Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Muscovy Ducks and Ticks

We have been getting heaps of bandicoots through the garden these days. The wet weather over the last 2 years seems to have increased their numbers quite significantly. Besides the annoyance of the bandicoots digging up seedlings in their quest for worms, they also bring another problem along with them: ticks.
Bandicoots are a natural host for ticks and (as with any host) once the tick has had its feed, it will drop off. This break from the host may be to grow some more or to lay eggs, in the case of a mature female.
Unfortunately one of our Muscovy Ducks, Edgar, came across one of these ticks and it managed to attach itself to Edgar's carbuncles. My daughter noticed that Edgar was not coming in for the nightly feed and lock up in the pens, so my wife investigated. Edgar was hardly able to move and allowed himself to be picked up (unheard of for our ducks). My wife had to use pliers to remove the tick as it had gotten too big for tweezers to get around its body.
We were not sure what to do next, so put a search on the web found that Muscovy Ducks had been recently reported to be affected by ticks (and yes we confirmed that). But what about the recovery rate or method for recovery? There was not all that much information to be found, except to keep that animal calm and comfortable.
So we let Edgar stay in the shade in his cage with the door ajar as the weather was not too hot (low 20 degrees C). The first day he did not do too much apart from lie in the one spot with his head lolling on the ground, but was able to drink some water when provided to him (i.e. water dish to bill). The following day he perked up a bit and was talking water more readily. Up until this time there was a small amount of white foam visible in the corner of each of his eyes, which seemed to annoy him a bit; he was observed shaking his head occasionally to try and clear the foam. After about 3 or 4 days he was eating again and able to move around with the rest of the flock.
Previous to this attack, Edgar had been the alpha male. There is one other male in the flock and they had gotten on quite well, probably because the number of ducks to drakes was quite high. But some Wedge-Tailed Eagles had started taking our ducks so the ratio was dropping.
The other male thought that this would be a great time to overthrow the recovering Edgar. I had to intervene a number of times by covering the eyes of the other male (this causes them to stop what they are doing - also handy when dispatching a duck for dinner). Muscovy Ducks can really fight when the get into it. They can be a bit like a couple of ice hockey players going at it. Their wings pack a punch when they connect with your hand, let me tell you.
After the first day of challenge, Edgar had enough and made himself scarce under some recycled materials. That night he did not want to go into his cage, though the males aren't penned in together. The following day he was stronger and thus was able to hold his own a bit better. Then after a few days of duking it out he was top drake again.
So I learned a number of things from this episode: the first being that Muscovy Ducks (or drakes) can recover from a tick bite. However prompt removal of the tick is important, as is ensuring that the animal is kept in a calm state with constant access to water (that is, you might need to bring water to them periodically). And finally, protect the recovering animal if there are other males when either a duck or drake gets a tick.