Tag Archives: Poultry

Pondering the Possibility of Ducklings–Beth Trissel


Who Doesn’t Love Ducklings?

I’m excited about all the migrating ducks on our farm pond this spring. And, once again, am debating the possibility and advisability of mail ordering some garden friendly ducklings and raising them to be my garden pals. Some varieties eat grubs and other pesky insects while not destroying the plants. But ducks need a pool of some sort as they love water, so I must provide that while figuring out a way to keep them from heading down to the ‘big water’–our pond. I also envision the need for a pen for their protection, and am pondering where it might be located, who would build it, plus how to care for them in the winter….Meanwhile, here’s an excerpt from my nonfiction book about gardening and country life, Shenandoah Watercolors, available at Amazon in kindle and print with lovely images of the valley and mountains. (*A 2012 EPIC eBook Finalist)
~When the world was new and I was young, I ordered a dozen Rouen ducklings (resemble large mallards) from a game farm and began my love affair with ducks, blessed by its moments of joy and cursed with inevitable tragedy.  The box of downy babies was delivered directly to my door much earlier in the day than our mail normally comes as the mailman had wearied of their incessant peeping.  I took the new arrivals from the grateful carrier and transferred them to a corner of the family room under a warm light bulb.  My two oldest children, in grade school then, were delighted with their new playmates, but soon joined me in the discovery that these tiny creatures were incredibly messy.
The ducklings reveled in their food, spewing a mixture of feed and water on themselves, the box, and the walls.  This led to their speedy removal to an unoccupied rabbit hutch in an outbuilding.  Here they grew in sheltered bliss until we deemed them ready for life on the pond, unaware that our charges needed parental guidance. The unchaperoned youngsters soon slipped under the fence and lost themselves in the neighbor’s grassy meadow.  We tracked their frantic quacks and carried them home, only to have them forget and stray again and again.
(*Our pond, calm on this day but often filled with ducks and geese)
Sadly, unwary ducklings do not know to be on guard against snapping turtles, something their mama would have taught them.  By summer’s end, just two grown ducks remained and were fondly named Daphne and Darlene. They were inseparable and divided their day between the cows and geese in the barnyard and forays to the pond.
The next spring Daphne and Darlene built a mutual nest inside a clump of gold-button tansy at the edge of the garden and patiently sat on the eggs that would never hatch.  It was time to find them a suitable spouse.  One fall evening “Don” arrived in my hubby’s pickup truck.
(*Little creek that meanders through our meadow and under the fence to the neighbors)
The girls took an instant liking to the handsome drake, and he to them, though he showed a slight preference for Darlene.  As spring neared again, we noticed a wild mallard drake observing our little band.  He would dash forward for a bite of grain at feeding time, only to be driven away by Don.  We pitied Dwayne, as he soon became known, and tossed a handful far to the side for him.  Besides the free lunch, it seemed that Dwayne was attracted to our Daphne, much to Don’s strong disapproval.
The small male was undeterred and eventually won acceptance, amusing us by his attempts to mate with Daphne, twice his size.  Persistence won out though.  That year the girls had separate nests, Darlene at the base of a bittersweet vine, while Daphne went back to the tansy.  Don and Dwayne bonded, swapping stories as they awaited imminent fatherhood.
The ducklings hatched in late spring and grew quickly.  All survived with excellent care from their mothers.  By fall we could see Dwayne’s influence on the flock.  His offspring were considerably smaller. It was a golden, happy time. Late afternoons we quacked loudly, calling our ducks for feeding.  Heads popped up from the seeding grass and they answered back then waddled single file behind Don, their noble leader.  If we were late with dinner, they gathered to complain about the lack of service and were not averse to heading up to the house to fetch us if necessary.
Autumn in all its splendor passed into a winter that was our most severe in years.  We tromped faithfully through the deep snow every day to scatter feed on the frozen pond.  Then one morning after fresh snowfall we could not find a single duck.  Our anxious calls came back to us empty on the wind…searching revealed spatters of blood and dog tracks in the snow, the silent witness to their grim fate.   Still, we hoped that some birds had escaped the attack and combed the neighborhood, finally locating a pair of Dwayne’s offspring.  Only the smaller ducks could fly well.  We had unwittingly fed the others up to be “sitting ducks,” an expression I understand too well now.  A week later Dwayne returned on his own, but it was a bleak time.  How empty the pond seemed without the gang.
That May, Betty, our lone remaining female, hatched a fuzzy brood.  Familiar quacks again filled the air and gladdened our spirits.  It just isn’t spring without ducklings.  ~
All of this took place eons ago, but we still have ducks on our pond and an ample flock fussy barnyard geese who make daily visits down to the water. The small town of Dayton, Virginia, not far from us, has a lovely body of water called Silver Lake (the size of a large pond) and a stream that attracts so many ducks the town has installed a duck crossing sign.
*Pics of our farm and ducks, also my mom and dad’s ducks…it’s a family thing this love of ducks. *Images by my mom, Pat Churchman.  *The one of the creek by daughter Elise. It’s awash with moisture now, but was only a trickle that day.
*This story about ducklings is the one that really got me started in writing. It was ‘almost’ published in Southern Living Magazine and that editor gave me much encouragement about my writing, then she referred me to an editor at Progressive Farmer who accepted it and several more nonfiction pieces about rural life, but their free-lance column got axed before publication.
(Tame duck swimming in ‘duck weed’ in my parent’s water garden)

