I have just sorted out the ducklings—not that they are ducklings anymore; they are pretty much full-grown after a few weeks. The 8 ducklings in the big cage were being lots of work, and the mother who unexpectedly hatched 3 extras were in a cage right next to the pond, even though they can’t go onto the pond until the new ducklings are big enough to avoid being a tasty snack for crows and cats. So, I decided to switch the cages. So easy to say…so much work involved.
The first job was to catch mother duck. I removed the door to the cage, and noticed I had been joined by 3 cats. Took a break and secured them in the shed—they had different plans for the ducklings. Went back to catch mother duck. Mothers can be scary when they think their offspring are at risk, but she knows me, so apart from crawling into a dirty cage, it was easy enough. I put her into a box while I caught the ducklings, which are as fast as rats when they think they’re going to be caught. Shoved them into the box with the mother.
Cleaned out cage (lots of cobwebs and poo and stinky hay and mouldy food involved in this—caring for animals is not glamorous). Moved big ducklings into the cage. As I said, they are not really ducklings anymore, and one never was as she is a chicken—but she identifies as a duck. While I moved them, I was able to determine their sex by the volume of their quacks. They’re too young for tail feathers (male ducks have curled tail feathers) but their voices are clearly different. The loud quack that you associate with a duck is only made by the females. The males make a sort of feeble grating noise. Out of 8 ‘ducklings’, I have: 1 chicken, 2 females and 5 drakes. Not a good ratio.
Lifted mother and her ducklings out of the box in the big cage and watched them for a while. They instantly went to dig in the wet mud, and now look revolting. But I think they’ll be happier in there. After a few days, I will open the end of the pond cage and let the full-grown ducks onto the pond. They will love that.
I am not entirely sure what will happen with the chicken/duck. I am assuming she will simply wander around the bank and the flock will join her in the cage in the evening. But we will see. Hope she doesn’t try and swim. I do have another hen who thinks she’s a duck, and I managed to integrate her into the chicken flock, but she has never been very happy and tries to return to the pond whenever she is released. I might try to combine the two of them, but introducing new chickens to each other is never easy—they are nasty birds compared to ducks, and will fight a bird they don’t recognise.
I am especially keen to see what colour eggs she lays. Her mother is a lovely black hen, and she came from a brown egg. Her father is white—and had he been female I think the eggs would be blue. I am really hoping for green eggs, but we shall see. They should be a good size anyway because the mother lays big eggs. Chicken-Duck is white, though might grow some darker feathers later because my grey/white hybrids have a few grey specks amongst the white.
Time to go and use some of the eggs to make cakes now. Hope you have a good week (and that it involves less smelly poop than mine generally does!)
Thanks for reading. Take care.
Love, Anne x
A sad footnote. I decided that enough time had passed for the local fox to have stopped using our garden as his territory, and I let the chickens out of their cage. I was wrong. At about 4pm, I went to check and found a trail of feathers. I locked the hens away quickly, but my lovely cockerel was killed. Not eaten, just killed. I saw the fox a little later, as it came back for more fun. It was still early, not even beginning to get dark.
If you are someone who feeds foxes, please note: You are not providing food for an hungry animal. Foxes kill for fun. If they are fed by humans, they lose all fear of humans and places like gardens become part of their territory. The natural balance of nature is upset, and foxes will breed more cubs than they can find food for in the wild, so they become dependent on humans, and their pets, for providing easy food. A fox will kill birds, and rabbits and an elderly cat if they happen to be within range.
A few years ago, there was lots of crying in the field opposite our house. Every ewe was standing next to a dead lamb. A fox had killed them, for fun. I have nothing against foxes, I like seeing them in the wild, where they belong. But foxes that have no fear of humans are a problem. Please do not feed foxes. If you want a pet, get a goldfish.