Ask the Swan Specialist

Re: My pair of mute swans ready to have babies again
By:The Regal Swan
Date: 14 May 2015

Hi Katherine

We would strongly recommend that you Do Not take the cygnets from the parents. As much as there are natural events that can kill the young cygnets, there are just as many things that can kill the cygnets in your care. Raising the cygnets is a labor intensive project and you can never replace the teaching skills of a parent swan, such as finding food, recognizing and eluding predators. This means that the young birds will become imprinted on you and will never be able to be released onto a pond without extreme safety measures and constent supervision.

We would suggest two possible scenarios that might help, but understand you may disrupt the nesting and you do not want the parents to abandon the cygnets.

Prepare a pen, 1/2 in water and 1/2 on land, with zero entrance, no steep or rocky areas. The pen needs to be enclosed top to bottom so that predators cannot fig under the pen or climb over and into the pen. Place straw on the inside bank portion of the pen so the cygnets can rest. The pen will need to be at least a 12 x 24 foot pen. From the bottom rail (ground level up to 4 feet high along the outside perimeter of the pen, use poultry fencing to line the pen (outside perimeter) so cygnets cannot get their heads caught in the fencing of the pen or crawl out from the parents. Once all cygnets have hatched, gather the parents and the cygnets and place them in the pen for approximately 4-5 weeks which will allow the cygnets to get larger and keep some predators from being able to kill them due to their small size. You will need to place a feeder inside the pen to allow the family to feed at will. A mixture of 50% cracked corn and 50% poultry layer pellets submerged in water unless you have a feeding system that the birds can feed directly near the water or the birds can choke. Also add finely chopped lettuce and a small amount of bread. Finally, wait a little longer prior to pinioning. The birds can be pinioned between 1-3 weeks of age. Do not wait after 3 weeks of age, because it can be stressful on the birds as nerves and other tissues will have formed necessitating anesthesia. Conversely, pinioning at just days of age is too stressful.

If the pen suggestion cannot be readily implemented this year, then allow the family to go out on the pond as usual. Next year, build the pen and place the parents in the pen so they build the nest and lay the eggs in the pen. This should not be as disruptive as trying to gather the family after hatching where you may risk abandonment or injury to the cygnets. Additionally , some swans will not accept being in the pen and may fail to nest or hurt themselves trying to escape from the pen. It is for these reasons that it may be better to let the parents raise them on the pond despite the natural risks. On another note, if you are going to ever use a kiddie pool, it needs to be sunk in the ground for a zero entrance with a way to empty and change water daily. An above ground kiddie pool or other such water feature is too steep and can cause leg or foot injuries which can be fatal for waterfowl. The same goes for abrasive or rocky surfaces. We hope that this information is of benefit. The Regal Swan

Messages In This Thread

My pair of mute swans ready to have babies again -- Katherine -- 14 May 2015
Re: My pair of mute swans ready to have babies again -- The Regal Swan -- 14 May 2015