For Duck Lovers


An excerpt from my nonfiction book about gardening and country life, Shenandoah Watercolors, available at Amazon in kindle and print with lovely images of the valley and mountains. (*A 2012 EPIC eBook Finalist)

~When the world was new and I was young, I ordered a dozen Rouen ducklings (resemble large mallards) from a game farm and began my love affair with ducks, blessed by its moments of joy and cursed with inevitable tragedy.  The box of downy babies was delivered directly to my door much earlier in the day than our mail normally comes as the mailman had wearied of their incessant peeping.  I took the new arrivals from the grateful carrier and transferred them to a corner of the family room under a warm light bulb.  My two oldest children, in grade school then, were delighted with their new playmates, but soon joined me in the discovery that these tiny creatures were incredibly messy.

The ducklings reveled in their food, spewing a mixture of feed and water on themselves, the box, and the walls.  This led to their speedy removal to an unoccupied rabbit hutch in an outbuilding.  Here they grew in sheltered bliss until we deemed them ready for life on the pond, unaware that our charges needed parental guidance.  The unchaperoned youngsters soon slipped under the fence and lost themselves in the neighbor’s grassy meadow.  We tracked their frantic quacks and carried them home, only to have them forget and stray again and again.

Sadly, unwary ducklings do not know to be on guard against snapping turtles, something their mama would have taught them.  By summer’s end, just two grown ducks remained and were fondly named Daphne and Darlene.  They were inseparable and divided their day between the cows and geese in the barnyard and forays to the pond.

(*Our pond, calm on this day but often filled with ducks and geese)

The next spring Daphne and Darlene built a mutual nest inside a clump of gold-button tansy at the edge of the garden and patiently sat on the eggs that would never hatch.  It was time to find them a suitable spouse.  One fall evening “Don” arrived in my hubby’s pickup truck.

(*Little creek that meanders through our meadow and under the fence to the neighbors)

The girls took an instant liking to the handsome drake, and he to them, though he showed a slight preference for Darlene.  As spring neared again, we noticed a wild mallard drake observing our little band.  He would dash forward for a bite of grain at feeding time, only to be driven away by Don.  We pitied Dwayne, as he soon became known, and tossed a handful far to the side for him.  Besides the free lunch, it seemed that Dwayne was attracted to our Daphne, much to Don’s strong disapproval.

The small male was undeterred and eventually won acceptance, amusing us by his attempts to mate with Daphne, twice his size.  Persistence won out though.  That year the girls had separate nests, Darlene at the base of a bittersweet vine, while Daphne went back to the tansy.  Don and Dwayne bonded, swapping stories as they awaited imminent fatherhood.

The ducklings hatched in late spring and grew quickly.  All survived with excellent care from their mothers.  By fall we could see Dwayne’s influence on the flock.  His offspring were considerably smaller. It was a golden, happy time. Late afternoons we quacked loudly, calling our ducks for feeding.  Heads popped up from the seeding grass and they answered back then waddled single file behind Don, their noble leader.  If we were late with dinner, they gathered to complain about the lack of service and were not averse to heading up to the house to fetch us if necessary.

