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I live a charmed life. I am reminded of this fact every morning when I go outside. I’m surrounded by the tranquil sights and sounds of nature. After all, I basically live in the middle of the woods. Deer hang out in the yard, a Blue Heron is living in the pond and a family of Beavers call our wetlands home.
The cherry on top of the charmed sundae I call my life though, are my Muscovy Ducks and Bronze Turkey. Until a year ago I didn’t even know Muscovy Ducks or Bronze Turkeys existed, much less believed I would ever call them my friends. These quirky feather friends continue to take me on new adventures each and every day.
The birds teach great life lessons and are actually wonderful role models for me.
The ducks welcoming the turkey, Gladys, into their flock reminds me of the importance of welcoming others into my circle and accepting people as they are.
Seeing Amelia Air Duck build a nest in an empty box in the barn (instead of in the nesting box I built her) teaches me to think outside of the box. (Haha…a duck in a box inspires me to think outside of the box.)
And watching Gladys stay near the barn for over a month after she was attacked (neighbor dog ripped out all her feathers on her back and breast) instead of heading to the pond with her duck friends highlighted the importance of taking care of myself.
The Muscovy Ducks and Bronze Turkey of Functional Rustic teach me a lot about ducks and turkeys too. For instance, Muscovy duck eggs are twice the size of extra large chicken eggs and a bronze turkey egg is twice the size of the Muscovy egg.
Today’s lesson from the Muscovy Ducks was also about eggs – making the eggs that is. That’s right folks, I’ve got duck porn for you!
The morning started out normal enough. I was filming the sunrise and decided to get some video of the birds. Usually these videos are of them wiggling their butts, eating or swimming – duck stuff. Today though, I happened upon Brutus, Goldie and Amelia Air Duck in a duck ménages à trois.
So here is how I think this all happened. Amelia Air Duck started to lay eggs in an empty box in the barn again. Yesterday I cleaned out her nest so I could eat them. Realizing that her nest is no longer safe (someone did steal all of her eggs after all!) she needed a new, safe place to lay her eggs.
Goldie, the other Muscovy Hen, is currently sitting on eggs. I theorize that Amelia Air Duck decided that laying her egg onto Goldie’s nest would keep her egg safe. The flaw in that plan though, is that Goldie is not just gonna get off her eggs because Amelia wants her to. So, again I am just theorizing, Amelia just climbs on top of Goldie and lays the egg on top of Goldie.
However, while Amelia Air Duck is trying to pop one out Brutus sees a great opportunity to pop one in – so to speak. When I walk on the scene all I see is Goldie on her eggs, Amelia Air Duck on top of Goldie and Brutus on top of Amelia – duck humping his little heart out.
I still can’t believe how fresh that egg was. It was hot, not warm, hot. And wet. So fresh it had duck juices on it. I didn’t even know that fluids were involved. Now that I think about it though, I’m quite happy to learn that my little ladies have some lubrication to get their eggs out.
To round out the morning it only seemed fitting to get at least one video that wasn’t pornographic. The video below is a typical morning in the Functional Rustic Barn – birds eating while I fill the pool and hose out the barn. Once the coffee is made I fill up my cup and head out the barn see what lessons are to be learned that day.
Did you know Functional Rustic provides more than just barn stories? Find out what others already know by shopping in the Functional Rustic Store.
Below are just a few of the handcrafted items available.
“Quack Spoken Here” Wooden Ornament
“Quack Spoken Here” Wooden Ornament by Functional Rustic is handcrafted from repurposed pallet wood and hand painted with oil paint. Twine is used to hang the ornament.
3 Tier Wooden Tea Light Holder – Black
3 Tier Wooden Tea Light Holder from Functional Rustic adds a rustic elegance to any space. The 3 Tier Tea Light Candle Holder is made from repurposed pallet wood and hand painted.
Mini Chalk Board – Green by Functional Rustic
The Mini Chalk Board by Functional Rustic is the fun and quirky handmade conversation piece you never knew you needed. The mini chalk board is made form repurposed pallet wood and hand painted with oil paint/chalkboard paint.
Measurements: 19 in x 3.5 in x 5/8 in.
Oh No! There is a turkey on the duck nest! Before I share that video though, let’s explore the back story.
