Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Force molting or no?

© 2010 Joshua Stark

I have done almost all of my duck raisin' by Dave Holderread's wonderful book, "Raising the Home Duck Flock".  The fact that ducks are easy to husband does not lessen the amount of confidence and nuanced information that this book provides, especially when raising birds from day-old chicks, like us (if you are interested, please visit his farm's website). 

Really, the only other source I've used has been the Back Yard Chickens' ducks forum, full of folks with much experience. But when I posted a question about molting, I received advice, from the couple of folks who responded, that was very different from Mr. Holderread's.

Mr. Holderread writes a section on what he calls "force molting", where the ducks are kept caged for a couple of days, and their light and food regimens are dramatically altered.  He states that this will start ducks molting, which will stop egg-laying, but will let them get a new set of feathers in preparation for next year's weather. 

When I asked at the BYC duck forum, however, the few folks who responded said that I didn't have to do anything, and that the ducks would most likely molt on their own.

My ducks get a lot of light.  I live in a city, and lights are everywhere.  It is pretty dark at night, but it's nowhere nearly as dark as in the wild.  For this reason (and that I left my porchlight on for a few hours after dark), my ducks have laid very regularly.  Typically, two or three eggs each day from my ducks is the norm.

I've read and been told that both the laying and the forced molting may have an impact on their health, so I opted for letting nature take its course.  In the back of my mind, however, I was well aware that nature didn't produce these prolific egg-layers or the lighting they'd been given. 

Well, this morning, after a couple of months of worrying, it looks like at least one of the three sisters just might have started molting...

Here's another sister, for comparison:

 Ain't Welsh Harlequins just beautiful birds?

It's not too noticeable, but the first bird is lacking the prominent wing bars.  In fact, I found a number of paired wing feathers in the yard today, which I've kept in hopes of making some nice flies out of them for fishing. 

I sure hope this is molting, because I'd like for them to get a nice set of feathers for winter.  We don't have the worst winters, but still, I'd like them to be comfortable. 

If you have any thoughts/suggestions/questions about ducks, please let me know!

No comments: