Category Archives: Ducks

Chickens, Ducks & Watermelon

The hens and ducks have enjoyed our delicious watermelon harvest. Lucky for them, we had several huge vines in the front yard garden, and we ended up buried in melons. They were so happy this evening!

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Goodbye Mortimer

Mortimer came and spent over seven months on our little farmstead. We adored him, watched him grow from a little brown duckling into a beautiful taupe and green Mallard drake, and he gave us so many laughs with all his character. Being part of a mated pair with Phoebe, it was a tough goodbye, but a necessary one. That last two days he was here were not pleasant, especially for him since he kept getting quarantined. The mornings were the worst, running up to any duck he could and pecking them, grabbing them, chasing and chasing every duck in sight. He was not a happy guy, and the whole flock suffered. Even Phoebe has stopped laying eggs from all the stress… She’s a daily layer, but she’s had three days with no eggs!

Morty left yesterday with a great guy who resides in Harrisonville, Missouri. He has property with a pond in the country. He keeps several ducks, including Runners like Mortimer, chickens and even a turkey. He’s in very good, loving hands which made the goodbye a lot easier.

Now, for the sweet gift I found today. It was laying next to our roses:

It’s a curled tail feather from Mortimer (grainy image, but you get the idea). Only mature males have these curled tail feathers. It was a very special find, and we’re keeping it to remember our very first, beautiful male duck. So long, Mortimer, thank you for the joy you gave us, and may you enjoy your new pond & flock!

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Duck Dramas (or Quack-Operas)

Prasad held one of the ducks...

...while the other two sat in the back seat of our truck.

the light blue and black girls..

..enjoying what ducks enjoy most, a morning swim.

Part I, Three new ducks: Three. That was not planned. I’d contacted Jenn at her local Revolutionmama Ranch where we’d gotten our first Indian Runners to see if she had any females available. We wanted just one to replace the incorrectly sexed fawn & white females we ordered several weeks ago- one is female, but one is actually male. Big *ugh*, considering when you don’t buy them local, the shipping costs are high. Jenn informed me she had three Runner girls left from her baby stock for the year. They’re on the verge of laying age, probably by September.

During the drive out to her property, I told myself we’d take just two home. Nice try. By the time Prasad and I arrived and saw the three very bonded and attached ducks, I gladly took all three. They’re gorgeous in person- the pictures don’t even come close to showing the richness of their colors. One is shiny black with white speckles on the chest and iridescent green feathers in the sunlight. Another is a darker grey with bluish and black flecks, while the smaller girl is a brilliant, rich light blue. I’d been hoping for a blue Runner, and there she was. That seems to be how it goes before an animal joins us- I imagine the color or type I’d like, and they just happen to be exactly what we find. Now, onto the Mortimer/drake ordeal…

Mortimer (right) living in harmony with the new girls

Part II, Aggressive Drake: Before bringing home these beauties, Mortimer was in the slammer (the pen pictured at left). He was harassing the fawn & white babies constantly… just super rude and aggressive. He had to be quarantined both day and night, and I placed an on Craigslist ad to sell him. Last evening we brought our new girls home, and he went after them, too. So, we quarantined him another night. This morning I went out to clean up his pen and let him loose in the run. That time he left the new girls alone. He did an occasional nip or two if they came too close, but no aggressive chasing or pinning down. He went after the new fawn & white babies again, but today it’s been way less than before. He’s pinned them down a few times, but then walks away and gives them their freedom to swim and eat (unlike before). We’re hoping this is a trend, and that he’s merely asserting his dominance in the pecking order. Maybe there’s hope for Mort after all. That’s our hope, considering he’s such a gorgeous boy and we’ve had him almost a year.

Chameli & Adelaide, our fawn & white babies are free to roam the run now and seem to be our most avid swimmers.

These two cuties are the ones Mortimer has been targeting. We’ve seen a 75% reduction today, and hope that continues for all their sakes. Adelaide is on the right, and Adelaide is a male/drake. He doesn’t quack like Chameli… drakes squeak. His markings are more distinctive, too. He’s going to be another gorgeous drake to have around, and yes, we’re planning to come up with a new name.

We’re hoping that we’ve simply learned something about drake behavior; flock behavior. Introducing new members can be stressful, but it’s natural and inevitable. If Morty adjusts and is able to maintain his standing as the Supreme King of the flock, I think things will calm down.

Ermengard saying "hello" from the duck house

Last, but not least, is Ermengard. She’s our very calm and sweet Buff Orpington, and the first of our Spring chicks to start laying eggs last month. She never lays eggs where the other chickens like to lay. Instead, she seeks out new and exciting places (a really cool non-comformist). What I love most about her, is that she doesn’t mind being picked up. After this picture was taken, Phoebe, our duck came along and sat down beside her and they laid eggs together. I ended up eating Ermengard’s egg for breakfast.. thanks Ermie!

