

The Boyz and Gracie Belle enjoyed yesterday’s sunshine too.

I love these Boyz.

 

And they love each other too:

Our farrier came yesterday morning. Bernard, Ellsworth and Patrick all did extremely well.

Dear Nigel. Will you let Shorty work on your feet in eight weeks?

Hello, Paddy, Pat, Pat.

You are a testament to what love can do.

And Gracie Belle. She’s filling out quite nicely, don’t you think?

Isn’t she beautiful?

♥ ♥ ♥

9/27 Update: The girls gifted us with a double-yolker right out of the gate.

Don fried it up for us last night. Delish! The consistency of the egg white was extremely thick, but Don said it tasted just like a fresh chicken egg. 

As for me, my mind played games with me at first, thanks to my dear husband. After I took my first bite, Don said, “Why are you eating your grandchildren?!”

Aaack! Once I got past that, I agreed with him. It was a delicious, fresh egg. Not gamey or weird at all.

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9/26 Post: We irrigated our pasture yesterday for one of the last times this season. We’ve gotten into the habit of putting the ducks out in the pasture on irrigation days because they love being ducks.

We found everyone and got them into the pasture, but Izzy was nowhere to be found. Finally, Don found her under a holly bush near the house. I heard him gently shoo her from where she sat and then heard him exclaim, “Oh my!”

Here’s what Izzy was sitting on:

Once Izzy was out in the pasture being a duck, I collected the eggs and took them into the house. The three smaller eggs were cold, but the large egg was warm. I figured that means Izzy had just laid it.

Oh, the eggcitement!

Just look at what Izzy did:

Pretty impressive, don’t you think? Once I finished oohing and aahing over the eggs, I put them in an egg carton to store in the refrigerator. The lid didn’t close all the way on the corner where Izzy’s egg sat:

Thank you, sweet Izzy:

Thank you, sweet Hillary:

And thank you in advance, sweet Emmy:

Our next step is getting the girls to use the nesting boxes in Duckingham Palace:

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