Duck nest delivers a slithery surprise

From our March 2012 issue

By Darcy Schick – Wolseley, Sask.

A number of years back, I raised various fowl including geese and ducks. Every day I would gather the eggs.

If a goose or duck had built a nest, I’d number the eggs with a pencil. As she continued to lay eggs I’d take the older ones away, always leaving six or seven fresh ones in the nest.

I would then keep an eye out to see when they would start to set the eggs. After three weeks of incubation, I would give the eggs the ‘warm water test’. It’s a great technique my mother taught me.

The process is to gently place a few eggs at a time into a pail of warm water. If the egg sinks to the bottom, it’s no good. Pay close attention to those that float. If the embryo is alive, you should see the egg wiggle, bobble, and dip. It’s foolproof and a neat thing to see!

At this point I would remove any inactive eggs and gently place the good ones back under the mother. Geese and duck eggs take 28 days to incubate.

On the 27th day I would casually walk up, squat down beside the duck or goose, gently slide my hand under her and see if anything had hatched. Aside from a few nasty hisses and snaps – some of which left bruises – things always went well.

One morning I went to the barn eagerly anticipating a hatch of Rouen ducklings. I did my usual routine and gently slid my hand under mother duck. That’s when the routine ended abruptly!

I felt something move, but it wasn’t warm and fuzzy. Confused, I lifted my hand, thus raising the duck off the eggs.

There in the nest among the feathers and warm eggs was a rather large garter snake! It caught me off guard. It was promptly removed.

The next day while approaching the nest, I could see a couple of ducklings poking their heads out from under mama duck. A gentle lift revealed six beautiful and healthy ducklings.

When I first got my white Emden geese, I was told they’re better than a watchdog. It was so true!

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