On Halloween 2016, the newest members of our duck layer flock hatched. As is the case with most poultry now, they boarded an aircraft and were at Minka Farm a day and a half later. After spending time in the brooder and then in a stall/outdoor area, they were finally big enough to join the rest of the flock without fear of being picked at. We banded them (put leg bands on them so we can later identify each bird) and herded them outside to their permanent home.
Yes, I said herded. Like a herd of cattle or a flock of sheep, ducks are herding animals. They like to stick close to each other and you can direct their movements by walking behind them using your arms or herding canes like steering wheels. When you put your arm out to the left, the ducks move away from it heading to the right. You never need to touch them; in fact, you’ll never get close enough to touch them otherwise you’ll scare them so much they’ll scatter.
Once in their new duck yard, this group (the Green band group) continued to stay together in a cohort: eating all at once, bathing together, sunning in the same spot. It was easy to pick them out when you looked at the duck yard from across the field. Finally, after a week or so, it became harder to identify the Green ducks because they started to integrate into the group. During this integration period, we don’t let any of the ducks out on the pond – the new ones aren’t attached enough to follow the veterans back into the coop at night and it’s impossible to just let the older ducks out of the pen. They all had their swimming pools, which all the ducks knew how to use.
As I said, they seemed to integrate. So, after that really nice rain last week, I let them all out. I wish I had waited longer.
Here’s a picture of the ducks, stretching in the sun, some heading for the pond while others take their time.
Over here is the group of Green ducks – the water looks enticing and their new friends are calling, but ducks don’t like anything new: they recognize when there are new people in their pen and won’t act the same; feed bags of a new color are reason to be nervous about the food; cows in the pasture next door, who sporadically show up, cause great consternation. So, I wasn’t surprised that the Green ducks didn’t just jump into the water even though they are ducks.
It took them most of the day to decide that the water was probably safe and once they did, they had a ball! Splashing, cruising across the surface, bobbing, all accompanied by exciting quacking noises. It’s always a fun thing to watch the ducks when they first get on the pond – even the older ducks do this when they’ve had to be off the pond for a few days.
Then, it got to be late afternoon. We have to wait to feed the ducks on pond days so there’s a lure to get them back to their pen. I went to feed them and the older ducks all came in to eat. But the Green ducks decided they weren’t hungry enough to leave the pond. I don’t blame them, they were having a really good time out there. I tried a couple of times to herd them in with a flashlight beam (yes, it does work most of the time – told you they are scared of everything) but it wasn’t enough. The Green ducks spent the night on the pond. Since they aren’t laying yet, it’s not a big deal – the predators we worry about at night won’t go out in the water (raccoons, opossums). I figured they would get hungry enough to come inside in a day or two. That was 4 days ago and I still can’t get them to come in. Perhaps they are better foragers than I have given them credit for. Keep your fingers crossed that I can lure them inside before they start to lay eggs.
Update on the Goat Kids
Sandstone’s kids (Summer, Winter & Bob) are all doing well. They gain weight every time I put them on the scale – the best way to be sure everyone’s eating – and they bounce all over the stall when we visit. There’s only one thing they haven’t quite figured out: there are only two teats on a goat udder. All three of them get under mom trying to nurse, but they haven’t yet received the memo that only two can eat at a time! Oh well, they have it figured out enough that everyone is growing well!