Autumn in all its splendor passed into a winter that was our most severe in years.  We tromped faithfully through the deep snow every day to scatter feed on the frozen pond.  Then one morning after fresh snowfall we could not find a single duck.  Our anxious calls came back to us empty on the wind…searching revealed spatters of blood and dog tracks in the snow, the silent witness to their grim fate.   Still, we hoped that some birds had escaped the attack and combed the neighborhood, finally locating a pair of Dwayne’s offspring.  Only the smaller ducks could fly well.  We had unwittingly fed the others up to be “sitting ducks,” an expression I understand too well now.  A week later Dwayne returned on his own, but it was a bleak time.  How empty the pond seemed without the gang.

That May, Betty, our lone remaining female, hatched a fuzzy brood.  Familiar quacks again filled the air and gladdened our spirits.  It just isn’t spring without ducklings.  ~

All of this took place eons ago, but we still have ducks on our pond and an ample flock fussy barnyard geese who make daily visits down to the water.  The small town of Dayton, Virginia, not far from us, has a lovely body of water called Silver Lake (the size of a large pond) and a stream that attracts so many ducks the town has installed a duck crossing sign.

*Pics of our farm and ducks, also my mom and dad’s ducks…it’s a family thing this love of ducks. *Images by my mom, Pat Churchman.  *The one of the creek by daughter Elise.

*This story about ducklings is the one that really got me started in writing. It was ‘almost’ published in Southern Living Magazine and that editor gave me much encouragement about my writing, then she referred me to an editor at Progressive Farmer who accepted it and several more nonfiction pieces about rural life, but their free-lance column got axed before publication.

(Tame duck swimming in ‘duck weed’ in my parent’s water garden)

For Duck Lovers


The ducks are assembling on the river at my parent’s house and their old friend is back, and possibly his original mom.  Those of you who remember my post last summer about The Duck Who Thinks He’s A Chicken will appreciate these pics she took.   His hen mother isn’t in them, but I don’t think she’ll mind.

“If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck, it must be a duck.” ~Proverb

“If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have to at least consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands.” ~Douglas Adams, British comic/ writer

 

Make Way For Ducklings


When the world was new and I was young, I ordered a dozen Rouen ducklings (resemble large mallards) from a game farm and began my love affair with ducks, blessed by its moments of joy and cursed with inevitable tragedy.  The box of downy babies was delivered directly to my door much earlier in the day than our mail normally comes as the mailman had wearied of their incessant peeping.  I took the new arrivals from the grateful carrier and transferred them to a corner of the family room under a warm light bulb.  My two oldest children, in grade school then, were delighted with their new playmates, but soon joined me in the discovery that these tiny creatures were incredibly messy.

The ducklings reveled in their food, spewing a mixture of feed and water on themselves, the box, and the walls.  This led to their speedy removal to an unoccupied rabbit hutch in an outbuilding.  Here they grew in sheltered bliss until we deemed them ready for life on the pond, unaware that our charges needed parental guidance.  The unchaperoned youngsters soon slipped under the fence and lost themselves in the neighbor’s grassy meadow.  We tracked their frantic quacks and carried them home, only to have them forget and stray again and again.

Sadly, unwary ducklings do not know to be on guard against snapping turtles, something their mama would have taught them.  By summer’s end, just two grown ducks remained and were fondly named Daphne and Darlene.  They were inseparable and divided their day between the cows and geese in the barnyard and forays to the pond.

The next spring Daphne and Darlene built a mutual nest inside a clump of gold-button tansy at the edge of the garden and patiently sat on the eggs that would never hatch.  It was time to find them a suitable spouse.  One fall evening “Don” arrived in my hubby’s pickup truck.

The girls took an instant liking to the handsome drake, and he to them, though he showed a slight preference for Darlene.  As spring neared again, we noticed a wild mallard drake observing our little band.  He would dash forward for a bite of grain at feeding time, only to be driven away by Don.  We pitied Dwayne, as he soon became known, and tossed a handful far to the side for him.  Besides the free lunch, it seemed that Dwayne was attracted to our Daphne, much to Don’s strong disapproval.

The small male was undeterred and eventually won acceptance, amusing us by his attempts to mate with Daphne, twice his size.  Persistence won out though.  That year the girls had separate nests, Darlene at the base of a bittersweet vine, while Daphne went back to the tansy.  Don and Dwayne bonded, swapping stories as they awaited imminent fatherhood.

