Plants That Ducks Don’t Eat

Hello, what kind of a week have you had? I am enjoying seeing all the spring flowers, the lambs in the field next to the house, and a few blue skies. Spring time has so much promise. The pond is lovely, though it is sadly bare of plants. Even the grass on the bank is being dug up and eaten by greedy ducks—perhaps in retaliation for my stealing their eggs.

Ducks are generally terrible mothers—they often lay their eggs in random places, and although occasionally one will make a nest and hatch the eggs, as soon as they hatch she leaves the nest and goes back to the pond. The ducklings have to struggle to keep up with her, or else be eaten. I am usually aware that the eggs have hatched because I hear the crows and magpies as they circle the pond, ready for a tasty snack.

I am currently collecting the eggs as they are laid, and will incubate them when I have enough. I’ll leave three in the nest. There is one nest, the other eggs are laid randomly on the bank, some roll into the water, some are collected by crows—my ducks clearly never read the ‘how to build a nest’ manual. I’ll then raise them inside until they’re too big for the crows to eat (they’re full-grown in four weeks). Am hoping to time it so they are on the pond before I have to start serious revision for my exams.

Ducks having a chat.

Ducks are lovely, but they do tend to destroy anything growing around the pond. I have tried protecting plants with nets and fences—but they don’t look very nice. In the early days, I used to believe the people in the garden centres who would assure me that I could buy certain plants and ‘the ducks won’t eat them.’ They either lied, or knew very little about ducks.

So, if you hope to both keep ducks and grow plants around your pond, here is a list of plants that ducks will eat. Some of them are poisonous, so they shouldn’t really be planted near a pond (though none of my ducks have ever died from eating plants that are listed as ‘poisonous’). It is quite a long list.

Plants that ducks will eat include:

water starwort 
willow moss
frog’s lettuce
water violet
water milfoils
water lobelia
water crowfoot

They also eat floating plants such as:

water soldier
(all kinds)

Marginal plants they will eat include:
great water plantain

water hawthorn
bog bean

arum lily
sweet flag
flowering rush
bog arum

yellow flag
corkscrew rush
golden club
pickerel weed
large-flowered spearwort
Old World arrowhead
zebra rush

T. laxmannii
T. minima
Acorus gramineus ‘Variegatus’
marsh marigold
Bowles’ golden sedge

Carex pendula
C. pseudocyperus
golden buttons
Houttuynia cordata
Japanese water iris

Iris versicolor 
Mimulus cardinalis 
M. lewisii 
M. luteus
M. ringens
water forget-me-not
Saururus cernuus

Plants that ducks do not eat include:






Nope, cannot think of any. Trees I guess—but only because duck feet are designed to swim not perch, so they cannot reach the leaves very easily.

Hoping your plants grow well this spring.

Thanks for reading.
Take care.
Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson
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A Green Chicken and The Black Farmer

Green Chicken and a Black Farmer

This combination resulted in blue eggs.

I have a few chicken-related things of interest to tell you. Firstly—very exciting news—the hens that I bred from my longbar cockerel and leghorn hen are now laying, and the eggs are blue. I was so hoping they would be, so I am very happy!

The first blue egg.

However, the green chicken from the title was not so good (but you must read to the end to understand). I had invited Mum for dinner, and was chatting (well, listening) and carving the chicken, when I saw what looked like a green pellet embedded in the breast. I dug it out, and it was soft, and green and looked as if it had been somehow injected into the chicken. I only buy organic chicken, so I was somewhat perturbed, and fished the wrapper out of the bin.

An unappetising green lump in my dinner!

The chicken came from The Black Farmer and there were contact details for their customer service, so I took some photos of the green lump and fired off an email, asking whether we would now die from eating green-pellet-poisoned chicken. (I didn’t actually phrase it like that.) I received a reply very quickly, assuring me that they do not inject their birds with anything like hormones, and asking me to send the lump. However, the following morning, before I had time to package the green lump (what a fun activity that would have been!) I received another email. The helpful customer services person informed me that further research had found that the lump was probably  something called Oregon’s/green muscle disease. It wasn’t harmful, and occurred sometimes in the muscles of chickens if they flapped their wings too much.

I checked online, and there were pictures showing exactly what I had found, as well as some photos where great swathes of chicken meat were green. It is something to do with the muscles not having enough oxygen, and I have no idea if it’s uncomfortable for the chicken but it looks horrid when you carve your Sunday lunch.

I was very impressed with The Black Farmer producer—they had replied promptly, done some research, and offered to refund my money. As we had already eaten the chicken and I was feeling pleased with the service I had received, it seemed unnecessary for them to send a refund, so I suggested they put it into their charity box. They support the Mary Seacole Trust, which I had never heard of. I decided to look up both The Black Farmer and Mary Seacole—because I was interested by what seems to be a very well-run company.

