If you are looking for expert information on raising ducks, this isn’t it. We have two. But even with our limited experience I feel like we have learned a lot.
The first thing we learned is that we like having ducks. That hasn’t always been the case. At first, I thought we had made a terrible mistake. Charming Kitty and I bought ducks on a whim – not usually the best way to purchase livestock or poultry. But as I’ve mentioned before, cuteness figures in pretty heavily for us when it comes to choosing farm animals – and baby ducks are nothing if not cute.
Last May, Kitty and I had gone to a local farm to buy Charming Chet some hatching eggs for his birthday to go with his new incubator. The woman selling the eggs also had some baby ducks. Yes, I am a sucker for cuteness, and this was a triple whammy. Cute Kitty pleading to take home cute ducks to surprise Cute Chet for his birthday. I never had a chance.
We set up a brooder for Rowan the Thomas, named after the cousins. We didn’t know if they were boys or girls at the time, but lucky us, we got one of each! We had raised baby chickens before, so I thought I knew what we were in for. Wrong. Baby chicks are adorable for at least a couple of weeks before they reach their creepy phase. Not so with baby ducks. After about two hours I was creeped out. Ducks are just gross. They poop a lot. And then step in it. Then step in their water. And back in the poop. And back in their water. Their flat duck feet make little poopy foot prints. Within hours the brooder, located on my sun porch, was a soggy, poopy mess.
As unimpressed as I was with Rowan and Thomas, the feeling appeared to be mutual. I have seen ducks on TV that are so attached to their human families that they chase the car when the family leaves home. I’ve read stories about ducks who follow human children around like siblings. I’ve seen pictures on the Internet of ducks riding happily in the basket of a tricycle being peddled by a toddler. I soon realized none of these would be a reality with Rowan and Thomas. They ran (through their poop) every time we tried to pick them up.
But fast forward a couple months. Rowan and Thomas spent their early weeks with their chickens siblings that Chet had hatched in his incubator. We introduced all these little ones into the barnyard at the same time. I think the big chickens were so overwhelmed by all the new little peeps running around that they didn’t have time to really bother them – and they certainly didn’t seem to notice that a couple of them weren’t chickens. Soon, Rowan and Thomas were waddling happily about the barnyard with the chickens and goats – just another part of the gang!
I’ve always loved watching my chickens. Like most chicken people, I could (and have) spend hours just watching them peck around and be chickeny. And ducks are no different. Well, actually they are very different – but no less fun to watch. Here’s what we love about our ducks…
1. They make a cute couple. Had we gotten more than two ducks, I don’t know if they would have paired up like this, but Rowan and Thomas (Thomas is the hen, by the way) are like a funny old married couple. Thomas can be a nag, especially if Rowan is bullying the chickens – something he is pretty bad to do. When he chases one of the chickens she will quack and quack and follow on his feet until he stops. On the other hand, if one of the roosters gives Thomas any trouble or a hen innocently goes for the same bug Thomas was eyeing, Rowan is the first to flap to her defense. And at the end of the day the snuggle up. They are inseparable.
2. They swim. We set up one of those blue plastic kiddie pools in the barnyard. It is delightful to watch them splash and groom and play. It almost makes up for all that poop stepping they did as babies.
3. The waddle. Duh. That’s a no-brainer. All waddling creatures are cute – ducks, penguins, geese, toddlers, pregnant women. Who doesn’t love a waddle?
4. They quack. Seriously, I like the quack. It’s so farm sounding, and it makes me feel like a real farmer when I go out in the morning and hear roosters crowing, goats bleating, and ducks quaking. The more animals in the barnyard symphony, the more charming the sound. I wonder what Charming Hal would say if I told him I’d like to add some honks, gobbles, and maybe an oink.
5. They are pretty. Don’t tell my chickens I said this, but as far as fowl go, I think ducks are the fairest of them all.
Now that I know I like ducks, I just need to learn more about how raising them. I still have a lot of questions, but I did learn a couple of new things this week from my friend at Free Range Life. She told me a gut wrenching story about the death of her drake and how the hen stayed by his side until the end. That hen has now cast off her duckiness and become more like a chicken (she never swam again after her man died). I hope nothing like that ever happens with Rowan and Thomas. And I hope one day, Rowan and Thomas’s love bears fruit and we have darling baby ducks waddling and quaking around. Maybe those ducks will chase my car or ride happily in the basket of the kids’ bicycles. Now that would be fun!