“ Animal Species: Birds „
I first started keeping ducks in my garden about 11 years ago. I'd like to say straight away that ducks are completely different to possibly any other pet, and you must be prepared to put up with a lot of mess and smells if you want to keep ducks.
You need a large garden, an ample continuous supply of water (or a pond) because ducks have great difficulty eating without water, together with somewhere very secure to lock them away at night. You also need to be aware that your garden will get regularly dug up and patches of mud will appear on your grass, so if you are "garden proud" ducks are not the pet for you.
Ducks love to forage and scratch about for worms and grubs especially just after periods of rain, and they will push the decorative bark off your rockery onto your grass in this endeavour, no matter how many times you put it back. My love of ducks is greater than my love of gardening, and I have a large natural pond in my garden, so I'm OK with all this!.
Please note, as silly as it sounds, ducks can drown in water, as their feathers can get saturated and drag them down if they are in water for too long, this is why you see them sitting on river/pond banks drying themselves off, so if you have a pond or pool, you must make sure they can get out. I speak from experience, it's no fun pulling a drowned duck out of the pool you supplied for their amusement.
My ducks had both a pool and a pond, and I used broken paving slabs to make steps out of their pool. My pond, being natural has sloping banks so they could get out without any problem.
They also need somewhere to shelter during the day. Contrary to popular opinion ducks don't like to be wet all the time. Whilst they like to bask sometimes, they do not like lying in the sun all day.
My first purchase was four Aylesbury ducklings I rescued (I use that word because I don't think ducks should be on sale in pet shops) from a local pet shop. I saw these small bundles of yellow fluff, my heart just melted and I had to have them. I took them home and kept them inside the house until they had their adult feathers, and were big enough to look after themselves.
These birds turned out to be two drakes and two ducks and I loved them all dearly, especially one of the males who took delight in running after me with his head down as if to chase me away - but only while my back was turned. If I then turned and walked towards him, he would waddle off in the other direction as fast as his short legs would carry him!
My second purchase was a group of three balls of brown fluff, which I again rescued from a different local pet shop. I didn't know what breed they were, but to be honest, it didn't really matter to me, as I love all ducks. These grew up to be one drake and two ducks. If you are not sure how to tell if a duck is a male or female, the males don't quack, they only make a rasping sound. If you've got one that quacks, it's a female.
At first there was a stand off between the males, but it's one of those things you have to persevere with. They will sort it out amongst themselves. I found that if I put the new ducks in the old duck's pen first, and then introduced the older ducks, integration was easier than if I did it the other way round.
Even with the best care in the world, I have sadly lost so many of my beloved birds to foxes, including my four original Aylesburys. I understand it's nature, but it's still devastating, because you can't keep them locked up all day and night as well. When I got down to my last six birds, rather than buying me fully grown ducks, my husband bought me an incubator and six eggs for Christmas, which he gave me early so that I would get some white ducklings for Christmas.
He is such a sweet and long suffering man!. We carefully followed the instructions and just after Christmas I came downstairs (the incubator was on my dining room table) to find a tiny wet black ball of fluff looking up at me and cheeping at a rate of decibels belying it's size. I screamed and my entire family rushed downstairs thinking that something was wrong. I called her Holly.
On New Year's Eve, another egg hatched and another ball of damp black fluff appeared. I called it Eve for obvious reasons, only later to find it was a male - oh well, he never noticed he had a girl's name. These were not white birds though, as they won't turn white when born jet black, but I loved them both just the same.
On Mother's day, I returned home from work to find that my daughters had, with their Dad's help, bought me two white Call Ducks. For those of you who don't know, these are miniature ducks and so cute. They had also bought a secure pen- that being one with fox-proof wire and a roof together with a small hutch for them to live in
They were too small to wander round the garden with the larger birds, as they could easily fall prey to the army of cats who frequented our garden. About two years later, I decided my two girls might like to breed, so we bought a male and female. The drake thought he was in seventh heaven with three girls on his wing. His original mate was soon sitting on eggs, but I didn't know how many as she rose up majestically and sort of hissed as me if I went near.
Ducks can't really hurt you as they don't bite, in fact they would rather turn and run than fight, but you can get a bruise if they get hold of your skin. It's a good job my husband knows me well as I've lost count of the number of bruises I've received on my neck as I've cuddled my birds!
One morning, I came outside to find some of the eggs had hatched as there was a very tiny scrap of yellow fluff peering out from under one of her wings. All in all, she had hatched about twelve eggs. Unfortunately, some of the ducklings got trampled by the older ducks, and she seemed to be struggling to keep all the ducklings warm, being so small herself. A couple died because they couldn't get under her wings, and got cold, so we collected up all the remaining ducklings and took them to our dining room where we kept them warm under an infra red light.
