Friday, December 5, 2014

Day Three Of Nitpicking The Twelve Days Of Christmas

At four months old, the cockerel (or rooster) is like a teenage boy with no control of his hormones.  Many species of bird starts the breeding process within the first year of life, but swans are special.  Typically, they start to think about mating some time between the ages of three and four.  They tend to mate in the spring/early summer time, and you can usually expect up to a dozen eggs to be fertilized by the male.

It's not uncommon for only a few of the babies to survive to adulthood, but it's also not uncommon for many of them to survive, depending on where the nest is located and what predators are around.

So, if you want seven swans a swimming (or, depending on how you read the song, forty-two swans-a-swimming) what does that entail?

Well, once again, we have to look at British royalty.

For the record, their babies might not be -as cute- as ducklings, but they're pretty darn cute.
The Queen, at any given time, can claim ownership of all unmarked swans in open water.  A "marked" swan typically has a nick taken out of the webbing between its toes, letting people know "this is already owned by someone else, but it's probably safer to deal with me than be accused of poaching the Queen's birds."   However, swans are serious business in England, where they're considered a native species.  There's even an annual event called Swan Upping that involves doing a census of "the queen's birds."

So trying to grab some wild ones in England can get you in pretty serious trouble.

But what if you want to buy some from a breeder in the United States?

Well, then you might need to pay attention to your local laws.

Fun fact, the white swan (or "mute swan") is considered an invasive species in the United States, and is only protected in a few areas.  Many states require a special permit to own any, while others do everything they can to maintain the population and keep it under control.  Swans are notorious for chasing away other waterfowl, and can consume a lot of plant matter each day.

Needless to say, while very pretty, they're not very well liked by state governments (with a couple of exceptions).

So there's the legal loopholes you have to jump through to get a permit to own them, you need a large body of water for them to live on (one that has ample plant life, tadpoles, and other food), and you have to be aware that they will very likely fight with each other the moment you have seven of them in one place.  A mating pair likes to have its own nesting area, and will attempt to chase away any other mating pairs in the area due to how territorial they are.

That is, unless you manage to get a young flock.  If each of the swans is younger than three, they can remain in a group together, since, as I said before, they don't really become "adults" and attempt to mate until after they turn three.  It is at this point, however, you'll have them either picking mates from their flock and heading off with them to find a nesting zone, or they'll simply leave to find another flock and find a mate from that one.

This is all from the research I did on mute swans, though.  If you want something a bit more exotic, there are different rules.

Let's say you decided to breed some black swans in the United States.

Why am I posting this picture?  Because I know that at least one person out there was thinking about it.
To be honest...I can't find much offhand without doing some deeper digging, but what I did find is that black swans are considered "exotic" animals and don't fall under the same regulations.  They're also more social and cheaper to raise based on what I've found about their eating habits.  They also mate earlier in life as well, so if you do want to breed them, you don't have to wait as long after they're born.

Trumpeter swans, on the other hand, are considered either an endangered or protected species in a lot of areas, so that's an entirely different legal route you have to take in order to have them.  I can't find a lot of regulations when it comes to keeping them as pets, though, and they do seem to be easier to raise than the classic mute swan.

However, no matter what kind of swan you decide to get, be sure to keep them away from the "geese a layin'" during their mating season.  Swans are known to actually kill geese in their attempts to clear a nesting area.

Geese are actually kind of jerks, when you think about it.

And probably a headache you just don't want to deal with.

Moving on, our next look will be going a bit earlier into the song.  Just how hard is it to keep a pear tree alive, and what point does a partridge have in it?

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