Last August, my neighbor showed up during a wicked rain storm with two McDonald's Happy Meal looking boxes filled with six fluffy ducklings. They have provided me, my friends and followers (on IG @xoxofarmgirl) with a ton of entertainment. They are beautiful. They are funny. They are a little bit dumb. And that's funny, too.
I have learned a lot about ducks in the past 9 months. For starters, they stick together. They are sorta one duck with six heads and 12 webbed feet. They are loud and messy. Especially in comparison to their more tidy chicken roommates. As ducklings, they are taught to swim by their mothers and in the absence of a duck mother, need some help from a farm mama (that would be me). I got them an ag tank and built a shelf, platform and stairs up to it. They needed some help learning to climb the steps too. That makes more sense than the swimming part, I realize. They also had some training on entering and exiting the coop. I have a lot of adorable duck footage on Instagram if you want to see the good side of ducks (@xoxofarmgirl).
There's a dark side to having ducks, I am now realizing. Spring has not brought out the best side of my ducks. Let's take a small step back for a moment. My neighbor picked up the ducks at Tractor Supply. I am pretty sure he got them from a bin of "straight run" ducks. That means they are not sexed and are thus boys and girls. If this intrigues you, sexing poultry has a very dark side too. It is totally worth your while to meet Franchesca Duval of Alchemist Farm in this video interview.
So, I have three girl ducks (ducks) and three boy ducks (drakes). For a while I was not sure. Now I am. The drakes are bigger. They have a little curl at the point of their tails. And they mount the ducks. Incessantly. Ok, nature, you say. I agree. It's how we get more ducks. BUT, the drakes are pristine. White with orange feet and bills. Fluffy and proud. The ducks are gray or brown because the drakes' muddy feet mar them as they climb on top of them pressing them to the ground with their weight. That's not all. The drakes have mounted them so often that the ducks are missing most of their back feathers under their wings. The drakes also peck the ducks on the back of the neck while they squash them to the ground. The ducks' necks are featherless, scabbed and often bloody. Yuck.
It's not just my ducks. Other folks with ducks (folks I've met on IG where I find a lot of support for farm issues!) have the same problem. The drake to duck ratio doesn't seem to matter. They have had to separate their ducks and drakes, which I have done for a day here and there (duck spa day!) and one night. They don't like being separated. They are used to each other. But I am looking at a way to give the ducks a break and some time to heal on a more regular basis.
The ducks were an accident underscoring how the Accidental Farm started in the first place. And as every part of this little farm before them, they come with some eye-opening lessons on life and nature. Stay tuned on Instagram if you're interested to see how the solutions I am planning pan out for the ducks.
xoxo Farm Girl