Duck food and water

We started the ducks on Mazuri waterfowl starter formula, and then switched them to Mazuri waterfowl breeder formula. They did great on the Mazuri breeder for five years, and then we began having supply problems. In the spring of 2007 I started buying Southern States layer pellets, and the ducks have done fine on that. It’s about $12 per 50 pounds as opposed to $25 for the Mazuri, and since they’re not laying the way they used to, I appreciate the savings. I can’t say, though, whether they’d have laid as well on the Southern States feed in their prime.

Duck brooder

The crib, also known as Kathy’s study. (More photos are available below.)

We brooded the ducklings in Kathy’s study, in a baby pool about 4 feet across. At four days old they were jumping up and getting their heads above the top of the pool, so we cut up a cardboard box and duct-taped it into a fence.

ducks emerge from their pen

Barnyard revolution, part 2

ducks emerge from their pen

Photo by Kathy

I believe the duck revolution has been quashed.

All day Friday, Eddy and Patsy squawked at each other. When we let them out in the yard Friday evening, Patsy tried to round up the flock and make them go where she wanted. Except for Sybil (who quacked in agreement), no one paid any attention. They went right on hunting for bugs where they were.

That is probably when Patsy’s plans began to unravel. Without popular support, no revolution can succeed. Saturday saw only the occasional argument. On Sunday morning Eddy, asserting her dominance again, led the flock into the grazing pen without my orders. It has been quiet since. Relations in the flock appeared to have returned to normal.

I would make another snide comment about the dismal lack of anatine intelligence, but it occurs to me that this matter was settled after only a week, with no bloodshed and (as far as I can tell) no hard feelings on either side. Meanwhile Israelis and Palestinians, Catholics and Protestants, Sikhs and Hindus, Muslim and African Sudanese have been at each other’s throats for decades, centuries, millenia. I’ll defer judgment on anatine pacifism until I see how our ducks respond to a second flock, but having read the newspaper this morning I’ll keep mum on their intelligence as well.

Fomenting revolution in the barnyard

Eddy has always been in charge of the duck flock. She was the largest as a duckling, the first to get all of her adult feathers, the first to finish molting. She appears to be the smartest of the bunch (not that any of the ducks are particularly smart). She takes the lead when it’s time to go into the pen in the morning or into the house at night; if a duck is lollygagging off by herself, Eddy checks on her to make sure she’s all right and eventually rounds her up. She seems to be a good leader, as ducks go, and she doesn’t even seem to abuse her power by taking the best slugs.

It appears that we may have a revolution in the making. This afternoon Patsy harrassed Eddy mercilessly, chasing her around and squawking at her for the better part of an hour. Sybil, always a follower, joined in and pecked Eddy or no apparent reason. Normally if one of the other ducks gets uppity, Eddy gives her the business, but not today. Kathy felt so bad for Eddy she gave her some chard from the garden, after which Eddy waddled over to Patsy to quack at her about it.

Patsy is the duck who once spent the better part of a week sitting on a pine cone. Now Patsy has always seemed to like me best, but she is just not that bright. (Yes, yes, there’s probably a connection there. I’ve heard it.) So I really do not need to see Patsy in charge. Sybil would only be her toady, but this is the duck that always stands around squawking at everybody; even second in command is too much for her. I’m sure all the other ducks think Eddy’s a narc because she always leads them into the house when I round them up for bedtime, but that’s what I want. I want a nice, quiet, reasonably intelligent, calm, well-mannered duck in charge, not some pine-cone sitting duck who for all I know is out back reading Marx right now.

Could be my imagination, but these ducks seem to be getting bitchier as they get older.

two ducks

Raising ducks: 6–12 months

two ducks
Eddy and Bubble keep an eye on suspicious humans.

The ducks have been with us for a year. I have to say that our experimental backyard poultry operation has been a rousing success! We have wonderful eggs, enough to sell some to friends; we’ve found a routine that integrates the ducks into our "halfway homestead," and we’ve been able to keep the ducks happy and healthy.

Raising ducks: 4–5 months

The maginificent seven.

The ducks have been laying eggs for five weeks now. We found the first two on September 28, and found at least one egg every day after that. After a week we were averaging three a day; after a month five a day. Now we get five to six each day, and we believe that all of the ducks are laying, so each of them lays an average of five to six eggs each week—pretty impressive, I think.