Dickson Farm

Royal Mute Swans


Pictured above and below are our Royal White Mutes. Although we purchased these swans, the Queen of England claims ownership to all Royal White Swans. These swans are aggressive in nature during breeding season and tend to hiss at any approaching predator.  Sometimes our male swan, Charles, will leave the water and flap his wings while running after us.  It is quite a frightening action but we realize he is only honoring his instinctive duty to protect his young.  Mute swan adults have no predators around south western PA except for large dogs and coyotes.  We have not lost any mute swans yet partly due to luck and preventive action.  The swans are most susceptible to predation during the night in winter.  If the pond is allowed to freeze over, the swans are deprived of their only reasonable defense which is open water.  For this reason we have installed an air pump that constantly produces bubbles in the water.  The advantage of the air pump over sump pumps and trash pumps is we don't have to worry about the pump being damaged by freezing water.  The air pump is not expensive to operate and is capable of keeping a fifty foot circle of water free from ice during the coldest part of the winter.  We can also turn the pump off during warm spells and since it is an air pump we don't worry about it freezing.  The other way we prevent coyote attacks is to keep a light on near the pond.  Since coyotes don't like to be seen, we feel they will stay out of the light and away from our pond.  The mute swan is a very hardy bird and has nearly 25,000 feathers, which is more feathers than any other bird.  This enables the swan to survive even the coldest of winters.  Our pond has very little natural protection from weather so we built a shelter so the swans could get out of the weather.  To our surprise, they never even went near our shelter no matter how nasty the weather was.  The only thing we noticed they did different during the coldest periods of winter was they ate very little.  It is believed the reason for this is to conserve energy that would normally be used for digestion.  During the winter months we switch their diet to a higher percentage of whole corn kernels and then to Mazuri feeds before the breeding season starts.



Austrailian Black Swans


Currently we have one pair of Australian Black Swans.  We purchased them in the early spring of 2009 and are hoping for a clutch of eggs in 2010.  Blacks Swans are interesting breeders because they are capable of laying two clutches per year, one in the spring and another the in fall.  You can also make them have multiple clutches in either season by removing eggs from their nest.  When the female notices missing eggs she will lay more to replace them.  This also works for mute swans as well.  We don't remove any eggs from nests because we feel laying twice as many eggs as they should is hard on the females.  In order to get the black swans to lay again in the fall, it is a good idea to remove the babies from the previous spring's hatch.  One thing we found out the hard way with young black swans is that you should fence the area you plan to keep them in to prevent them from wandering off.  Even though they are pinioned, the swans still may not feel comfortable where you keep them and may walk away.  We have had a pair leave our unfenced pond and walk over a mile away to another pond.  Another notable thing about these swans is it is not a good idea to keep them on the same pond as other swans.  We found this out the hard way too.  Our first pair of black swans were released on the large pond along with our mute swans.  The mute swans immediately chased the black swans out of the water and we caught them and moved them to another pond.  Since our mute swans had already established a territory on our large pond they chased the black swans away.  However, if you introduced a pair of black swans and a pair of mute swans to a foreign pond, they may be able to both live together on the same water without fighting.  We have yet to try this but we would be interested to hear from anyone who has.

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