In addition to a small flock of free-range chickens, I also have a population of Muscovy ducks which ranges from 5 - 10 or so. Early every Spring, my
Muscovy hens attempt to reproduce. They've learned that one of the best places to nest is inside the chicken house, as it is comfortable, has food
and water, and is protected at night when I close the door.
A few weeks ago, one of my Muscovy hens took over a corner of the chicken house, began to feather her nest, and started laying eggs. My chickens, lazy
bunch that they are, prefer to lay their eggs in established nests instead of making their own, and inevitably they try to horn in and lay their own
eggs in the duck nests. One of my red hens was so persistent about not only laying eggs in the duck nest but also setting them, that she and the
Muscovy hen eventually reached some sort of agreement or arrangement, and both of them sat the nest. This actually turned out to be quite convenient
for the Muscovy, as she was able to leave her nest to eat and bathe without leaving the eggs unattended.
Eventually five of the eggs hatched, all ducklings because I kept stealing the chicken eggs out of the nest. The chicken hen must have been on the
eggs when they hatched, so a big red chicken was the first thing the new ducklings saw. The chicken either didn't notice or didn't care that her
hatchlings are a bit "different," and the ducklings don't know any better.
Muscovy ducks have a reputation as being "bad" parents; they tend to go on about their business after the ducklings hatch and leave it to the babies
to keep up. Although their biological mother still takes an interest in them part-time, the red chicken hen seems to be their primary "mother"
(although she refuses to go swimming with them, a behavior which seems to puzzle them to no end). Since my ducklings are being raised by a chicken, I
call them "chucklings." It will be interesting to see what they act like and how they relate to other ducks and chickens as they grow older. One of
my Muscovy hens hatched a chicken last year, and she also seemed not to care that her new hatchling didn't look as expected, but that relationship
ended in tragedy when the Muscovy attempted to take "Chuck" swimming. Chickens don't swim well.
The four surviving ducklings are now about 3 weeks old and still stick fairly close to their chicken mama. (right-click on images to see the full
Aren't they cute?
[edit on 29-3-2009 by Heike]