As they grew, we changed the size of the box, and as soon as they had their adult feathers and were old enough to look after themselves, we put them back with the other Call Ducks.
I still craved some Aylesbury ducks aagain, so my husband bought me some more eggs. This time I kept the incubator in my bedroom. One morning, I awoke to the sound of cheeping. I rushed to the incubator to see one of the eggs had a pink beak poking out. Later that day, Buster was born. She was huge compared to the other ducklings I'd hatched, and was definitely an Aylesbury. I called her Buster because of her size.
Unfortunately none of the other eggs hatched, so she was on her own. I kept her indoors, changing the sizes of the plastic boxes (I had every size made), until she was too big and had to be put with the other ducks. I lodged her with the call ducks first, and as she outgrew them I put her with the big ducks. At first they didn't want her, but she was larger than them and more than able to fight her corner and within a few days was integrated as part of the group as if she had always been there.
Unfortunately three years ago I became disabled and unable to look after the ducks, so I had to let them go. It was one of the saddest days of my life as I kissed each bird goodbye, but it had been a worthwhile and rewarding journey.
Last year we got our first ducks. We live in a town, but have a large garden and after visiting a few country shows felt that ducks would be nice. We had to get a cage sorted out first and looked on line and found a chap on Ebay that was selling dog cages and we found a 4 ft by 4 ft dog house with an 8 ft run that looked suitable. We had this installed in our back garden and then set about looking for ducks.
We decided that Indian Runners were the ones for us. They call them the wind bottle duck as they have a very upright stance just like a wine bottle. They are also know as penguin ducks. We found a rare breeds place in the New Forest and went to get the ducks. My husband was adamant that we were only going to have 2. When we arrived they showed us ducklings of various ages, from 1 week up to about 8 or 9 weeks. We decided to go for the 4 week old and was ready to pick two, when my husband said why don't we go for 4. So I chose another 2. 2 where chocolate, 1 was yellow and 1 was fawn. I did not know what sex they were, so it was a case of taking a chance. What we wanted was females for eggs. We put them into a box and set off home.
Once home they had to go in our spare bedroom for a week or so till the weather warmed up. It was early July and a bit rainy. I eventully put them in a paddling pool with a fence around it on the bedroom floor and then had to keep clearing the poops out of the sawdust. Every time I went into the room they reacted like I was the devil woman. Over the next few days at intervals I took one of my cats or dogs into the room to introduce them.
Disaster struck 4 days after we got them, I fell and broke my ankleand was off my feet for a week. This meant that every thing piled up on my husbands shoulders. By the end of the following week it was time to move the ducks out into the garden. It was brilliant. I setup a seat in front of their cage and I was able to sit and watch them. They settled in straight away to their new cage. We put a shallow potting tray in the corner with water so they could paddle and their food and drinking water in the other corner. They spent most of their day sat in the paddling tray. The cats were absolutely facinated and if the ducks got too close to the sides my siamese cat Jasper would launch himself at the side of the cage trying to grab them. The dogs were also obsessed especially my yellow Lab Freya who would whine and run up and down the side of the cage wanting to get in with them. They grew at a phenomenal rate and soon I realised that we were going to have to build them a much bigger cage. We started letting them walk around the garden when we were out in the garden, but were terrified that the cats would kill them. So I contacted the cage man again and we had a 22 ft by 6 ft cage connected to their smaller cage and we installed a 4ft by 2 ft pool in the cage.
Whilst we waited for the cage to be delivered we continued to let them out for small periods and gradually the cats go used to the ducks and suprisingly left them alone. In fact if they got too close to the ducks, the ducks would drop their heads down and chase at them. It eventually got to the stage that we could let the ducks out all day and everything would be fine. We still needed the cage for when we were going to be late in, but if we had waited we would not have needed such a large cage. Hey ho its only money. As they grew we were finally able to tell what sex they were and to name them. The yellow duck grew curly tail feathers and so was a boy and we named him Orlando although we usually call him Big Boy because he is. The other other 3 developed loud quacks and so were girls, which was fantastic as this is the correct ratio of male to female. The two chocolate girls are called Daisy and Dora and the fawn duck is Octavia. Orlandos favourite was Dora although he did alternate with Daisy on occasion. A menage a trois.
Once the cage was installed it was huge, it took up half the garden, but at least I knew that if we were on holiday or out late they always had a safe place. Now the ducks are let out every morning when I go to work and don't get put back in the cage till about 8 at night. Then I put them to bed about 8:30 pm. They are brilliant to watch and very easy to look after. they need fresh clean water to drink from at regular intervals, at least twice a day and more on hot days. Their bed needs cleaning every two or three days. I put down a base of sawdust and cover the back half with a deep bed of hay. On the next day I take out out all the dirty straw and sawdust. The next day after that I change all the straw and any wet sawdust and then once a week I do a complete sweep out and replace all the sawdust and straw. The biggest problem with ducks is that they poo every where and I mean every where, in their bed, on their food if you have it to low even in their drinking water. I really enjoy looking after the ducks. When I get home from work, I usually go out and talk to them and then get their cage cleaned and change their water. In the summer it is great because we can sit outside with them for most of the day when we are home. The only drawback is that I like to grow vegetablles and I have to grow these raised up in pots. There is always a way round problems.