Goldie is one of the Muscovy hens of Functional Rustic. In the cold of winter 2017 Goldie laid her first clutch of eggs in the nesting box I built. Actually, the nesting box started as the first duck house I built for my feather babies. This was before I learned how huge these colorful birds grow. They grew out of that box within a few weeks!
I don’t have any pictures of the build process because I created it before I started Functional Rustic. The only power tools I owned at the time I built this was a drill.
I already had sheets of plywood that were 2 feet tall and 8 or so feet long. When I tried to saw them the plywood shredded though. Eeek – can’t have that.
My solution, bend the board back and forth near the place I wanted the board cut. I already had part of the board cut before it started to shred. (it was old, cheap plywood) Just as you might break a long stick in half by standing on the middle and then pulling, I did the same with the plywood.
It wasn’t pretty but it actually worked effectively. I did not need clean lines or the boards to be symmetrical. I just needed to be able to make 3 walls and a floor with it. I used my newly ‘cut’ boards for the bottom, sides and back of the box. I put 1 foot length of 2×4 wood in each corner and screwed my plywood to the 2x4s.
Duck enclosures need a lot of air flow and a way for moisture to escape. In the floor of duck house I drilled small holes so that water, duck poo and other liquids can drain out of the bottom. The holes allowed me to later hose down the enclosure when it needed to be cleaned.
For the roof of my enclosure I used a steel screen from a storm door. That screen top actually dictated the size of the house. I felt so clever when I thought of how to repurpose that screen.
My duck house was going to be inside the barn. I used to keep my ducklings running free in a horse stall in the barn but, I learned that small animals can still harm my feather babies in the stall and I needed added protection for small predators. Because my duck house was indoors I did not need a roof to protect from the elements, just small animals.
I liked the stiff metal top because the birds were going to perch on it. I later learned that they will also poop all over it and anything under the screen. Also, steel or not, with enough force everything bends. It was a learning process. Ha.
You’ll notice I am not showing any pictures…..it doesn’t exist anymore. These are some big birds. In no time their fat feathery butts managed to bend the steel screen and separate the walls from the 2x4s.
The front of the duck house was my crowing achievement though. Some of the scrap wood that was left behind when we moved in had grooves carved in them and enabled a sliding door to be built without any hinges or attachments. The top and bottom boards were attached to the 2x4s in the front corners and the “door” slid into the grooves perfectly and allowed me to open and close the duck house by just sliding the door.
My babies were safe at last.
But this isn’t a story about the duck house/nesting box. This is the story of Goldie defending her first clutch of eggs from Gladys the Bronze Turkey.
Goldie laid 12 eggs in the nesting box. I had no idea this was going on until long after she had been sitting on them for awhile. She was still a baby duck in my eyes and I couldn’t fathom my baby having her own babies. Also, it was December in Michigan and well below freezing.
I only figured out what was going on when I realized that I didn’t see her move from that spot for a few days. It was not until she got up to eat one day that saw the eggs. She actually hid them before leaving the nest, but I watched her cover them with straw so her plan was foiled!
The plan with the ducks was always to eat their eggs. I don’t want to be a duck breeder, just a mama. Well, like I said before, I didn’t know she had laid the eggs so I had no clue how long they had been sitting there. No way I was gonna risk eating them and finding a duckling.
So, I got on the google machine and learned a great deal. Apparently, Muscovy ducks are known for being broody hens. Broody is a term used to describe a bird that is nesting and sitting on eggs. Some ducks just lay eggs and abandon them or only sit on them for a short period of time and then leave the nest. The broody hen sits on her eggs all day until they hatch.
A hen cannot easily sit on her eggs and eat and drink and poop all at the same time or in the same place. She must get off the nest at some point.
Fun fact: a broody hen only poops once a day. Normally the duck poops several times an hour. She still eats similar amounts of food and water. She still has the same amount of waste product to expel from her body. However, when she is broody she drops all of that feces at the same time.
That is a big pile of poo. AND….that poo has been stewing and getting extra ripe all day. So, when it comes out you get the smell of an entire days worth of hot crap being shared all at the same time. Absolutely foul. Fortunately she knows it is gross and gets as far from her nest as possible when she does it.
When she gets up for her daily dose of diarrhea she gorges on food and water. My google search taught me that it is good to keep food and water near the broody mom to be to help her stay strong. Food rich in calcium is also suggested to help promote strong egg production.
