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Update on Mrs Boss and the ducklings: Moving on

Indian runner ducks and CarolIt’s been over a month since the last update on the Indian Runner ducklings.

They are now 9 weeks old and seem almost as big as The Chicken Lady’s grown up flock. We have discovered that Eric is a female duck and Tipex and Freddie are drakes. Eric clearly hasn’t burnt her bra as she’s extremely deferential to her male companions. Waiting to drink and eat after them. She is dark brown and the black Wellington feet that she was born with are now an elegant shade of tan.

Freddie and Tipex are beautiful too. Similarly coloured, brown and white. Freddie has white go faster stripes just above his eyes. He’s always the first to dive for the tastiest scraps.

There is something extremely comfortable about ducks. They are gentle, sensitive creatures. Their long necks are astonishingly beautiful and ours are tender with each other, touching necks for reassurance. And they need loads.

Although they are safe from predators in our run they are hounded and pecked by Thunder (the male guinea fowl) and now by their adoptive mother, Mrs Boss. They are wary of Carol too.

Looking back over the duckling posts things have moved massively on from those early baby duck days. Once the ducklings were given the freedom of the run to range in, Mrs Boss dropped them quite quickly.

Initially I forced her to join them in the Emerald Castle at night as she never invited them up to the dormitory in the main hen house. She’d sometimes sit with them during the day and fought to protect them during their first few nervous days out in the run. Unfortunately she lost every battle and gradually she cut the ties with her brood. A couple of weeks ago I saw her pecking them if they came too close. Now if they spot her on the horizon they dive for cover in a rush of flappy feet and shrieks.

I reckon that the constant splashing in water drove her away. She did her duty until they were big enough to fend for themselves. Standing out in the pouring rain whilst they lazed in the dry of the Emerald Castle. Always calling them when I arrived with treats. But it wasn’t the same relationship as she had with the guinea fowl. She loved her guinea brood and hung out with them for months when they were clearly longing to venture out without a chaperone.

Now Mrs Boss has gone broody again. She is holed up in the nesting box. This is adversely affecting all egg laying. She has to be moved either to the anti broody coop or to the Emerald Castle to raise a clutch of baby chicks.

The ducks are now big enough to join their relations on the stud at the other end of the village. There they will be able to range free and enjoy a more rounded life beyond the wire confines of our run. They were raised by Mrs Boss on the understanding that they would eventually return to the stud.

I’ll miss them. The way they love to nuzzle into the spout of water from the watering can when I fill the water fountains. Their bendy, delicate duck feet. The quacking rush to the door, when they hear me approaching. They’re intelligent too – if the food hopper in the Emerald Castle needs refilling they drag it into the Castle grounds so I can see that it needs to be filled at a glance.

I won’t miss the smell. Ducks are messy creatures. Even in this heatwave, I need to wear Wellington boots in their end of the run. Their two (five litre) drinking fountains are refilled three times a day.

Mrs Boss is our smallest bantam hen. She’s the one with the biggest personality. Bottom of the pecking order, she luxuriates in broodiness. She is moved to her own five star accommodation and loves being a mum to baby fowl. So we are planning to scrub and dry out the Emerald Castle. Mrs Boss will sit on some mixed bantam hatching eggs. We need new laying stock and hopefully this will be the brood that Mrs Boss has dreamt about for the last four years. Unless they turn out to be cockerels they will be able to stay with her for ever.


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7 Comments

  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Magic Cochin

    Mrs Boss is a star. Although when we didn’t want a hen sitting on eggs her broodiness was a nightmare!

    Looking after chicks is a lot of work. Well done you for stepping in and doing your bit. I wonder why the hen rejected the chicks?

    I do hope that it works out for Mrs Boss. She™s such a character and I want her to have chicks that will stay for keeps.

    Hi Pat

    They were superb but not really suited to living alongside chickens.

    It was great to have the experience of ducks. They are gentle beings but I wouldn™t raise them again unless we had far more land for them to roam free.

    Hello Veronica

    Mrs Boss loved the ducklings when they were tiny but when they started swimming in the water fountain and returned wet to the nest it was a different story.

    A big learning curve for us all.

    Hopefully some of the bantam eggs will hatch out.

    Hi Hank

    Indian Runners are raised for egg laying in the UK. Apparently they lay throughout the winter! I love eating duck eggs and TCL and S give us eggs as a treat.

    They don™t have much meat on them.

    Hello Louisa

    They are beautiful. At TCL and S™s house they are always busy but now I™ve had a chance to see them in repose. I was surprised to see that their feet are bendy and they can grip with these feet. They have been known to climb trees!

    Hi Pamela

    They are elegant. With beautiful swan like necks. We are so lucky to have the space to raise them.

    Love the sound of the regal ™ha™ quacks from next door to your mum™s house. Ours quacked but there were a load of other sounds too. Gentle and chirrupy and immensely comforting.

    But there™s no getting away from it “ ducks smell.

  2. These are much more elegant that your ordinary run of the mill ducks. How can you bear to let them go? Still they aren’t going far and you can still see them from time to time. There are ducks in one of the gardens near my mum’s and they sound frightfully posh when they quack, it sounds more like a “har, har, har” laugh than a quack – especially as they have an uncany knack of “laughing” at appropriate points in our conversations.

  3. Louisa

    I will be a shame to see the ducks go. They are lovely looking birds. I bet Mrs Boss can’t wait to sit on some Bantem eggs for a change. Look forward to seeing the chicks.

  4. Indian runners are such odd ducks (yes, I meant to say that). They look like nothing in the US. Are all your birds pets or are some for meat?

  5. Veronica

    Glad to have some news, I was wondering how the ducklings were getting on. What a character Mrs Boss is — she’s obviously made a good job of rearing the ducks, and I hope she enjoys her bantam brood!

  6. Ohhhhhhh Fiona they are just beautiful!!!!!! Thanks for sharing!!! I wouldn’t be able to give them back.

  7. magic cochin

    I can se how they are endearing (but the mess and constant renewal of water in the drinkers must be a chore!)

    Mrs Boss is worth her weight in gold! I’m looking after a friends birds while she goes camping for a few days. Unfortunately she miscounted the weeks on her calendar and a clutch of chickes hatched last weekend instead of next!!!! No probs if Mrs Boss was the mum – instead the delinquent young mum took against the brood and had killed two before the rest were rescued. 5 chicks and 5 pipping eggs! So guess who is in charge of a creche of 9 fluffy chicks!!!!! The deal is – if there are surplus pullets I can have a couple.

    Can’t wait to see Mrs Boss with her bantam chicks – she’ll think (sigh) “at last they look like me!”

    Celia

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