We decided on ducks because they are fairly reliable layers. Their eggs are good for baking. They are very animated and great fun to watch. Ducks are hearty and even their young can endure the colder winter temperatures.
We started out with these four (Rouen ducklings), originally named the Daphnes because they were un-sexed and who knows how many Daphys could be mixed in there. They grew fast!
Turns out, ducks are kind of jerks. They prefer to stick to their own little flock and don’t want to integrate with the chickens, so off to duck jail they go. (In their defense, chickens are likely named chickens for a reason and wouldn’t even defend themselves at such a young age.)
See that “poking” action with the beak in the far right image above? That’s the suspected drake (Random fact – A male duck is called a drake. I didn’t always know this.) motioning to whatever is getting close to stay away. They do that A LOT, usually at me. Apparently I am NOT a member of their flock. So if you want a bird you can love and cuddle, don’t get ducks. I affectionately call them duck-holes because they are, but they’re still fun to have and watch.
Meet the new guy, Aflac. (He came with that name.) Aflac is a Swedish duck and quickly became KING Aflac. Soon after his arrival, my husband nicknamed him Ass-crack because he ruled the babies with an iron beak. The name really does suit him. He took over everything that was his favorite.
We’ve learned a lot about ducks in the past two months. One thing we learned is that Drakes are huge bullies. Ass-crack has decided he likes the two definite ducks and is not fond of the suspected drakes. He tries to push them out of the flock because drakes like harems and not sharing. His hostility toward the suspected drakes has driven two of them to take flight, which is the reason one of them is in the garden (Daphne – Two Months above). When I arrived home, I looked up and thought “oh ducks.” Then, “OH, MY DUCKS!” This guy in the garden flew into an overhead wire, performed an involuntary aerial somersault, promptly landed on the pavement below and was chased into the safety of the garden by the hated human.
How do we save Ass-crack from the soup-pot? And, how can we fix the problem of a year old duck dominating two month old ducklings? We get him a girlfriend around his own age! Meet Sissy (above), also a Swedish duck. Ass and Sissy will be spending some bonding days together in the crate. Ass is not thrilled about having a duck the same size as him and being locked away from his harem.
Shortly after Sissy arrived we completed the new duck run. Ducks are messy, gross, and love to poop in water, and on everything else. NOT the best environment for other animals to be sharing. So we built them a new house and a new area just for ducks. Too bad Ass is being a jerk still, biting Sissy, pushing her out of the flock, and beating up another of the ducklings (suspected drakes). We removed him from the flock hoping to change the pecking order. He’ll be returned in a week or so. Every day, Mr. Crack spent standing at the fence staring at the other run. Quite pitiful really! Meanwhile, Sissy and the Daphnes are enjoying their new digs and getting along swimmingly.
After a pitiful week of watching poor Ass-crack just stand at the fence staring into the new duck run, we returned him to the flock. He did stop being mean to Sissy, who adores him even after all his biting and pushing and nastiness.
That did not last long. Sissy started laying eggs like MAD and Ass became very possessive and tried to kill one of the, now obvious, drakes by grabbing him by the neck with his beak and slamming his head back and forth violently on the ground. Off to the emergency shelter! By day 26, Ass is Aflac again. He likes to be let out (look at that face) and follow me around when I do chores. Even though he has bit me a couple of times I do let him out and we hang out and do chores together. The times he bit, he was defending his lady and her nest so I let it slide. Sissy has about a dozen eggs she’s brooding inside the nest in their house and only comes out to quickly eat and drink.
After about six or so weeks in the emergency shelter, the Crack’s new run is complete and we really need to move them. None of the eggs have hatched, and Sissy has been pushing them out of the house one at a time, each day. Aflac is bored because Sissy is not playing all day and they’ve been in the small kennel for far too long already.
Sissy is less than thrilled with the move. Concerned that the eggs would be slamming up against one another in the move, we attempted a gentle removal of the nest from the house and putting it into a pail, but Sissy was running around like a chicken with its head cut off, obviously upset. Only she still had her head and she’s not a chicken. The nest was HUGE, and ducks poop a lot so it was stuck to the floor of the house and not easy to move in one piece. It was way too big to get through the door in one piece. So we pushed what was left of the nest back into the house, put back the ONE egg she was all panicked over, chased the loony bird back into her house and moved the house and its contents all together.
Once the move was complete (one duck, one egg and one partially destroyed nest inside what was originally supposed to be a doghouse, loaded onto a wagon and rolled a few hundred yards and set back onto the ground), Sissy was delighted to see Ass was there waiting for her. He was quackily excited too! By the next morning, Sissy had pushed the remaining ONE egg out of the house, and began molting, which is why it’s beginning to look like a down pillow exploded in their new run.
Four months after their initial introduction, Ass and Sissy Crack seem really happy together. Notice that he is ALWAYS closer in the pictures than she is. It seems that Ass is quite valiant and keeping her safe from me, or anything else that comes along and is perceived as a threat. Haven’t seen an egg since the move, but it looks like Sissy is done molting now and I hope to see some soon. We’ve decided that since the Swedish ducks are considered “endangered” domestics, we would let attempt to hatch a few. In the meantime, the two love birds are swimming, and playing and foraging their days away. They seem to really be enjoying their new digs. I tried letting them into the big yard so they could nibble on some grass blades, but they want nothing to do with it.
The Daphnes (now Daphne, Babs, Charming and Grumpy) seem happier too. Everything I’ve read says one drake needs a harem of up to 12 hens, but the four seem happily paired up. The ladies were laying about an egg a day and I think they got a kick out of making us hunt for them. They’ve stopped laying for now, but the weather has changed and the it looks like they’re approaching a molting too.