Ducks For Our Farm

I’m not sure who came first. . . the crazy momma who adds more animals to her farm without thinking, without having housing or even a little bit of knowledge on how to take care of them, or the animal loving, protecting child who pleaded to get ducks when her father wouldn’t acquiesce to a new cat. She’s also the same child who once placed a note up on the refrigerator that said “This is a NO KILLING Chicken Zone,” and made her parents sign thus said note.

Either way, we are now the proud owner of two Blue Swedish ducks and they are approximately 5 weeks old. Meet Carl and Ellie, but alas, I don’t even know at this point whether we have a drake (aka boy) or a hen (aka girl). It will only make a difference if we end up with two boys because that means NO eggs.

Our children didn’t come with a manual (other than the Bible) to help the General Manager and I raise them, so, what was I expecting when these ducks arrived one morning. What’s a girl to do; how do I quickly leap over the vast learning curve of raising baby ducks. Turn to my favorite author, Lisa Steele. Her first book Fresh Eggs Daily helped me to learn about raising chickens and thank heavens she’s published a similar book on raising ducks.

The book came in the mail and I absorbed it like a sponge in 3 days. First things first, ducks need lots of protein when they are ducklings. Be sure to get the highest protein chicken feed if you cannot find duck feed at your local feed store. We went with
NATURES BEST ORGANIC FEED Chick Starter & Grower Crumbles. Since I couldn’t find higher than 18%, several websites recommended adding brewer’s yeast top dress to the duck feed. Water is the next essential element for successful duck raising. Simple mason jar waterers don’t work. Ducklings need to get their entire beak into the water to help swallow their food and prevent choking. They also need to keep their nostrils moist and clear of debris.

Ducklings are messy creatures. There was only two of them, but they managed to drench their brooder box every day with spilled water. This continued even though we went with a larger chicken waterer. Lesson learned – next time use a ceramic bowl that they can’t tip over. They took great delight in emptying their feeders all over the bottom of the box and I could have sworn I heard them laughing at us. Because, basically, if they can play in something, they will.

They quickly outgrew their brooder box, so outside they went into our chicken tractor. As long as it wasn’t raining too hard, they were very happy. We bought a medium sized rubber feeder bowl that could be used as a swimming pool, but they have not stepped foot in it – perhaps they don’t like the cold, wet Northern California weather like this momma.

These ducks are funny, smart and inquisitive, quirky, fascinating creatures. I really am enjoying watching them. I have witnessed the “head bobbing” which is a sign of dominance and also flirting. My favorite though is “head tilting.” A duck can see two to three times farther than a human. Because their eyes are on the side of their head and fitted into the socket, they have to tilt their heads to see in a different direction. The cuteness factor was displayed when they were babies and the girls brought them inside one afternoon to play in the tub. Hannah and Abby threw lettuce leaves into the tub and the gobbling began.

Stay tuned for our next adventure – building a duck coop!

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