Our girls are one year old this week!!! Seems like just yesterday we were picking them out online, building the duck coop & run out of repurposed materials, then racing to the post office to pick them up, laughing as we could hear their high-pitched CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP! behind the counter and then setting up their first “house” in a big box on the dining room table, then moving them to the basement a week later, then to the garage a week later, introducing them to swimming via water-in-the-wheelbarrow, then moving them to their coop/run by the 4th week (yay for a warm spring!). Ethel (the black & white one) was always miss bossypants from the start, trying to leap out of the box at every opportunity, quacking the loudest, and sneaking out to escape the reduced size run when we wanted to let the grass grow back. Cocoa is the boss lady and everyone pretty much listens to her (“little Napoleon” I call her). Blondie is the loudest one in the mornings along with Ethel but quacks silently when she’s anxious, and Betty is a total follower with not a whole lotta street smarts – but boy is she gorgeous when the sun hits her black/iridescent feathers! Watching them swim in their tub? The highlight of my week. They are so much fun to have, so entertaining and funny to be around, and their eggs are of course divine.
So, what have we learned so far with these four…?
* People said that ducks are less destructive than chickens. I beg to differ. Trade in chickens’ scratchy claws for ducks’ “I will sample and spit out everything” beaks and giant flattening dinosaur feet that walk over everything – it’s a draw.
* People said that they are easy to contain because they can’t fly. I beg to differ. Three out of four of our girls had no problem leaping into 2′ tall raised beds and feasting on the peas, carrot tops, onion & garlic tops, bell pepper leaves, and more. You know how in Jurassic Park the T-Rex was testing the fencing for weaknesses? That would be Ethel and Cocoa, testing the plastic temporary fencing for spots they could slide under and get back to the prohibited areas and free-range to their hearts’ content.
* People said you can’t put them outside til they are almost full grown. Aw hell no. These girls were in our garage at 2 weeks with a heat lamp, and fully outside at 3 1/2 weeks here in Oregon, then free ranging by 5 weeks ( after they got used to outdoor/coop living and knew where “home” was). It all depends on the climate.
* People said they will imprint on you. Not always the case. Ethel is the closest and easiest to catch, and will often tag close behind me when it’s breakfast time, but the others – particularly Blondie – are complete drama queens. To pick them up and look at them if they have a limp or anything? We have to corner them inside the coop and Cocoa in particular acts like we’re trying to fry her up. Should be fun to move them this summer, heh…
* People said they’ll eat any veg scraps. Umm, nope. Ducks pick and choose what they like, just like us. We gave them a huge assortment of veggie scraps when they were younger to give them diverse tastebuds, but they have zero interest in bean sprouts, carrots, pumpkin/squashes or corn, and are only mildly interested in cabbage. What they do love? Dark leafy greens (kale, collards, etc.), peas (their version of crack), green onions, leeks, carrot greens, parsley and cucumbers.
* People say female ducks are quiet. HA! How do I know it’s time to get out of bed each morning? Ethel and Blondie start their quacking when the sun comes up til we get out there and let them out of their run. How do I know they want a snack? Loud, boisterous quacking. And we don’t have one breed, we have four, so clearly depends on the individual duck.
* These duck egg whites do NOT ever get to stiff peaks when mixing them. Not sure what it is but the cookbooks are wrong when it comes to using these ones for recipes that require that. But everything else? Yes please!
* Our squirrel-hungry mastiff Ruby was a complete pussycat around them. She got used to their smell in the house, we let her sniff them a few times when holding them, then watched them from outside their run as they got used to their surroundings and sat next to us as they began to free-range, and there was never a problem. Well, there WAS a problem at times – Ethel went after her a couple of times, the little bitch! 🙂
Happy birthday, girls!