The Cottage Smallholder

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Update on Mrs Boss and the ducklings: two weeks old

runner ducklings 2 weeks oldWater.

Since day one the ducklings have emptied a water fountain within a few hours. They play endlessly with water and sometimes drink a bit.

After a few days, S assured me that they would be fine with an adult water fountain. I filled and placed one in the castle grounds. Mrs Boss examined it carefully before calling to her brood. They sprang forward, put their bills into the water and raced round and round the fountain, within seconds the 1.5 litre fountain was three quarters full. Then two of them tried to jump in but the fountain lip was too small for swimming.

I had wondered why Mrs Boss was permanently damp and the castle looked like the changing rooms of a popular city swimming pool towards the end of the day.

S had said that they’d enjoy a splash pool. So I quickly installed a swimming pool (seed tray) in the castle grounds. Mrs Boss examined this, drank the water and must have announced that it was fresh as the ducklings leapt into the pool and shot about. At that stage it was shallow enough for a small webbed foot to touch the bottom so I reckoned that it was safe.

Mrs Boss didn’t dive in too. Chickens just drink water. So she potters by the side of the pool whilst her brood love it with total abandon.

It’s all about splashing and swimming and drinking and jumping and preening. They are entertained for hours and I was too until I realised that Mrs Boss was constantly drenched.

Then I started to worry. Mrs Boss is a bantam. She is small and delicate. Bantams are prone to colds and chills. Were the 24/7 water sports of her brood going to make her ill? Even when it rained the ducklings were out in the run with Mrs Boss standing patiently by, wet and bedraggled, with no umbrella.

And the nest where they slept was always soaking wet. Even if fresh hay was supplied twice a day.

The wire insert from an old grill pan raised the family nest a couple of centimetres from the wet floor. And scattered wood shavings soaked up the water beneath. Fresh hay every evening gave Mrs Boss and the ducklings a dry nest. I was a bit worried that the small webbed feet wouldn’t be able to negotiate the wire mesh but the ducklings took it in their stride. Like the keets, they love clean sheets and generally bounce up and down and dive into the fresh hay.

I kept the water fountain in the castle grounds, gave them dry hay just before lights out and just left a saucer of water in the castle when I lowered the portcullis at night.

Perhaps ducks exude moisture. The hay bed is always damp in the morning. But not quite so wet as before.

Mrs Boss chats to FreddieMrs Boss and Freddie are very close. Perhaps this has made Tipex and Eric more adventurous as they were the first to spring into the castle pool. They all like to snuggle together during the day and they all cuddle up to Mrs Boss at night with their bills pressed deep under her wing.

The ducklings are now two weeks old. As laid back as three snails on a gap year but surprisingly quick off the mark if worms or shredded fresh greens appear in the castle grounds. They don’t have the one-upmanship of the keets. Their movie is far simpler than the grand keet opera epic that kept us entertained all last summer. Perhaps it’s because there are only three but I reckon that ducks are more mellow, from the word go.

With their wonderful almond eyes and delicate webbed feet Freddie, Tipex and Eric Boss are enchanting. Watching them grow up is a joy. I race down to the castle every morning to draw up the portculis and observe as the ducklindgs spill out with Mrs Boss in tow.

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Jo

    Thank you so much for your tips.

    I rushed down immediately and dumped the hay. I replaced it with shavings, locked Mrs B and the ducklings in the castle gorunds and sprayed for any infestation.

    Mrs Boss looked very chirpy the evening when I returned from work!

    I do hope that you get goslings. Fingers crossed.

  2. Jo @ LittleFfarm Dairy

    Hi Fiona –

    I love Indian Runner ducklings, they’re such fun, & hilarious to watch; especially if you get a particularly good example of the breed with a tall, upright stance – just like a miniature hock bottle on legs!

    Just a word of caution though (& by no means intending to sound alarmist!) – you mention you’re worried about Mrs Boss & the potential to fall ill in the damp conditions caused by the ducks’ swimming pool? You currently bed Mrs Boss & her brood, on hay. However, hens’ nests should preferably consist of shavings or straw as not only is hay more likely to harbour mites it may also contain aspergillus fumigatus spores which could give Mrs Boss that dreaded respiratory infection, especially as it’s damp in there (& humans are also susceptible; so be cautious when cleaning out the nest box). Also hay is a ‘hotter’ nesting material than straw & the higher temperature of the fermenting hay seeds could also cause respiratory infection. Confirming the ventilation in the Emerald Castle is as optimal as possible, may also help or at least give you more peace of mind.

    Mrs Boss is doing a fine job, isn’t she? I wish I had a decent broody – I always seem to end up being ‘mum’ to the ducks & hens! The only poultry currently nesting here on the Ffarm, is our Brecon Buff goose; every morning I sneak down in the hope I can persuade her off the nest to see if the eggs have started pipping yet; but alas, nothing. Still; she seems to think they’re viable….& a watched egg never hatches, it seems!

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Pat

    They certainly love water and are quite messy compared to chickens. Mrs Boss seems quite happy and is looking a bit drier since I started the clean sheets regime.

    Hi Moonroot

    Your goslings are so cute. You’re really lucky to be able to let them range free!

    Hi Sally

    Freddie will have the typical mallard duck colouring when he matures. There seem to be lots of different feathers colourways in Indian Runners.

    Hello TCL™s Husband

    We are having fun with the ducklings. Thank you so much for giving us this experience!

    Hello Wendy

    The diminutive Mrs Boss has got under my skin, I™d hate her to catch a chill! She is loving her new brood.

    No news of Inca. To early to tell yet.

    Hi Amanda

    I™m not sure whether I™d like to hear what my animals have to say!

    Thanks for dropping by.

    Hi Kate(uk)

    The doorstop sounds superb. Mrs Boss would be so pleased if she knew!

  4. Kate(uk)

    I have a cast iron doorstop featuring a cock and hen and I re-painted it yesterday, the hen is now a portrait Mrs Boss. That photo of her and the ducklings is just delicious.

  5. Amanda

    What a wonderful post, I do love your writing Fiona. You take great care of your animals and it really shows through. Wouldn’t it be great if they could talk. x

  6. Wendy

    Just the news I have been waiting for! Your photos are captivating. She will never actually tell you but Mrs. Boss must be very relieved that you are so careful and caring of her well-being and new ‘family’. Keep up the good work and reaping the joy of watching them all. (Too soon for any news of Inca?)

  7. The Chicken Lady,s husband.

    Wonderful photographs, especially the shot of Mrs Boss and the ‘favoured one’. They all look so healthy, I hope Mrs Boss is ok she is such a wonderful mother.

    Lots of activity here at the moment as its potting shed day. Very excited.

  8. Sally

    Loved the photo of Mrs Boss with Freddie and the line that Moonroot pointed out. (Freddie looks like a mallard duckling. Did I miss something?)

  9. moonroot

    It’s great reading about your ducklings and comparing their antics to those of our goslings, who hatched about the same time. I loved this post – especially the phrase, ‘As laid back as three snails on a gap year,’ which just has to be the best simile I’ve heard this century!

  10. I hope Mrs. Boss doesn’t catch cold. I was wondering how you were going to get on with them and water. We had a duck once and they are a bit on the messy side and just love water. LOL

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