This is the gratuitous duck post I promised in my garden part two post. I say it's a gratuitous duck post because I don't actually have anything specific to talk about except that ducks are great and hilarious. I've decided I'd use this post as an opportunity to answer some questions my friends have asked about the girls and duck ownership.
How can you tell them apart? For Marcel and me, it's pretty easy. Seeing them every day, I have no doubt who is who even from a glance. The first way we can tell the two Welsh Harlequins apart is their coloring. Jemima has much more brown mottling on her back and chest, as well as a darker head, while Rebeccah is much lighter all around. The differences in their head and chest are the most pronounced. The second way we can tell them apart is by personality. Rebeccah is far more outgoing, likely to be just behind Sonia in the line, eating out of our hands when we offer freeze dried mealy-worms. Jemima, on the other hand, tends to hang back, is the least likely to let us touch her, and is almost always the first one back in the run when we're trying to corral them while the others bring us on a run for our money. (A wild duck chase, if you will?)
Noel from facebook asked: Do you clip their wings or tame them? There are many duck breeds that have been specially bred over the years for optimal egg or meat production, and as part of breeding them to live on farms, the ability to fly has been bred out. It doesn't make sense to feed and care for ducks for egg or meat production if they're just going to fly away! Over the generations (this all dates back on the record books to the 1600's), farm breed ducks have been bred so their bodies are too heavy for the size of their wings. So, my girls can get a few clumsy feet of air, but it's more of a jump with flapping wings to slow down the descent. That said, mallards, even those bred on farms, retain the ability to fly. Furthermore, ducks don't worry about what breed they're mixing with, so if you have mallard-crosses, they may be able to fly, though likely not long distances. Ducks, unlike smaller birds, also need to be able to get a running start and there simply isn't enough space in my yard for them to take off for sustained flight. For good measure, whenever they start zooming around, flapping their wings, we shout "NO FLYING" as a reminder of our expectations.
Can you hold them? This is kind of a two-parter. If I can catch them, I can hold them. They don't like being picked up, so I try to respect their wishes. If someone is limping or needs special attention (medically) I will catch her with great effort and am then allowed to hold her for a few minutes while checking the feet, bill, etc. Many people have friendly ducks from hand feeding them and handling them a lot as ducklings. My girls have never been particularly interested in being handled. They do absolutely love being around us and will follow me around the yard or come running to the back door when they see me, hoping to get some mealy-worm treats. Mealy-worms are the best treats in the world and Rebeccah and Sonia will eat out of my hands. That is as close as I can get right now to being able to touch them. Once in a while, I will give them a pet on the chest while feeding them, but usually they get mad at me and run away.
Could you eat them? Are they edible? Yes. Could I handle it emotionally? Undecided. I am very fond of my ducks. I will care for them and protect them to the best of my ability. That said, I also try to keep a healthy perspective about the fact that they are here to provide me with food. We purchased them with the intent of getting eggs for food and possibly profit. They are not the same type of pets as my dog and cat. One of the reasons I chose ducks is that I don't particularly like eating duck. If we had chickens, I would likely raise them for meat. Chickens for meat, ducks for eggs. Seems to make sense in my mind.
Rachel from facebook asked: have they laid eggs and have you tried them? They have not yet laid eggs but we're getting close. They're about 16 weeks old now and should begin laying around 18 weeks. Stupidly, I got ducks without ever having tried duck eggs, but from the research I have done, they're a bit heavier than chicken eggs. If you've ever tried truly farm fresh chicken eggs, you'll know they have more flavor than a store bought egg. They're "eggier" if you will. From what I have heard, duck eggs are even a bit "eggier" than that. Don't worry, though. AS SOON AS THEY START LAYING, YOU'LL KNOW!
So why did you chose ducks? So. Many. Reasons. For years I have wanted to keep backyard chickens but always found reasons to not get them. I realized last year that the main reason is that I'm kind of afraid of chickens. They really give me the creeps. They have sharp beaks and sharp feet. Ducks, on the other hand, have flat feet and flat beaks. I like to refer to them as the butter knife of the poultry world. Secondly, ducks produce edible eggs on a similar schedule and quantity as chickens. In fact, their eggs are larger and higher in fat than chicken eggs so you need to eat fewer to fill you up and keep you full longer. Plus the higher fat content makes them preferable for baking. I don't bake, but maybe I'll learn when I'm trying to figure out what to do with all my eggs. Finally, ducks are friggin' adorable. And HILARIOUS. Watching them get the zoomies and run all over the yard, wiggle their butts when they're excited to see you or to get their pool filled with fresh water, hearing them quack when they want your attention, or just the constant and joyous meeping sound they make, spraying them with the hose and watching them try to drink the water out of the air! The fun literally never stops with them. I look at them and am immediately happy. What could be a better reason to keep an animal than that? And as you can see below, they are very helpful when it comes to chores like mowing the lawn and gardening...
I think that about wraps it up for my ducky Q&A post. I want to plug my facebook page The Pretend Homestead. If you enjoy these blog posts, go ahead and like the page. I post tons of content over there, specifically duck photos and videos. Want to see a video of the girls trying to drink hose water out of the sky? LIKE MY FACEBOOK PAGE! If you have any questions about the ducks or the garden or anything else, feel free to post them on the facebook page, or to the blog and I will happily answer them to the best of my ability!