Everyone has settled down well together and a year and a bit later things are still going well. We had a problem in April when after coming home from a visit to the feed merchants we found Dora drowned in the Pond. Big Bird had obviously got too amarous and exhausted her. It does happen, but I was horrified at first and felt like getting him rehomed. He has calmed down and we decided to get two more ducks to keep him in check. We got two silver applyard/ aylesbuy cross 9 month old birds. These were slightly bigger than him so I think they have helped. We called them Poppy and Jemmimah.
We have had an average of two eggs a day since last October. I haven't had to buy eggs since. I don't eat chicken eggs now as duck eggs are lovely. It does not cost much to keep the birds, a bag of food cost £8 and lasts about a month and a bale of straw cost £3 and lasts about 3 weeks and the sawdust £8 and also lasts 3 weeks. Peanuts really for fresh eggs. We feed them layers pellets (Small Holders or Marriages are best) and supplement with mixed corn and fresh chopped iceberg lettuce oh yes and which ever of my plants or veggies they can get at.
I do worry about foxes as we do get a lot of foxes in this area, but I think that the cats and dogs tend to keep them away and we always make sure that the ducks are in their enclosure before it gets dark and we actually shut them in the shed at night. We made sure that the shed had a floor slight raised and that the base underneath was concrete so that rats and foxes could not tunnel underneath. We clean out their pond on a weekly basis so that the water stays as clean as possible. It does take a bit of work, but it is worth it. I also get quiet worried when there are problems. Octavia has caused me a few worries, because she sometimes gets the heebee jeebes and flies off at a tangent, sometimes crashing into something. The first time she did this I thought she had broken something, because she staggered around for a bit them limped to the cage and just sat for ages. I put her to bed not knowing whether I would find her dead the next day, but she was right as rain. She had done this a couple of times. Big Bird has also worried us as I was sure he had a prolaped penis as it hung out for ages one evening. I was sure he was going to have to go to the vet, but the next morning he had tucked it away and was fine. My husband says I panic too much.
I would reccomend ducks as a pet to anyone who has a bit of space and is prepared to put in the time and effort to look after them. It is worth it as they gradually do get used to you and will get freindly. They take snailes and slugs from my hand and I can actually stroke and pick up Octavia quite easily. I think my ducks love me and I defintely love them. I think my next project will be goats. Just not quite sure how I am going to persuede my husband!!!
My review will be to tell you a little about some of the ducks we have on this planet. All around the world there have been ducks of one sort or another and did you know they are all belonging to the sub family Anatinae. Neither did I until I did some research on these creatures.
I will start my travels with the African species of duck some of which we see in this country.
First the Mallard usually seen in ponds and lakes all over the world as they are prone to migrate vast distances to get where they want to go. The male has metallic green head and neck separated from the purplish-brown breast by a white ring; females are mottled, buffy-brown in color with a pale eye-brow and a dark stripe through the eye.
They like to nest in the Northern hemoshpere and winter in the Tropics of cancer as far south as South Africa if they can make it that far. They nest in reed beds or in boxes of straw if allowed. and do not like being disturbed.
My next duck is a mottled duck from american soils and it is similar to the american black but quite close in look to the female mallard duck. It nests in Florida and winters there too not going very far at all and like sites that are hidden in vegetation.
The norther shoveler sometimes seen on these shores but only rarely is a beautiful looking duck it has markings for the Male with green head and neck with significant white on the body, female mottled in shades of brown, comb-like structures on edge of bill.
Each of the above ducks lay 10 to 12 eggs except for the mottled duck which lays up to eight eggs at one time.
My next duck is the Muscovy duck I think I have seen these on the odd occasion in this country probably going on migration to mexico they like hollowed out trees to nest in and look mostly black with pink warty type coloring above the beak which reminds me of a turkey in some respects.
laying 9 - 15 eggs at one time.
Mostly the ducks that we see in this country are mallards and some muscovy ducks with a teal or two and if very luck some of the chinese ducks which get lost somehow whilst migrating these two varieties vary quite a bit in colouring and type depending on the areas they come from
The Male with top of head and back of neck black; sides of head grayish-brown; beak, rump, and tail black; back is chestnut sides are gray; female is dark brown on head, neck, and back; there is a white bar above the eye an the cheeks are white; chests and sides are mottled brown likes holes in trees to nest in and lays 5 - 8 eggs.
