I've been meaning to write about the ducks for some time. I mentioned last time when I wrote about them that they're a lot more work than chickens. Since our chickens only lasted two months, I can only speak to the first two months of work, but here's where ducks made trouble:
- They grew a lot faster and bigger than the chickens (jumping out of their enclosure after just a couple of days; moved to an enclosure with taller walls, and jumping out of that, too).
- So, so messy. They splash water everywhere, so their bedding had to be changed daily. When we moved them to their outside home, we didn't change the bedding every day and it grew maggots. So many maggots.
- They're dumb. Like really, really dumb. (Z said, "If they were a knife in the drawer, they'd be the frosting spreader."). They run around in a clump like a kindergarten soccer team, following each other off a cliff if they get in a huff (or at least off a low retaining wall). They're as terrified of the people who feed and water them as they are of wild animals (and these are supposed to be calm breeds).
But they're (mostly) still alive, which is more than I can say for the chickens. This is the house we kept them in over the summer: Duck Knox.
It has 1/2-inch mesh screening and triple locks to keep out the predators. We did lose one to a raccoon while we were on vacation, because our house-sitter left them in their less-secure daytime enclosure overnight, and we almost lost one to a fox or coyote in early September.
I woke in the middle of the night to a loud, quack-quack-quack-quack-quack, and ran outside in nighty and rubber boots. I'd grabbed a flashlight on my way out the door and by its light saw that we had somehow forgotten to shut the ducks up in Duck Knox. They were huddled inside, and by the beam of the flashlight, it appeared they were all inside and accounted for, but I could hear a rustling in the woods nearby and, as I was wrestling with the door, what should come waddling out but one of the white ducks, with a droopy wing and four bloody holes in her back. She hobbled over to the pool and stood there while I filled the night water and then made her way inside with the other ducks.
I didn't expect her to live out the night, but she was alive the next morning and over the next week or so, she kept her neck tucked to her back and moved around gingerly. I didn't see her eat or drink and the other ducks picked on her a little, and I still expected her to die (we decided not to try to treat the wounds, figuring our attempt to catch her and pour alcohol in her cuts would stress her out and be more hindrance than help to healing). But after a week or so, she was back to her old ducky self, and now we can't even tell which duck was the injured one.
C has built them a two-story duck castle in the garage for their winter quarters, and he ran electricity underground from the house so we can give them light and heat their water this winter. They've gotten a little less skittish and spastic (though they're still quite ridiculous).
For the last two weeks they've been dropping eggs here and there (sometimes even in the nest box). They're surprisingly good--with nice thick whites and golden yolks that cook to creamy perfection.