I noticed that the longer she stayed on her nest the more orange her caruncle was becoming. By this point I found an amazing discussion board called Back Yard Chickens and started to go there for all my duck questions. There I learned that if a Muscovy is lacking in protein their red caruncle will start to lose color. This is normal, apparently, for a broody hen because of the limits on her ability to hunt for protein while nesting.
Even though I knew it was normal, I felt like such a bad duck mom knowing she was not getting all the nutrients she needed. I did give her, and the other ducks, some grass hoppers. That didn’t go as well as I hopped though.
When I gave them grass hoppers over the summer the ducks chased them all around and it was great show. However, it was below freezing. Did you know that grasshoppers do not live long when it is 15 degrees outside? Well, now I do. Seems pretty obvious now, but at the time I was excited to try and offer them an extra treat. The ducks didn’t seem to understand that the now frozen treat before them was a bug they were supposed to eat. Usually the bugs they hunt are fleeing for their lives.
So, Goldie is being a broody hen and spending all day every day on that nest. She doesn’t even get off the nest to shoo the boys away. And you better believe her tail shake brings all the boys to the yard. (hahaha….that’s funny when you know that Muscovy ducks communicate with tail wiggles instead of quacks. Also, jokes are always funnier when they immediately have to be explained. Ha.)
When Goldie is off of her nest and someone goes near her eggs she gets really low to the ground, sticks her neck out, wiggles her tail furiously and then charges at the intruder. It is quite a sight if you ever get the opportunity to witness it.
Well, Goldie is not the only broody hen in my barn. I have another Muscovy Hen, Amelia Air Duck, and a Bronze Turkey Hen, Gladys.
Amelia Air Duck tried laying some eggs before the weather got cold but she abandoned that nest shortly after starting it. She was no longer broody by the time the snow came. Gladys however, she wanted to be a mom more than anything.
One guy on the discussion board said his Bronze Turkey Hen would get so broody at times that she would sit on rocks if she was not laying her own eggs at the time. hahaha. Can you imagine that sight?
I can, apparently. Gladys did lay eggs, but not many and not for long. Her eggs were big, beautiful and delicious. Since there was no Tom (boy turkey) around to fertilize her eggs there was no point in letting her keep them. She was very upset that I took her egg each day.
She wont let a lack of turkey eggs to keep her from motherly instincts. One day, when Goldie got up for her daily “routine” Gladys confiscated the nest!! She strut over there with a purpose and plopped down immediately. Went into full “boulder” mode as I like to call it. That is when she grabs the ground with her feet tightly and firmly holds her wings in place so you cant move her – much like a boulder.
Gladys stole that nest like a boss. I couldn’t believe it myself. Goldie shared my dismayed. I realize I may be projecting onto the duck, but I swear she gave me a “WTF” look regarding the latest development. She was pissed.
Obviously, I want to find out what happens next. So, I squat down on the floor a few feet from the fray (really on the front lines of the battle) and filmed the great “Retaking the Nest of 2017!”.
Below you can see what unfolded between these two broody hens and how the victor tended the eggs afterward.
Be sure to follow Functional Rustic for daily inspiration and stories from around the barn. Don’t forget to check out the Functional Rustic Store to see what the ducks help me build in the barn.
Originally Published November 23, 2017. Updated 7/25/18.
These past few months raising Muscovy Ducks has been quite an experience. We moved out to Dryden, MI to start the next chapter in our life and our new home came with a great barn. I knew I wanted to start some sort of business with the barn and began researching all the livestock options I could think of. The more I researched the animal options the more I realized that big barn animals have big needs.
Around this time my sister mentioned that Tractor Supply was selling chickens and ducks in batches of 10. I knew I wanted to get the ducks but 10 was way too many. With very little convincing my mom agreed to take 4 and my sister would take 2. Four ducklings for us! Well — we went to town the next weekend and the chicks and ducklings were no longer available. At this point I was determined to raise ducks and felt obligated to provide my family with the ducks I promised.
The next morning I went on craigslist and found an add for ducklings – $7 each. I immediately called them up and we were at the house within an hour. Steve was great — knows a lot about Muscovy ducks. We knew nothing. I didn’t even know what a Muscovy was until we arrived at his house. (I do not recommend this approach to inviting any living creature into your home. Research your animal before you commit to raising it.)
