Posted by: lensweb | January 24, 2016

5 Little Ducks

‘From troubles of the world I turn to ducks’

In June 2014 I was given 4 ducklings in a cardboard box. I took them home and built an enclosure for them at the bottom of my garden. A large Belfast sink was raised above the ground within a wooden framework filled in with chicken netting, a wooden house filled wth straw gave complete shelter from the elements. The fluffy yellow peepers were pets and at first we kept indoors, not sure they were tough enough to survive the cold night time temperatures. We fed them with duck food and any spare vegetables. It took a long time for them to grow but after a few months they moulted and buff spiky primary feathers displaced the fluffy down. They were supplied as apricot call ducks, small for a domestic situation but a wild drake had obviously visited so they were a bit of a mix. We got very fond of the ducks and began to learn their special duck language. When the weather was warmer and the ducks were larger, they started to get very smelly, they were flapping their wings and needed more space, so they were put out in the duck enclosure. They were always busy and loved to swim in the sink. We kept the hose pipe trickling in on a slight overflow in the sink to keep the water fresh, having raised the sink it was easy to pull out the plug and drain it as often as necessary. We bought a straw bale and gave a bundle of fresh straw every day.

When would we they start laying? We didn’t realise it would take more than a year for the ducks to mature and it was not until June 2015 that we had the joy of discovering the first egg. Soon we were finding 3 eggs a day in the nesting box, although sometimes the eggs were found in strange places such as underneath the sink in a hollow scooped out in the ground with straw lining.  They stopped laying in autumn, a short laying season, as they were half apricot call duck they did not really need an excuse to stop laying.

In June 2015 we went to The County Show and fell in love with a Cayuga drake. It was  very attractive with it’s glossy purple and green shades of feathers iridescent in the sunlight. We were easily persuaded that our ducks would be happier with a drake to keep them company. When we got home we realised how large he was, the duck family now needed the run of the garden. The drake took his responsibility seriously and fussed  over the ducks constantly. They waddled in a gaggle, snuffly probing beaks padded the soil displacing spiders and slugs, the grass started to recede. They found every dark nook and cranny and started to lay eggs in secret places in the garden, they were not easy to find. Every morning we let them out and every evening we ushered them back into the run.


One night we forgot to lock them away and they were left out all night, by morning 2 of the ducks and our beautiful drake had disappeared, feeling terrible guilt, we suspected the culprit was a fox. Every night after this, something tried to dig under the entrance to the run but we had buried a log there during the construction of the enclosure.

On 29 December our neighbour knocked on the door and told us the ducks were making a terrible racket, they were sure something was wrong. We went down the garden and saw a fox was in the run, it had chewed a hole through the netting, the body of one of our ducks lay on the ground, it had been decapitated, the other duck was cowering under the sink. I knew I had to kill the fox. Determined on final action I picked up the spade, raised it, bracing myself for the blow, but the fox squeezed itself through the hole it had made in the netting and in a flurry of chestnut fur it had disappeared. I made repairs to the run and went to bed.

Early in the morning I heard a commotion, I looked down the garden to the duck house, the fox was in the run again, Resigned to action, I searched for a forgotten weapon I’d been given years before.  It was a crossbow and I only had one bolt,

Familiarising myself with it’s action, I loaded it, knowing that the fox had to go. In the early morning mist I stumbled over the grass towards the duckhouse, the fox saw me coming and plans of escape overtook bloodlust. With difficulty, it started to squeeze out of the very small hole it had made in the netting but I fired the crossbow as I approached, aiming for it’s heart. I wasn’t sure if I’d even hit it as the fox, unable to escape, ran frantically round the duck run, but then it fell to the ground and was totally lifeless.

Sad for the fox, I wasn’t proud of my actions, I was sorry I had to kill it but it was a necessary action if I wanted to continue to keep ducks. The very next day we went out and bought 4 point of lay Khaki Campbell ducks which are noted for their long season of egg laying. We are looking forward to a fresh supply of eggs this summer.

As related to Marion Bryce 20 January 2016



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