Saturday, May 24, 2008

Luna Saves the Day

Today was a beautiful, 67f, sunny day. The duck and the ducklings had been cooped up since Wednesday, so I figured I'd let them out and escort them to the creek which ought to keep them amused. HA! Walked up to the house to see if my mom wanted to come outside and sit and there was momma duck escorting the ducklings into the pond! Apparently, the shallowness of the creek (hasn't rained much lately) did not amuse her though the ducklings had found it delightful, so she took matters into her feet and made a foll out of me again.

Fortunately, the "wannabe baby killers" (WBKs) were snoozing under Hal's truck, so I let momma and ducklings have a very good time for 2 hours in the pond. Mom got to watch them play, too. Then something occurred to the WBKs and they headed for the pond. Probably they heard idiot momma quacking loudly. I spent the next 2 hours keeping the 2 contingents separated by throwing the ubiquitous sticks again and again. At one point the WBKs were preening on the bank and idiot momma wanted to take the kids out at that end. As they approached the bank, l'Orange plopped back into the water and made a mad dash into the ducklings, separating one out and trying to whomp him on the head to drown him. Another stick took care of that and the stand-off continued.

Finally, the WBKs (frustrated I assume) swam to the north end looking for choice edibles and momma and kids climbed onto the bank. Now the question was how to get her back to the garage. If I got too close, she'd just dive back in and the whole thing would start over. Hal suggested throwing small sticks between her and the pond but that did not phase her. Then a light dawned as I saw Luna laying in the shade behind me. I called and asked her if she'd like to swim? She ran right up to the pond edge and I threw a stick. She dove right in after it, the momma duck watching. Then Luna, instead of heading back to me, took her stick right up the bank momma was sitting on. That drove momma and ducklings far enough away from the pond edge that I could skirt around between them and the water and chase her back to the garage.

Hal knows not to let her out while I am gone. Those ducklings need to be much bigger. One of these days I will learn momma duck is too fast for me and just not let them out!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Hectic Week

Besides having the chicks arrive on Wednesday this past week, I ended up taking my mom, who is visiting, to the ER for shortness of breath. This is the second trip to the ER since I picked her up on May 1st. The first time turned out to be bronchitis. This time the doc just had to adjust her medication and she was much better next day. We have decided to take her back home the day after Memorial Day, she misses her home. Maybe next year things will work out better. I had hoped she'd stay till the middle of June, but the below normal temperatures haven't helped her enjoyment here either.

The chicks arrived late, on the coldest day we've had so far in May. Only 49f for the high and it was raining. New born chicks like to be kept at 95 degrees. The feed store was mobbed with people
picking up their birds and the noise of 100s of cheeping birds was incredibly loud. It was nothing like this last year, no where near the numbers of birds or people. I can only assume the high price of eggs over the winter and the rising cost of food is making a lot of folks think about growing their own food.

Besides the "meat" chickens which are Cornish X's and living in the garage at the moment, I got 3 guinea fowl and 6 barred rocks. Before I even got them home I could tell one BR had leg trouble, and another one was lethargic. Both of them had legs paler in color than the other 4. The lethargic one began gasping yesterday and died sometime in the night. The other one seems to have paralyzed legs but is gamely trying to eat and drink. I'm a little worried about another one's breathing, I've treated the water with vitamins and antibiotics, I'll just have to wait and see what happens.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Day After

It's a beautiful day here and momma duck wanted out so I made a way for her to escape the pen but not the ducklings. She wouldn't leave without them. So, I enlisted my pups, got a chair, the plastic rake (and camera), made sure the wannabe baby killers were in the pond. Then Rocket, Luna and I escorted the family of 7 past the pond (dogs are great deterrents, just have them lay down between the pond and the trail!), under the power lines and to the culvert that flows from the swamp into a little pool. Once momma figured out she could go there and NOT into the swamp itself (that's when the rake came in handy), she and the youngsters had a grand time. The two oldest even dove and swam under water. The others paddled about and everyone nibbled at the edges of the mud banks. After about an hour mom kept climbing the bank and looking around, presumably at me and the dogs, to see where we were.

I suspected, she wouldn't get the ducklings out with us all sitting there, so we left the area. I placed Rocket by the pond again, and took Luna up to the house. Next thing I know, there they were right where Rocket had been (he stayed till the last second but decided he wanted to be with me and Luna, too). Momma may have been looking at the pond, then again, she may have just been wary as to the location of the wannabe baby killers. I took no chances and ran to the pond and stood there till she and her ducklings headed toward the house. Then the dogs and I slowly walked behind while they waddled back into the garage.

They are now safely enclosed, momma on her eggs, and the 6 in a semi-circle under the heat lamp. I can't do this every day, too time consuming, but at least a couple times a week wouldn't be bad. The next time, I'll get Hal to watch them at the culvert while I replace the straw in the pen.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Dangerous Ducky Drama

Things got a little frenzied this afternoon. I popped down to the garage to check on the ducklings and mom and 4 of the youngsters were gone. The 2 youngest were snoozing in the nest under the heat lamp. I ran upstairs and looked out windows and saw nothing, so I grabbed my raincoat (why does craziness always happen in rotten weather?) and put on my mud boots and raced to the pond. There was mom, and the 4 ducklings on a slippery log in the middle of the pond. The 2 older ones seemed fine but the other 2 are only a couple days old and kept sliding off the log.

