When we first got our Indian Runner ducklings, they were a free gift from some fellow homesteaders who had dozens of them. They kept the ducklings with their chickens, and the adults free-ranged delightfully across their land. Andrew and I hadn't really thought about ducks just yet, but we figured we could learn from them and hopefully get some eggs, too.
It's interesting to me how rife our childhoods were with duck characters (Scrooge McDuck, Daffy, Donald, Daisy, Darkwing, etc) but how little we actually knew about them. Our city experience with ducks went so far as throwing bread crumbs to the mallards at Sea World when we were kids, but we were assured that they were easy keepers. So, since they were about the same size as our young chickens, and since we had only just gotten the coop ready, we put the two ducks in the coop with the rest while we figured out how to make them a better home.
In a hurry, we learned that ducks are far different from chickens in many, many ways. A short list:
The chickens breathed a sigh of relief, but the ducks kept on thinking they were chickens. During the day, they would follow around our little flock, quacking and running into their legs and acting kind of like the really, really nice exchange students who don't get the pop culture references and laugh after the joke has passed. They ignored any body of water we have on our land, choosing to wash themselves in the aforementioned waterbowl (which was soon the sludgebowl). When the chickens would climb up into their coop, the ducks would ignore their nice, new duck house and plaintively quack at the base of the ramp. Andrew and I got skilled at playing Duck Soccer as we somehow herded them into their place every night.
We found a local listing for Cayuga ducks nearby, and after doing some research on the breed(good at foraging! Decent mothers! Not prone to flying!), we thought they'd be a good addition to the homestead. We now had a few months of animal raising under our belts, and we were much better prepared to add some new birds. Andrew built a much bigger duck house that was more suitable for waterfowl, and soon we had four new additions to the flock--two gorgeously iridescent Cayugas and one derpily cute Runner-Cayuga mix (he has a tiny little crest, which mostly makes him look like he's a hipster with a topknot). We finally had some drakes, which made our hope of self-sufficiency a little bit closer.
Suddenly, the Indian Runners had Others. And though these Cayugas were slow to warm up to us, they seemed to teach the Runners How To Be A Duck.
For the first time we had ducks in the pond! The Runners seem shocked that something like this existed. Their quacks of "HOW LONG HAS THIS BEEN HERE" and "OH MY GOSH BIG WATER IS SO GREAT" echoed across our fields, and our delight of these crazy birds has only increased by the day. We haven't gotten eggs yet (they're all pretty young) but the lessons we've learned from watching them and creating a better world for them has been worth it already.
So! There's chapter one of our Duck Adventures. I'm sure many more will follow, but for now, I'm quite thankful and fond of our bizarre little flock.
What animals have you been learning from? Especially if you're new to the species/breed, what has surprised you? I'd love to hear your stories, too.
We are a husband and wife who are trying to live simply. We are learning much as we transition from life in the city to life in the country. Come along with us, and maybe you can also learn a thing or two as well.
We love writing for these fine folks as well!
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Simple Life Homestead