Chickens · Choosing livestock · Ducks · Farm Animals · New to farming · That's How You Learn

The Duck Bully… (note: this post has nothing to do with a certain A&E reality TV show)

Things have been a little intense down at the barnyard for the last few weeks. Oh, I’ve always known Rowan, our drake, was a bully. We got him and his lady love, Thomas, when they were only a few days old. We kept them in a brooder for a few weeks and then in a small pen with our hatchling chicks for a several more weeks until we felt like they were all ready to be introduced to the rest of the flock.

Almost as soon as we let the ducks and chicks out to range, Rowan let everyone know he was not to be messed with, nor was Thomas. His devotion to her and they way he always rushed to her defense was touching, even if he did come across as a bit of jerk to everyone else.

As time has passed I’ve watched him skulk around day after day, fairly looking for a fight. Here he is taking his daily dip in the chicken’s water -even though the ducks have their own larger kiddie pool.

Interrupting Rowan's bath cost this poor Polish a few feathers.
Interrupting Rowan’s bath cost this poor Polish a few feathers.

Rowan bobs around nipping at any hen who dares wander over for a drink. When he’s finished he guards the tub while Thomas takes her dip. Sweet, huh.

No question Rowan is a bully. But he amuses me and I love him. Besides, there is something sweet about a guy who protects his lady.

Still, a few weeks ago when I noticed that he had honed in on one hen in particular, I began to worry. For some reason, Rowan started to go after one of my poor black australorps with a vengeance. Seriously, I thought he might kill her. He would chase her, pin her, and then proceed to nip at her relentlessly. And you know how hens are. They are like middle school girls. As soon as some of the other gals saw she was down, they would join in the fray, pecking and taunting (or so I imagined) the poor pinned australorp. This problem was exacerbated by 8 inches of snow that kept all the ducks, hens, and roosters in the coop for days on end.

I tried putting Rowan and Thomas in time out. But it only made them frantic.

How they paced back and forth looking for a way back in to the chicken coop.
How they paced back and forth looking for a way back in to the chicken coop.

Besides, I knew when the snow melted I’d need to find a permanent solution to these barnyard brawls. I turned to the duck expert at Fresh Eggs Daily. She advised me to get more hens. Apparently, as cozy and happy as Rowan and Thomas seemed, drakes need more (ahem) attention than one gal can provide. No problem As soon as the snow thawed and we rejoined society we rushed out and bought two more hens.

Meet Maddie and Benji.


Beautiful ladies, yes? Well, Rowan is not so impressed. Here are all the ducks a day after the introducktion of the newest sister wives.

Maddie and Benji are obviously being excluded from the bath time fun.
Maddie and Benji are obviously being excluded from the bath time fun.

It has now been five days since we introduced Rowan to his new lady friends, and well, frankly, they might as well be chickens or geese or sea turtles for that matter for all the attention he has paid them. And Thomas? Thomas’s behavior is even more insulting. No nipping, quacking, stomping or whatever else it is a lady duck does to say, “Keep your wings off my man!” She clearly doesn’t even see Maddie and Benji as a threat. Ouch.

From what I’ve read the whole point of the three to one hen to drake ratio is to spread the love so that one hen isn’t expected to perform all the wifely duties. Apparently, Thomas is either not as overwhelmed by her wifely duties as the experts predict or Rowan is just more of a cuddler.

Either way, I guess there’s nothing to do but enjoy my two new ducks. They are a lovely addition to the farm – even if Rowan is too blind to see it. Maybe one day one or both of them will catch Rowan’s eye and the duck love fest I’ve been hoping for will begin. Maybe not. I know now I made a mistake starting our duck dynasty (again, no relation to the show) with only two ducks. They have formed a bond that might be unbreakable, yet ultimately destructive. Oh well, I guess that’s how you learn.

UPDATE: Since originally posting this story, there have been some developments down at the barn. The last two days the weather has been sunny and in the low 60’s. Finally the ice thawed off the kiddie pool, and I was able to refill it with fresh, clean water. At first Maddie and Benji seemed hesitant to swim. I’m not sure they had a kiddie pool at their last home. Of course Rowan and Thomas jumped right in, and they did a lot more than just swim – if you catch my drift.

Eventually, Maddie ventured into the water. At first I thought she was drowning. After all, I’m not sure she has ever been swimming. However, I soon realized that all that commotion was probably just a clever trick to catch the eye of a certain young drake. And boy did it work! You know that expression “Like a duck on a junebug”? Well, Rowan was! Soon all the ducks were jumping in and out of the pool splashing and flapping and quacking. It was full on duck revelry!

And just to be sure I wasn’t misinterpreting what I was seeing, I researched duck mating behaviors. Here is what I learned.

1. Ducks can mate on land or in the water, but they prefer the water. Obviously.

2. When ducks are mating in the water it looks like the male is drowning the female. Yep, it really does. The males also bite the females on the neck, but not in a romantic way.

3. Duck fertility is increased if they mate in at least 8 inches of water. Hmmmmm? That seems like an old wives’ tale to me, but okay.

4. Ducks can and will lay eggs anywhere and randomly – including in the water. That I’d like to see.

This, Charming Friends, is one reason I love farming. Just a few days ago, I knew next to nothing about duck husbandry. But now, after some careful observation and a little Google research to back it up, I feel like an expert. I guess that really is how you learn.

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6 thoughts on “The Duck Bully… (note: this post has nothing to do with a certain A&E reality TV show)

  1. Oh my! I’m sorry my advice didn’t seem to work, but give them time – I bet by spring Rowan will be spreading the love around! Love this post and I’m choosing it as my favorite for this week’s blog hop! Thanks for sharing!
    Fresh Eggs Daily

    1. Thanks, Lisa! Actually, they are already getting along much better. Thomas is clearly still number one in Rowan’s heart, but Maddie and Benji are starting to get some attention too.

      I’m thrilled to be featured! Thanks for letting me know and thanks for the advice.

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