Now the other 4 adults had been on the bank but at that moment decided to go swimming. I have heard that adult males will attack and kill ducklings so I stuck around to watch and hoped that mom would soon herd her charges back to shore and into the garage. No such luck. Next thing I knew the big white male charges the log, attacks mom and everyone falls into the water. The ducklings scatter, then 3 form up on mom but the 4th swims towards me. Then the other male made a beeline for it and tried to drown it by slamming it into the water with its head. I yelled, grabbed a stick and threw it at the duck. The big 4 regroup and I madly dashed about the pond looking for sticks because there is never one right where you need it.) In the meantime Luna thinks I'm going to throw the sticks for her to fetch.

Now of course, it's raining harder. Mom duck and the kids head for the opposite shore and scramble onto it while I throw sticks to make the adults swim the other way. Then I run to the garage, get a pot and stuff some straw into it, grab the plastic rake and race to the far side of the pond, hoping to approach slowly and catch the ducklings. I think it would have worked if there hadn't been this stupid shrub in the way, entangling the rake tines. Mom and the kids panic and head back into the water and of course, head toward the wannabe baby-killers. More stick throwing and yelling ensues. Mom and the kids duck into the brambles on the side nearest the garage again, but this time at the steepest part of the pond. I can't tell at that distance if the littlest ones managed to climb up since they are as black as the mud. Only one thing to do now, get the dinghy.

First I run back around the pond and up to the house and ask Hal to come down to the garage and keep watch on the 2 youngsters because I figure that's when the baby-killers will show up to attack them, while I'm on the water. I manage to drag the dinghy from its winter location behind the house, on its side to squeeze between the SUV and the deck supports, then flip it onto its bottom and drag it to the pond. I've got the rake, the straw pot, the oars, and Luna whom I get inside after I get the thing in the water. Of course, I've put it in the water wrong end first and end up having to row frontwards (instead of backwards, if you ever row a dinghy, you'll know what I mean). But, I get over to the pond edge and can see mom duck and 3 of the babies. As I get closer they panic and run up the bank. I look everywhere for the fourth and finally find him shivering at the edge of the water. It is indeed too high to climb. Luna sees the duck and is VERY interested but like the good girl I have trained her to be does not pounce. Carefully she switches boat ends with me so now I'm sitting in water on the bottom but at the pointy end of the dinghy while she is at the back end wondering why I keep banging her with the oars.

I take the plastic rake and try to scoop up the duckling, several times. However, every time I get close enough and ship the oars, I float away. In the meantime while yelling to Hal, I learn the others are back at the garage and he herds them in and shuts the door. Finally, I grab a couple of raspberry bush branches and pull myself in far enough to grab the duckling and plop him into the straw pot. I then row back to the shallow end, hand Hal the duck-pot and manage to slide my wet butt and Luna out of the dinghy and drag it onto shore. At last I get to go inside, change clothes and warm up.

It is now a couple hours later and the ducklings are all fluffed out. I lowered the heat lamp 6 inches, fed mom some lettuce and added electrolytes to the duckling water. The 4 who had the adventure seem to be waddling about fine, the 2 youngest who slept through the whole drama, are still hanging under the lamp at the far end of the pen. For the time being, mom and ducklings are confined to the garage. No more running about. I'll put a shallow pan of water in there for mom to bathe. I can't afford to let her take the ducklings anywhere near the males, she is simply too small to defend them against those big bruisers. The ducklings may be in the garage until they get their feathers. That is more than 2 months from now.

Stupid ducks.

Three, No Four More Ducklings!

Yesterday there were five, today there are six. I haven't seen the newest one, Hal thinks it's another runner/rouen cross. The other 3 new ones are 2 rouen/runner crosses and 1 pure rouen. I'm very pleased to have the runner crosses, though I was hoping for a pekin/runner, it's the only mix I don't have and I was interested in seeing what it would look like. I suppose I could get one in the next batch of eggs. Momma runner is still sitting on a few eggs but I think they're all green ones. The white ones are the runner's. Here's a photo taken yesterday of the 5 ducklings. HA! Before I even published this blog I got photos of all 6 ducklings and the newest, in the very bottom of the next photo is lighter than the other 3 black ones and since it was out of a white runner egg, I suspect this may indeed be a pekin/runner cross!!! Looks like she's sitting on 6 more eggs. I wonder if any more will hatch?

And here's a closeup of the four newest, the pekin/runner cross is in the bottom left and he does look lighter in color than the others.

Friday, May 9, 2008

New Ducklings!

Two of the many eggs my runner duck is sitting on hatched over night. This morning there they were with "Momma" though neither of these are actually hers. The one on the left is a Rouen/Pekin cross. (Daddy is my Pekin 'l'Orange), and the other one is pure Rouen.

I'm still hearing cheeping so I'm hoping there will be more ducks hatching before the weekend is over.

Last week, 5 off the 15 eggs I gave my father-in-law hatched in his incubator. Four were the Rouen/Pekin cross and one pure Rouen. The very first one to hatch had curled under feet so I made him little plastic shoes to straighten them out. He wore them for about 4 days and now is walking fairly well. The middle toe of one foot looks broken and is healing crooked but he is managing.

Otherwise, my other 4 adult ducks, those who are the real parents are enjoying themselves daily on the pond. I have read the males could kill the ducklings so I will have to be watchful to ensure it doesn't happen.