Monday, February 29, 2016

Gertrude's Progress

Gertrude's problems with her prolapsed oviduct continue. We had her in "lock-up", the darkened duck house, separated from the other ducks, for three days. She continued looking good, so I let her out to join her friends.

After two days, the prolapse re-appeared, but not as bad. I ignored it for a couple of days, then put her back in the duck house, but not in the dark, just to keep her quiet and separate. I hoped that it would heal itself, but she kept laying eggs, and I think this aggravated the problem.

Finally, I soaked her again in a bath of epsom salts, re-applied the coconut oil & honey, and pushed the prolapsed area back in. There was some scabbiness, some of which fell off as I was massaging her. She went back to the darkened duck house.

The next day her egg had some blood on it, so I again treated her. She's been in the darkened duck house now going on five days. Some days she looks better than others. She keeps laying eggs--today she laid TWO! I keep thinking that if she'd just stop laying eggs she could get better and we could save her. I finally got some hemorrhoid treatment, which is supposed to be helpful, so today I plan to treat her and put some of that on her.

I want this experience to be a success!

My Ducks Catch Mice!

A couple of times, I've found a dead mouse in the ducks' paddock. The other day it was pretty fresh, and I know that KK (the cat) hadn't been in there. It had to have been the ducks. I've googled it, and sure enough, ducks do catch (and eat!) mice. I didn't know we were getting more mousers when we got the ducks.

By the way, KK and the ducks get along quite well. I have no worries about leaving them out together. I think the ducks are too big and scary for KK to mess with them, and they actually are sometimes seen following her around. (Or, are they chasing her?)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Lighting the Duck House

Since two of the ducks have suffered a prolapsed oviduct, we've done a lot more reading about this issue. One of the causes may have been that the young ducks were forced to commence laying at too young an age by adding artificial light to their daily routine. I will say that I didn't begin adding the artificial light too soon, according to several references. Most resources recommend somewhere between 19-23 weeks of age, and I began lighting at 21 weeks, just a little more than the natural daylight at that time.

However, after consideration, we have decided not to provide artificial light any longer. We will let the ducks lay naturally, and if we don't have eggs during late fall & early winter, we'll survive. I can freeze extra eggs prior to the molt, as I have done before.

I had thought about easing them off of the light gradually, but after Tim had read that the Golden Cascades will typically lay from January-August without the aid of artificial lighting, and with the difficulty of trying to keep Gertrude in the dark AND provide light for the others, I decided to remove the light completely. So, as of February 16, they now have no artificial light.

As of this morning, the ducks have continued to lay. It will be interesting to see if this continues.

Gertrude-Update

Gertrude is doing well! Yesterday evening (the end of the first full day in "lock-up") I discovered that Gertrude had laid an egg--the first in a few days. Again, this morning there was another egg on her side of the fence, and all body parts are still intact, nothing hanging out. We will keep her in lock-up a few days, and hopefully this problem will be resolved. The three remaining ducks have spent a lot of time hanging out just outside the side of the duck house where Gertrude is held. I guess they're keeping her company.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Gertrude

After yesterday's visit to the wolf sanctuary with Bess, we came home to deal with another problem.

Gertrude has also begun to show signs of a prolapsed oviduct. Since I've only begun to notice this and it is not in such an advanced stage as Bess, we will attempt to treat this. After doing a lot of research, here's what I did:

First, I set Gertrude into a tub of lukewarm water with epsom salts and held her there for about 10 minutes in our shed, which was shielded from wind and the other ducks. Then, with Tim's help, he held her down on a table covered with a towel, while I attempted to push the outward area back in. With a gloved hand, I first massaged the area with a mixture of coconut oil and honey. (If I'd had some Preparation H, I would have used it.) Then, I pushed the protruding area inside her body, with more of the coconut oil mixture. I massaged around a bit to see if there was an egg that needed to be expelled. If there was an egg in process, I don't believe it was formed yet--there was nothing like a hard shell. Gertrude stayed amazingly calm and allowed us to do this. I've gotta say, the part that had been exposed was a bit crusty. Hopefully, now inside her body it will stay put and soften up.

After this we put her into a small section of the duck house, and blocked all light except one small vent opening for ventilation. She will stay here for a day or two, at least. The darkness should keep her from laying eggs, and the separation should keep her still, and away from the drake. While in the duckhouse, she's being given water with some calcium dissolved into it, some chopped spinach and a mixture of hen scratch, whole oats and a little of the layer feed. I'm too far away from any stores to go buy non-layer feed, and I'm using what I have on hand.  I'll take a look at her later today to see if her body parts are still inside.  If not, I may have to repeat the procedure above.

This treatment is based on the articles HERE and HERE, in addition to a few forum comments, David Holderread's "Storey's Guide to Raising Ducks", Rick & Gail Luttmann's "Ducks & Geese in Your Backyard", and Lisa Steele's "Duck Eggs Daily."

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Bess

Sorry to say it, but we've had to let Bess go. She developed a prolapsed oviduct, and it would have required an expensive visit to a vet to repair her. It just wasn't worth it to us to take the time or spend the money. Apparently it is somewhat common, we've just never experienced it before. I believe she was our first duck to lay eggs; the day we first had eggs, she had a wet, drippy rear end with something hanging out. This led me to believe she was the one to lay. Perhaps she had problems right from the beginning, although it did go away and she was fine for a while.

Bess began to lay eggs on November 15th, just 2 1/2 weeks after I began lighting the duck house to encourage laying. It wasn't until January 26th that we found more eggs from other ducks. In the meantime, we had a couple of whopper-sized, double-yolk eggs--one was 4.5 ounces. They must have been hard to push out!

Apparently the prolapsed oviduct can be caused by a few things:
1. A duck that's been artificially encouraged to lay too young, and lays eggs before their bodies are mature enough.
**I don't believe this was the case; I didn't begin to add light before the recommended age (I began at 21 weeks. Sources suggest anywhere from 19-23 weeks.)
2. A duck may have strained too hard when laying extra large eggs.
**This may have been the case for Bess.
3. The drakes may have been overly abusive to the duck.
**I suppose this is possible, but I haven't noticed, and I don't have too many drakes in ratio to the hens. (1 drake to 4 hens seems reasonable.)
4. A duck may inherit this trait.
**Maybe???
5. She may not have had enough calcium, which not only helps form the shells, but give strength to the muscle structure in the vent area.
**This is possible. I was not giving oyster shell or other calcium, but solely relying on the calcium content in the layer feed and some crushed eggshells added to the feed.

So, I don't know why this occurred, but I think I will be more careful in the future not to attempt adding light for young ducklings. I may just let nature take its course, and they'll lay on their own time-clock, not mine. I will also give free-choice oyster shell.

Our visit to the wolf sanctuary last August.
Bess was taken today to our local wolf sanctuary. That may seem extreme to some readers, but after all, it's the "circle of life", and these wolves are unable to be in the wild to find their own food. They appreciate donations of fresh meat.