Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Will I get ducks again?


I loved having ducks in the garden, even if they did make a little (huge) mess of everything, but will I be getting ducks again?


When my partner and I first got together in 2016, he already had 3 chickens when I moved in. I was pretty happy about this, as to me it was the ultimate "country folk" thing to do, having a few chickens free range the garden during the day and lock them up at night in the coop.

It wasn't long until we decided to get a couple ducks. We were planning on getting some in the summer, at this point it was only the very beginning of April and we happened to be visiting a friends farm for lambing. We mentioned we'd be looking at getting some ducks, and we went home with six duck eggs to hatch that day.

I was a complete newbie, but read up as much information as I could on hatching eggs and what I needed to do. There's a lot of info out there, but I found what worked for me and our available set up. Not a month later Bob the Duck hatched, and it was so nerve-wracking I vowed never to do it again. She hatched a little earlier than expected on the 21st of April 2016, and her tummy didn't look right at all. I really thought she was going to die that night, but by some miracle she made it. I waited another two weeks, but none of the other eggs had hatched. Looking back on it now, leaving them for another two weeks was probably me being extraordinarily optimistic. I later found out they probably didn't hatch due to a genetic mutation, adding that to 100% hatch rates being rare and only having 6, it's no surprise we only had Bob.

We then ended up with a few more eggs here and there, mainly because people had scared mothers away from their nests and decided to move the nests completely. If you're ever in this position, please don't move the nests!

Unfortunately last year what we think was a fox and her cubs managed to get into the coop, and as ducks sleep on the floor they were all taken. We'd never had a problem with foxes, but only a couple days before the farm had swapped what fields they kept the sows and their piglets on so their food source had moved, leaving only us and the chickens on this side of the road.

I absolutely loved having the ducks. It wasn't until we'd had them as pets that we realized how social they are, and it still upsets me now to think that they're not with us anymore.

But will we be getting any more?

For a long time after the fox attack I was adamant that I didn't want more ducks. Ducks don't take themselves to bed at night like chickens do, and obviously don't perch up high like chickens either, which makes them a lot more likely to get caught out. Even having them in the coop with mesh dug deep into the ground and fox proofing the coop as much as possible didn't save them, so I was really against getting any more. I even thought about not adding to our flock and just letting the numbers dwindle as they got older.

In the last couple months I've started to come round to the idea again, but I know there will be a lot of things that I want to do differently and a different routine to what we had here. I don't think I could hatch again either, it's very time consuming and stressful. It's also hard to teach them to do normal duck things (Bob was terrified of water until she was about 6 months old!) when you're not a duck yourself. You also don't get a choice in if you get boys or girls, when I'd really like just three or four girls and maybe a drake.

Maybe next summer we will look into it again but, for now, we're just a dog and chicken family.