Monday, January 17, 2011

"Quacking in the Rain....

....just quacking in the rain.  What a glorious feeling.  I'm happy again." 
rain dancing Flora- American Buff Goose
Okay. I don't know of times when the ducks and geese aren't happy.  They do seem deliriously so when we experience wet, blustery conditions; classic Pacific Northwest winter weather.  
don't think we'll be going out there...thank you very much
There are the chickens hunched and looking less than pleased (except for the Polish, who have such poor peripheral vision that they don't seem to see that it's raining.  They just run around like it's business as usual, looking like pathetic rag dolls once they get saturated).  Then there are the ducks and geese.  They run around, cavorting; flapping their wings and singing their waterfowl songs--really whooping it up.  
whoo hoooooo!
While the chooks may have the largest share of my affection, I keep the waterfowl mostly for this reason of joyful exhibitions as I tend to get blue on these dismally grey, short days.  I find it challenging to feel bad when I watch the ducks and geese enjoying themselves with such abandon.  Of course, getting delicious, rich ducks eggs isn't  detracting from the delight in keeping them either....
Lyle with Jacline
We specifically keep Indian Runner Ducks because we like their size, disposition, and their conformation.  Watching a duck stand upright and run around as if gravity is pulling it forward, never gets old-- mobile bowling pins.  We have 5 crested Runners in our flock that don't stand quite as upright, but do look appealing with their little "tams".  One is a drake called Lyle, for Lyle Lovett-- his ladies are the Lovetts.  The Runners are great layers, with some laying pale shamrock green tinted eggs.  Thomas was keen to have ducks, and as he so patiently puts up with my poultry obsession, anything I can do to get the man hooked I am game for.  I did raise a pair of East Indies Ducks (an iridescent black feathered, bantam duck) last spring with a few Runners.  Those bantam ducks seemed to think they were Runners and would perch upright on their toes and run as fast as they could until they figured out that they could just fly over the flock's heads to land at their destination ahead of everybody.  Pretty, bloody hilarious.    
The ducks are pretty easy to keep; good foragers- though they scarf down a lot of food.  They eat slugs and snails with relish.  Much of what I read expresses what a  mess they will make of the yard.  While they do dabble, I find them gentler on plants.  If they have plenty of space, they do negligible damage to the landscape.  Their droppings just seem to dissolve away in their pastured run.  I do fill a rubber basin for them daily (it holds about 20 gallons) for head dunking and bathing.  Ducks need to cleanse their eyes and sinuses due to how they feed.  A large, metal stock tank (that is 2'x2'x4') gets topped up as needed and refilled with completely fresh water weekly for swimming.  
I spy with my little eye...
The waterfowl must be corralled into their night quarters at dark.  If I call out, "bedtime" they will run towards their house and often start heading in, but if was up to them they would rather just hang out in the weather.  While they are hardy enough for that, our pen is very large, with big trees growing in it.  The trees are wonderful for shade in summer but their presence makes it near impossible to roof/net in their run. This puts all the run's inhabits at the mercy of owls or other enterprising predators (like raccoons climbing over the fence) if we do not close them in for the night.  I could run a radio, keeping these critters at bay, and might do this when I find a sturdy, weather proof one and if I decide I can reconcile myself to the ambient chatter cutting through the country quiet.  I hear Nite Guards- are effective too.  Haven't tried them yet.... 
Since they don't put themselves to bed like the chickens, people seem to think that waterfowl are not as bright.  They don't seem to be as adept at problem solving as the chickens, but they do exhibit a sense of humour.  I often see a duck sneak up on a chicken, goose them on the backside (no pun intended), and waddle away while quacking their heads off as if they are laughing.
take me out of here now please.....
Right now I have one of our ducks, Trout indoors in our utility room as a couple of weeks ago her right ankle was swollen up to the size of a golf ball causing her to limp.  It is not bumble foot, or a fracture (it's been thoroughly checked), but obviously she suffered some form of trauma.  She has been getting warm foot soaks with epsom salts, garlic and probiotics in her food, and I have been rubbing arnica cream into the webbing of her foot as there is a lot of vascularity there (which allows the cream to be absorbed.  The scales on her legs are just too thick).  Her swelling has slowly been going down and her ankle is now the size of a hazelnut.  While participating in this healing regimen, she now is attuned to my schedule.  If I sleep past dawn, she starts her quacking "wake-up" alarm, as if to say, "You better get in here and start feeding all your animals".  If I call out to her, she will quiet down but start quacking again in five minutes, just like my snooze alarm.  She also gives me vocal reminders if she hasn't received her twice daily baths at the accustomed hours, or when she is through with her sink soaking and wants to be returned to her hospital bed- a sheep stock tank.  She has me at her command.  Seems pretty clever to me.
Within our waterfowl flock, we have a pair of American Buff Geese.  Their husbandry needs are the same as the ducks though they tend to graze more; dabble less.  They are docile and calm, not too noisy, but as goslings, were extremely gregarious.  They would constantly groom anyone who held them and would nibble on pant legs if they were within reach.  The ducklings I raised with them are the friendliest ones in our flock from this social influence.  As goslings they were a startling neon chartreuse/gold colour.  Now mature, they are a soft, elegant buff hue as their name implies.  They are less tame than they were as wee ones, but Flora, the female, doesn't begrudge me the occasional cuddle.  She will nestle limply in my arms with her head forcefully pressed into my shoulder or in the crook of my elbow as if her skull is too heavy to lift.  Nothing quite like holding an armload of floppy goose.


  1. Hi there,
    We also live in Sherwood and are wondering if you sell hatching eggs?
    Thanks! Wendy

  2. Oops forgot my info. You can reach me at housewe at gmail dot com

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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