This pic, spliced together from two taken from my front porch, is actually from last year. I dug it back up because here in my part of North Texas we finally got some measurable rainfall last Thursday -- after several weeks without. Cause to celebrate!
As you know, all isn't always cute and cuddly on a farm. We're forever on the lookout for predators -- from coyotes to hawks and owls to snakes. Last Wednesday at around 2 in the morning the ducks sounded an alarm. My first reaction was to look to see if at least one of the dogs was on guard duty outside. Loki lay snoozing at the foot of the bed but Ginger was gone. I don't know how they divvy up the chore, but when there's trouble at night two of the dogs will go check it out while the third (and it's not always the same third) stays behind to protect me.
With a couple of dogs out in the backyard looking after the ducks I wasn't too worried, especially since the dogs weren't barking. And the duck alarm sounded more like Condition Yellow rather than all-out Red. Still, I slipped on a pair of sandals and grabbed a flashlight. Ginger and Angel seemed unruffled, so I immediately ruled out a coyote or raccoon or skunk. The ducks were all facing one direction and it wasn't up, so I ruled out an owl. Since one of the ducks was off her nest, unusual for that time of night, I figured I knew the culprit.
Sure enough, in the soft glow of the flashlight, I saw the snake curled up in the duck nest.
It was a rat snake, and not a particularly large one at that, looking for an easy meal. Rat snakes are neither venomous nor aggressive, plus they provide the added bonus of a natural way to help keep the mouse and rat populations in check. I often have a rat snake or two take up residence in the chicken coop at odd times during the summer. Since there's usually an abundance of eggs, I don't mind losing a few to the snakes.
Rather than collecting the duck eggs this summer I've allowed the broodier ducks to sit on them. I have a couple of very determined ladies who have built nests under a few pieces of long, sparse grass -- hardly protection against the fierce summer sun and temperatures that have been well above 100 degrees the past couple of months. Faced with temps that have reached 109 to 116, I figure these ladies are actually keeping the eggs cool rather than warm by sitting on them :o). The eggs aren't viable, which is a good thing because 5 ducks are quite enough to look after, thank you very much.
I was ready to encourage the snake out of the nest to make the ducks happy when I noticed the snake was already hard at work trying to swallow one of the eggs. For those of you who have never seen a Pekin duck egg, they are about 1.5 times the size of a large chicken egg.
|Pekin duck egg on left - Large chicken egg on right|