To my surprise, The Black Farmer is in fact…a black farmer! I had assumed it was simply a name, like ‘Green and Black’s’ (though maybe that is also run by a black man and a Martian). The farmer is called Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones (great name) and he was born in Jamaica and grew up in Birmingham, UK. He had various jobs, but when he was 40, he bought a farm in Devon. This is a man I can relate to, I wish I had bought a farm in Devon when I was 40. He seems to do lots of good things, like running a scheme for inner-city kids to experience farm life, and he has won awards. Plus he seems to run a very good business. You should look at his website—you will be impressed I think.

I had another surprise when I investigated Mary Seacole—why had I never heard of her?

Mary Seacole was also born in Jamaica, then moved to England in the 1800s. During the Crimean War, she went over to help, because she had some nursing experience from her days in Jamaica. She opened an hotel near to the frontline, and nursed injured soldiers. Now, I knew that Florence Nightingale did that, but I had never heard of Mary Seacole. Apparently, she was very famous in her day, appeared in magazines and newspapers and was heralded as a hero. But after she died, people forgot about her. There is now a statue, set up in her honour, at St. Thomas’s Hospital in London.

I hope you discover some interesting facts this week too—and hoping all your chicken is free of green!

Thanks for reading.

Take care.

Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson
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A Matter of Life and Death

I don’t know about you, but I am always surprised by how much life bursts forth in the spring. Suddenly, every weed in my garden is ten-foot-high, the chickens start hiding their eggs and going broody, wild birds start to go bananas. It is mostly wonderful.

There are a few downsides though—like the bag of potatoes I found at the bottom of the larder, with roots practically piercing the bag. Maybe not so good for mash. I had the clever idea of planting them, so the chickens could eat the new leaves when they sprouted (wouldn’t take long!) I took them up the garden, and found an area against the chicken coop fence. Ideal, I thought, I’ll chuck them there, toss a bit of compost over them, they can grow through the fence and the chickens can eat the leaves. All good.

About 3 days later, the potatoes appeared in a bucket next to the door.

“Look what I found!” announced pleased husband, beaming all over his face. “These must be the seed potatoes you planted last year, and they’ve grown new tubers.”

I told them I thought they were possibly some old potatoes that I’d found in the larder (I didn’t go into too much detail), but he assured me that the roots were really long, and there was no way they could possibly be from this year. I checked the area next to the chicken coop. No potatoes or heap of compost. I keep trying to avoid the subject, but husband has mentioned it about 50 times since then, saying how amazing it is. Might have to confess.

The welcoming committee. . .

We also had birds in the nesting boxes that Uncle Frank made. He gave them to me ages ago, and I put them near the kitchen window (good plan) so I would see if any birds took an interest. We had some great tits in the area, and I guessed the eggs must have hatched when I noticed a welcoming committee of four cats staring at the nesting box. I started to shut the cats in during the day, letting them out at night. But then one morning, I came down to find one cat up the tree, and by the time I had run outside, he had fished a baby out of the box and was playing with it. I grabbed the baby, shoved it back into the box, and shut the cat inside. Husband then assembled some protective obstacles around the base of the trees. The view from my kitchen window resembled a cross between Guantanamo Bay and a WW1 trench. Not quite what I’d hoped, but at least the birds were safe.

A little like a ‘Where’s Wally?’ wildlife picture, but this is one of the birds.

We watched the parents feed the birds, and I did some online research. Did you know that great tits have a black stripe down the centre of their breast, and that the male has a wider stripe than the female? The width is directly proportional to how many sperm he produces, so female great tits will try to select a mate with a very wide black stripe. Our male was in the ‘acceptable but not a super-stud’ range. Cool fact huh?

We guessed the hatchlings were flying because several blue jays appeared in the garden. Am hoping they didn’t catch them all—maybe the blue jay family had a banquet that day. The next morning, the nesting box was empty except for moss and feathers.

In keeping with the explosion of life that is spring, I have some duck eggs incubating in the utility room, and my beautiful white leghorn chicken is sitting on some eggs in her nest. She has a choice of leghorn (white) cockerel or legbar (grey) cockerel to choose from. I am hoping to have a female chick from the legbar male, as they lay lovely blue eggs (though whether or not a hybrid will, remains to be seen). They are due to hatch next week, so I will let you know how they fare.

I also have a female pheasant (I can’t tell you how delighted Husband is about this!) I found her in a ditch, so am guessing she had been hit by a car. I knew the fox would get her, and I figured it would be nicer to die somewhere peaceful, so I carried her home and put her in an empty duck coop next to the pond. But she didn’t die. I’ve had her a couple of weeks now. I’m feeding her grain and apples (have to smuggle the apples out of the house because technically they belong to Bea’s boyfriend). She can’t actually walk (the pheasant, not Bea) but seems quite happy lolloping around the coop and watching the ducks. There is a ramp down to the pond, and I do have some worries that she might drown herself (pheasants are very silly birds) which means Husband will have to wade out and retrieve the body—which he will mutter about for several days—but at least it will stop him talking about the blessed potatoes!

I hope your week is full of life.

Take care, and stay safe.

Love, Anne x

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Another chapter from Counting Stars will be posted on Wednesday.