The Mandarin white duck
is as follows the males have triangular orange feathers over back; females are mottled light brown with eye over a white line.
They Nest in Manchuria, Northeastern China, and Japan
Wintering in Japan, South of Yangtze in China nesting in vegetative areas or hollow trees. Laying up to 10 eggs.
These are just a few ducks and some if you are lucky can be found on ponds and seaside area in this country. We just need to keep our eyes open to what is around us to view these magnificent birds.
When I was living in Avoch in North Scotland I found a Mallard and a female Mallard in my back garden they had come from the river below our garden to bask in the sun and feed of course on the soaked bread I left for them. I soon had a large amount of ducks visiting my garden on a frequent basis because of the bread I left out for them. It was fun to watch their antics and they would eventually fly off to their nesting site which was further away in the nearby village by the waters edge. We also had the odd swan down by the waters edge too.
I find water fowl facinating to watch and they have had a very bad press of late with the Bird flu thing.
Just looking at birds is a great hobby and if you are able drawing them or photographing them is also very good therapy. I don not condone egg stealing or any of those habits there are enough rare species about without making it worse by these actions. Just don't get too close and you will be rewarded enough by the crazy things that they can get up to.
Down at the local park there is a duck pond, and on this pond there are two main type of birds - Canadian Geese & Ducks, and it is one of the best places I have taken my children so far.
We can park up, loaf of bread in hand and if we go through the day during the week they may even be hungry. One in the pushchair, other walking, short walk to the pond, path half way round. It's fantastic, I can amuse them for ages making the ducks come close.
Duck is an easy word to say, very similar to look, which seems to be a well used word in my household. You can also make them laugh by quacking like a duck or talking like donald duck if they are a little older.
Ducks are familiar to children, they grow up with plastic versions, we have a string of them which quack annoying when the string is pulled. We also have puzzles with ducks on, they recognise them.
The problem lies not with the ducks however, but with the geese. The Canadian geese where we go are as big as my babies, and not much smaller than my niece and we have had a little accident there. The geese are very unconcerned about people and are keen to get their share of your bread. My niece got pecked by one of these and it put her off for a while. Duck poo is another problem, unfortunatey unavoidable.
It is unfair that feeding ducks should be seen as an activity only for the elderly. Everyone can enjoy feeding the ducks. First step is to locate a nearby pond and river. It is important to strike a balance between the beauty of the location and its proximity. Keep some stale bread aside and perhaps some cake crumbs too. When the weather is suitable (eg dry), go to the ducks and start throwing little bits of food into the water. It only takes one duck to spot the food to start an almighty surge of duck action. For added excitement, try to throw the bread between two competing ducks. This will allow you to judge the birds on reaction times, speed and temper. Watch out for Geese, these fearless ducks may well come right up to you and start bullying you for food. Geese are also bad tempered and may well hiss at you if you act in an aggressive manner towards them. Swans are also slightly short-tempered but are not as bold as Geese. Seagulls are not strictly ducks but might try to get in on the action. Do you feed them? Well that's up to you. Once the bread is all gone, return home for a nice cup of tea. Life will already feel better.
Before embarking on any new pet, I always try to find out as much about keeping them as I can. When I decided I wanted ducks, I found it extrememly difficult to find out how to keep them as pets. Most books I found either told me how to keep large flocks for farming, or what various breeds tasted like! Eventually I found two helpful books. One had the keeping requirements of various breeds, (all have different requirements as regards how much space and access to water they need) the other was about keeping them as pets. Finally I bought a White Campbell duckling, these not needing huge amounts of space or water access. After a week, I discovered I needed another duckling to keep the first one company. It had become very attatched to me, and would frett dreadfully if I wasn't there. Ducks are relatively easy to keep. Duck food can be easily bought at large pet stores, and they also enjoy things such as mashed potatoe, grated carrott and cottage cheese. Baby ducklings need to have a heat lamp, but they grow quickly, so do not need it for long. It is vitally important not to give small ducklings too much access to water. They are not born waterproof and can easily become waterlogged and drown. If you want to keep ducks, you need to not be attatched to your garden. My ducks ate all the plants, and turned the grass into a mudbath, causing me to have it paved! In return, they do lay me wonderful eggs daily. (This however is more luck than judgement since sexing them is extremely difficult.) Depending on the breed of duck, water for them is easier than you might think. For their first year of life mine just had a paddling pool, which they were quite happy with. When we had the lawn paved however, we had a proper pond installed. It is not massive, but ample for two ducks who probably only spend about an hour a day on it. One of the most important things to find out, is whether your chosen breed of duck will fly off and leave you
or not. Most utility, or commercial ducks (like the white campbell) have been bred large for farming and are too heavy to fly. A ducks lifespan is approximately nine years, so they are a fairly long lived companion. I would not be without my ducks, they are fun to watch and real characters.