Ducks!

We have seven Cayuga ducks, and since the fox wiped out most of the chickens, they’ve had the poultry orchard more or less to themselves.  The remaining two chickens are stuck in the house with its run until the fencing is properly sorted out.  The ducks seem fairly happy with the world, though I wish they’d help me by eating the nettles.  Still, you can’t have everything.

They’ve been laying recently, but something has been getting to the eggs.  I suspect it’s crows.  They wait for the duck to be away from her nest and then swoop and steal the eggs.  I’ve found broken eggs out in the field, as well as quite a few in the orchard.  Still, now that the nettles are really starting to get big I think they’re hiding in them, and that’s probably putting the crows off.

We might get a set of ducklings appear at some point soon…

Chickens and ducks

The chickens and ducks tend to flock around me whenever I enter their area in the expectation of receiving food.  This makes sense really because most of the time when I enter their area it is to feed them.

The challenge with the way they flock around is that they easily get under my feet.  While I’ve not stepped on the back of any of them I have stood on one of their feet on a number of occasions.  There tends to be an indignant squawk and then the offended hen – it is usually one of the hens – scampers away a few feet only to return quickly with the hope of food.

For the last couple of days a new part of the routine has been added.  It’s been particularly muddy and my wellies are usually coated past the ankles with mud within seconds of me leaving the house.  As I go round feeding the animals the ruminant feed often falls out of my hands and bits of it land on my wellies.  When they’re not wet the food then just slips off, but it’s now sticking there.  Then when I walk into the chicken and duck area the chickens dive on the ruminant mix on my wellies, and start pecking away at it, which means they’re really pecking away at my feet.  The first time it happened it was a little strange, but I’m starting to get used to it.  It just means I have to pause for a few extra seconds upon entering their area, and then walk a little more slowly to the feed bucket.

Ducklings growing up

We have a small flock (sord, or safe apparently is a better collective noun according to wikipedia) of ducks, which are probably Cayugas.  I say probably as I bought the original eggs a couple of years ago on eBay based on the picture, but with no details of the breed.  Two hatched and survived and they had three more last year.  They seem a happy little paddling on the pond and we were quite happy with them.

Earlier this year we seem to have lost some of them as we only saw two or three at any one time.  We feared that Mr Fox had been at work, but then occasionally we’d see a fourth so we deduced something else was going on.  The area the ducks living in has a pond and some fruit trees, and about a quarter of it is a nettle bed of some ferocity.  It appeared that they were living under the nettles, and perhaps nesting.

Towards the end of July I was out feeding the ducks when I heard a lot of cheaping, and suddenly spied a whole raft of little ducklings on the pond.  I counted fourteen of them!  I fed the ducks as normal and the mummy duck had her fill of food, but the ducklings stayed back.  Each day I’d check and feed them and they seemed to be ok until two days later when I noticed a couple of small duckling bodies next to the pond.  They were dead but it wasnt obvious what had odne for them.  Sadly over the next two days they all died.  Our vet said that at some times of the year it could be caused by a lack of insects, but given how many were about it seemed unlikely.

As well as losing the ducklings we still only had four ducks.  About a week later the remaining mummy duck appeared, trailed by threee ducklings.  Thinking about what the vet had said we got some chick feed in (which is basically just ground up chicken pellets with a higher cost…) and made sure to put loads out for them.  The ducklings seemed to do well for the next few days, and then one of htem went missing.  I couldnt find it and was worried that the others would follow it, but they were made of sterner stuff.

Nearly two months later and they’re starting to lose their down feathers:

Their adult feathers have a lovely green/blue sheen to them.  Nice to see them growing up!