The ducklings hatched in late spring and grew quickly.  All survived with excellent care from their mothers.  By fall we could see Dwayne’s influence on the flock.  His offspring were considerably smaller. It was a golden, happy time. Late afternoons we quacked loudly, calling our ducks for feeding.  Heads popped up from the seeding grass and they answered back then waddled single file behind Don, their noble leader.  If we were late with dinner, they gathered to complain about the lack of service and were not averse to heading up to the house to fetch us if necessary.

Autumn in all its’ splendor passed into a winter that was our most severe in years.  We tromped faithfully through the deep snow every day to scatter feed on the frozen pond.  Then one morning after fresh snowfall we could not find a single duck.  Our anxious calls came back to us empty on the wind…searching revealed spatters of blood and dog tracks in the snow, the silent witness to their grim fate.   Still, we hoped that some birds had escaped the attack and combed the neighborhood, finally locating a pair of Dwayne’s offspring.  Only the smaller ducks could fly well.  We had unwittingly fed the others up to be “sitting ducks,” an expression I understand too well now.  A week later Dwayne returned on his own, but it was a bleak time.  How empty the pond seemed without the gang.

That May, Betty, our lone remaining female, hatched a fuzzy brood.  Familiar quacks again filled the air and gladdened our spirits.  It just isn’t spring without ducklings.  ~

All of this took place eons ago, but we still have ducks on our pond and an ample flock fussy barnyard geese who make daily visits down to the water.  The small town of Dayton, Virginia, not far from us, has a lovely body of water called Silver Lake (the size of a large pond) and a stream that attracts so many ducks the town has installed a duck crossing sign.

*Pics of our farm and ducks, also my mom and dad’s ducks…it’s a family thing this love of ducks. But the top pic of Rouen ducks are not ours

*This story about ducklings is the one that really got me started in writing. It was ‘almost’ published in Southern Living Magazine and that editor gave me much encouragement about my writing, then she referred me to an editor at Progressive Farmer who accepted it and several more nonfiction pieces about rural life, but their free lance column got axed before publication.

The Duck Who Thinks He’s A Chicken~


Earlier in the spring a mallard duck decided to make her nest against the side of my parent’s house.  My Dad, a big fan of feathered fowl, checked on it daily.  One day it had been abandoned, or so he thought, and he took several of the eggs up to a faithful hen and slipped them into her nest.  As it turned out, the mother mallard had simply gone ‘walk about’  and returned.  Rather than disturb matters further, he left the eggs with the little hen.
The mama duck hatched her brood and ushered them down to the river that flows  below the house.   The hen’s eggs also hatched.   Not being partial to her species, she didn’t take any notice of a duckling among them.  Without prejudice of any kind, blind to color, feathers, beaks and feet, she took on the care of the single surviving mallard.  He’s now several months old and spends his time pecking around with his hen mom, answering her motherly clucks.
Several days ago my dad shooed the duckling down to the water garden in their yard that he dug years ago.  A little prodding and the duck plunged into the water,  ecstatically scooping up the duck weed as if he’d landed in his version of heaven.  So far, he’s returned to the chicken coop to spend the night, which may be wise as you never know when a hawk will decide to make a visit.  Generally around meal time.  Otherwise, he’s content in the mini pond with his mom clucking from a distance.  If he’s confused about his identity or being an ‘only duckling’ he hasn’t mentioned it, just gotten on with his life.  Brave, well, chipper.
****
The hen in the family photo above is his devoted mother, up for hen of the year.  Obviously, the rooster isn’t his father, but you can’t be sure about roosters anyway, or drakes, ganders…Speaking of which, the strange orange footed gander in the pic apparently decided to look out for the mama duck and her babies when she brought them back to visit the day after they hatched.  However, he must have gotten sidetracked working the crossword, or misplaced his glasses and lost sight of her, or perhaps she scurried off on some errand without him promising to be right back.  Even well intentioned geese are extremely absentminded.  And ducks, as everyone knows, are full of bobbance and bounce, easily distracted.   My parents haven’t seen her in days, maybe she’s gone walk about again.
There’s a moral in this story somewhere.  I’ll leave you to find it.  Meanwhile, why don’t we all just hold hands and sing Kumbia.  Or hold wings…
*Pics taken by my mom~