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Injured Duckling Quarantined

injured Chameli

Poor little Chameli! We had a duckling emergency this morning due to one of them getting pecked on the head by an adult male drake. Yes, Mortimer did it. I don’t hold it against him at all, considering these ducklings are new and he’s very, very territorial. He even challenges our dog, and runs up and down the fence to challenge him. It’s my fault this baby was injured. I should have placed cardboard or small-holed wire all around their pen. They moved outdoors on Monday into a large, steel dog pen. It’s what we used for the baby chicks in Spring and it worked perfectly. I assumed the ducklings would be fine, but the holes are large enough for the babies to barely squeeze through, and Chameli got stuck. While stuck, Mortimer started pecking away at her head and she couldn’t get away. By the time I stepped outside this morning she was a bloody mess.

Daniel and I cleaned her up in a bath, then held her in a soft blanket for thirty minutes and compressed the wounds. The bleeding stopped, but the skin is open in two places and we don’t know if they will heal correctly. I keep applying antibacterial ointment. If anyone is experienced with this and has any suggestions, I’d love to hear from you. You can see one wound we couldn’t wrap up, and the other larger wound is under the tourniquet. She’s grooming herself, but hasn’t eaten yet. She’s resting quietly, alone in an indoor cage away from her sister. When I walk up to her she’s very needy- she comes to me and wants to nestle. I’m praying the wounds scab over so the skin can grow back.

 

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Backyard Pullet Eggs

4 1/2 month old pullet's egg on the left, adult duck egg on the right

I couldn’t resist sharing a picture of the first egg laid by a hand raised chicken. Hens are not called “hens” until they are one year old. Until then, they’re known as “pullets.” We weren’t expecting pullet eggs for another month, so Ermengard is an early bird!

The scale isn’t apparent in the photo, but her little egg yolk was the size of a quarter. Pullets start out laying small eggs, and become larger as the pullet grows. As adults, the bigger hens lay larger eggs. From Prasad’s review, this tiny delicacy was “very nice, supreeemely delicious.” Not bad for Ermengard’s first egg. Sorin wants the next tiny egg, so I guess we’ll have to create a waiting list.

Posted by: Jill

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Summer Ducklings

Two-day old Adelaide and Chameli finally arrived today. These are two Indian Runner females we plan to add to the couple we already have. I’ve fallen madly in love with Indian Runners (aka Bowling Pin Ducks , and Penguin Ducks). These two females will give a 1:3 male/female ratio to our little flock, as well as increase our yummy egg supply.

Raising ducklings in Summer is a different world from Spring time. I’m guessing we’ll find it preferable, considering they’ll only require a couple weeks indoors, versus the 4-6 weeks. They may require some supplemental heat in the evenings outdoors, but only until they’re four weeks old.

NAMES: Adelaide (Ad-uh-layd) means noble & kind, and Chameli (Chem-elly) is an Indian Sanskrit name meaning Jasmine flower.

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The Compassionate Intelligence of Animals

This morning I was so awe struck by our pair of ducks that I was in tears. We watch our ducks and chickens every day from the large sunroom windows, and it’s a perfect view. We can entertain ourselves for hours there. We’ve learned a lot about animal behavior, their intuitive connection to the earth, as well as their caring and compassion for one another.

In a recent study, chickens have been found to have empathy for one another, and after today I’ve no doubt that’s also true for ducks. Phoebe lays eggs every single morning, but she was let out of the duck house very early this morning. Daniel rose earlier than usual, and let the whole flock out. After the ducks are released they never ever return to their house unless it’s sunset. Phoebe hadn’t laid her egg yet, but by 7:30 I could hear her honking loudly. I rushed to the window to see what might be wrong. She was inside the duck house honking and quacking away in a more distressed tone than usual, and pacing around nervously. Mortimer, our drake was inside the house with her. He began caressing and entwining his neck with hers. They do this affectionately while sitting quietly together, but I’ve never seen it done during times of frantic activity before. Phoebe kept honking, and Mortimer kept going to the door to make sure she was safe, and that no one else came in. After a few minutes, Phoebe sat down and got comfortable, and Mortimer went back to the doorway. He used his body lengthwise to block anyone from coming inside.

Mortimer’s behavior was so touching, so intelligent, supportive and caring. That alone had me awe struck, but the chickens amazed me, too. While Phoebe sat down, releasing her egg quietly (which can take 10-15 minutes in some cases), all 9 chickens were huddled outside the duck house, looking in. They were curious, staring, all 9 of them. After a while, the younger chickens moved away, and the three eldest hens were left standing there, studying Phoebe while Mortimer guarded her sacred duty. It was as if they all knew what she was doing and had a curious concern for her. They kept tilting their heads toward her, and were standing unusually close to Mortimer. Phoebe is new to egg laying- she laid her 12th egg today. Maybe the older hens, being experienced layers themselves, felt some kind of empathy and understanding. Whatever the case, it was one of the most beautiful scenes I have ever witnessed in my life.

Posted by: Jill

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