It’s baby duck season! This is our third year in our attempt at duck rearing. Our first year on this farm we ordered a barnyard mix of birds. That was quite a few chickens, seven turkeys, seven ducks, and two geese. They were supposed to be a mix of different breeds, which turned out to mean “whatever cheap stuff we have extra of.” So we started with seven ducks, but Rebel (our german shepherd) was getting kind of obese so we put him on diet.
The day we cut back his food he ate four chickens, two ducks, and two turkeys before we realized it. He was on an 8 foot chain, attached to the front porch. All the windows in the house were open but we never heard anything. It was like The Very Hungry Caterpillar only bloody and expensive. We just let him get fat now.
It didn’t really improve from there. They laid well, but the eggs barely hatched when incubated. What did hatch was eaten by a fox which snuck into the basement at night. What they tried to hatch out themselves drowned. Then this last winter their pond froze over in the night and a fox came and ate all but one.
So now we start over, but with higher hopes because these ducks are only barely ducks. Muscovy ducks are originally from the tropics. Our fluffy little ducklings will turn into hideous giant ducks that eat grass and bugs, roost in trees, and don’t quack. These are particularly valuable qualities for us. Our hope is that they will help eliminate the gnats and ticks, while having a greater chance at survival. The lack of quacking is nice too, they chirp quietly which makes them seem like a more considerate, placid animal.
Truthfully, I don’t really enjoy raising baby birds. I resent them for not trying harder to live. For weeks they have to be kept above 80 degrees or they freeze to death. If you water them too much they drown. Even if you water them just right they’ll make a mess with it, get wet, and try to freeze to death all over again. Everything wants to eat them, so they usually spend the first few weeks stinking up the house.
But I forgive these ducks for all that because with only minimal protest they have become toys for the children.