We decided to get five ducklings for us and five ducklings for my mom. The ducklings were only a few weeks old so we had no idea what sex they were. We wanted them for eggs but were so eager to get ducks that day that we chose to risk them being male.
We delivered ducklings to mom and then welcomed our feather babies to their new barn. We used a box to transport the ducklings and they were fine. They did poop a lot though so the car smelled pretty bad by the time we got home.
We chose to keep them in the horse stall with the rubber mat flooring and added our own straw. The stall is 10 ft x 10 ft with floor to ceiling doors that open to the outside. The perfect space to set up a pool, food and heat light for the ducklings.
Every morning I would wake up early and open up the door so they could get fresh air. We set up a board so they couldn’t leave the stall but they still got all the sunlight.
My life soon revolved around the ducks — and I loved it! I gave them fresh water in their pool in the morning and spent hours coaxing them in and out of the water. I was quite proud of the ramp set up I came up with spare plastic shelving.
In time we moved the ducklings to the stall next door. The new stall was centrally located so it was safer from large predators. Also, the floor was already covered in wood shavings so we didn’t need to provide straw.
In just a few short weeks the ducklings grew fast. They learned to swim right away and picked up hunting as soon as they were big enough to fit the bug in their mouth. I was so proud the first time I saw one eat a spider.
According to the Muscovy Duck guides I read online — Muscovy ducks are avid hunters and when full grown they can eat prey as large as a mouse or small fish. I know for a fact they eat small frogs! They also did an amazing job removing the spiders and mosquitos from the barn.
Within a week of having the ducklings I was getting up with sun and heading out to the barn to tend to the ducks. I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I adapted to the new early morning schedule I established for the ducks. No alarm needed – I just pop out of bed excited to see my feather babies!
Muscovy ducks need water to swallow their food. It is vital that if you decide to raise Muscovy ducks you always have a source of water available near their food. The ducks put the dry food in their mouth, take a sip of water and then swallow. This approach of course causes half the food to fall out into the pool – but it just gives them something to dive for later! Ha.
When it came to change the pool water I dumped the water in an area the ducks spend time so they can play in the puddle and eat the food that was spilled. Also, when the ground gets soaked by the pool water grubs and bugs come out of the ground and provide food for the ducks.
As they got bigger I was able to move the pool to a fenced area just off the back of the barn. The new fenced in area allowed the ducks more room to explore but still kept them protected near the barn. Hawks circle the property and I was terrified our little birds would get attacked.
While most ducks are known for their quacking — Muscovy ducks do not quack at all. Instead, the Muscovy ducks communicate mostly with body language and heavy breathing noises. I just can’t get enough of watching their butts wiggle and listening to them huff and puff.
One morning the dog and I head to the barn to start the day — same as we had every day before. I slide open the door to the stall and my heart sank. I actually screamed and even the dog looked shocked.
The ducks were dead. Slaughtered. Not eaten — just killed.
In tears I ran to the house to wake my husband and tell him what happened. We were devastated. It was our job to keep them safe. We thought the stall was the best duck house ever. We were in complete shock.
After hours of research online we determined it was a weasel that got them. Vicious creatures. Apparently they can fit into any space a mouse can fit. I even found the tiny hole in the floor that the weasel entered through. I had no idea that I needed to protect against weasels.
We held a memorial service for the ducklings and buried them in the yard. We were heartbroken. Devastated. Still are. Even writing about this is stirring up feelings I would rather not remember. Those little ducks were only with us for a month but will remain in our hearts forever.
Although their death was traumatizing — I was determined not to let it deter me from continuing to have Muscovy Ducks in my life. I had fallen in love.
The next day we called up Steve and got 6 more ducklings — the Muscovy Ducks of Functional Rustic! (Our bronze turkey came shortly after that.)
Muscovy Ducks and Bronze Turkey of Functional Rustic
Muscovy Ducks Exploring the Yard
Newborn Muscovy Ducklings of Functional Rustic.
Newborn Muscovy Ducklings of Functional Rustic.
Muscovy Ducks Exploring the Yard
Stay tuned to Functional Rustic for the latest on the Muscovy Ducks and Bronze Turkey of Functional Rustic.