August 17, 2016

Our duck population has doubled

Our duck family began with three ducklings about a year and a half ago: Mrs. Bossy Pants, Dr. Phillips and Marshmallow Man.  We never were very adept at telling the two males apart.  Then one night a coyote took one of the two males.  So we were down to two - Bossy Pants and what now became referred to as "boy duck."  

We desperately wanted some baby ducks and would get very excited every time it looked like the pair were building a nest of eggs to incubate.  Several times Bossy Pants laid bunches of eggs but then failed to sit on them.  

We decided to try an experiment so we took two of Bossy Pants' eggs and put them under a chicken.  Both hatched though only one duckling survived, and we named her Cupcake.  She was raised by the hen who hatched her and to this day seems to think she's more chicken than duck.  At night she climbs up the ramp and comes in to sleep with the chickens.  I think she would perch if she could manage it.  Here she is, now fully grown, coming in for the night.  You can see the other ducks in the background out in the run.

This cracks me up, she will stand in the doorway and watch the other ducks out in the run.

So with the addition of Cupcake, we were back up to three ducks.  

Then one day, something fantastic happened: Bossy Pants actually sat on her nest.  She sat and sat and sat, for four long weeks, only leaving the nest in the evenings to eat, drink, swim and forage in rapid speed so that she could get back onto her eggs.  Of the 14 eggs she started with, sadly only two made it to hatch and survive.  That brought us up to five ducks.

Then last week, while I was gone, one of the little ducklings disappeared - a victim, we believe, to our fox problem.  We have lost probably 4-5 birds in the last week.  More on that in another post.  Here is the one lonely remaining duckling.

Poor thing is trying to figure out where it belongs.  Used to be that the two ducklings were inseparable, waddling around and taking long naps in the shade together.  Now the duckling tries to hang with its mamma and its dad runs it off.  It has taken to staying with Cupcake, who doesn't seem to mind the little one but also sometimes acts like a chicken.  So at night, for instance, the baby is alone.  Cupcake quacked loudly at the baby one night, encouraging it to come up in the coop too but it seemed confused or unwilling so Cupcake went up alone.  

Now we come to the part in the story where our population nearly doubles.  

We had been looking for a companion duck for Cupcake since she's kind of an outcast amongst the ducks.  It was surprisingly difficult to find anyone near us with a grown male Pekin that they'd sell.  Finally we found a family on Craigslist who was advertising 20+ adult Pekins for sale about an hour away from us.  

We set out to find this place, and when we arrived, we wished we could have taken them all.  This lady, who had difficulty walking even with the help of a cane, told us she had order two dozen ducklings because she thought raising them might be a good hobby.  Now they were fully grown, in a pen no bigger than 15' square (with chickens in it too!) which was a muddy disaster.  These poor birds had no shade and only a small baby pool to cool off in, which was empty.  Ahhh!  I wanted to shake this lady and ask her - What were you thinking??  At least she said she had realized ducks were too much for her and they were trying to get rid of them.  

We decided to take four instead of the one male we had planned on.  We didn't want to totally overwhelm our current duck family but we needed to get more of these birds out of that place.  

So now we are up to eight.  

Here you can see the new four in the back and the original two in the front.

The new ducks, since they lived their whole lives in a 15' square, seem to have no interest in leaving the coop.  They would lay under the henhouse all day long.  We have been trying to force them out into the yard and down to the pond.  We noticed the first day that they walked strangely so my husband caught a couple of them and we found they have sores on their feet, probably a result of living in a scummy pen with too many other ducks.

They will have a good life here at the Farm.  We are hopeful they'll learn to forage and explore eventually if we just keep shoving them out into the world.

I caught this glimpse out the window the other day of Bossy Pants and boy duck, who had discovered a little sand box we have yet to fill behind the house.  With all the rain it had become a nice watering hole.  Now those are some ducks that know how to explore!

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