Sunday, June 05, 2011

things are not as they seem !

There once was an ugly duckling,
With feathers all stubby and brown ...
As far as one of our big red hens is concerned, things are not quite as they should be.  She's been sitting patiently (a little longer than usual) on a clutch of eggs.  These eggs are special, in that they need moistening on a daily basis, so we have a plant mister next to the chicken tractor for this task.

The eggs were due to hatch on Tuesday next.  Doing the morning rounds of the animals today, I lifted the hen off to spray the eggs and was surprised to see a mess of broken shells and cute baby ducklings.

The original idea it was that Gabrielle wanted to try ducks for the first time this year and thought hatching them from eggs would give us tamer (therefore easier and more pleasurable to manage) ducks than buying ducklings from the market.  We don't have a mother duck and had read that ducks can make poor mums and that a chicken will do a good, if not better, job of it.  As soon as one of our large chickens became broody, we bought eight Aylesbury duck eggs for a euro each and tucked them under her.

Why the plant mister?  A duck will leave to eat and return to the nest each day with wet feathers, so we'd read that one should moisten the eggs if they are beneath a chicken.

And what does mum think of it all?  Fiercely protective if I try to lift her off to have a look and seems to be very proud of her new offspring.  A case of instinct overcoming any poultry prejudice.  Heaven knows what she'll think when her 'chicks' head for the water.


sunflower said...

cute, super cute!
two things...(I've been reading up on ducks lately) first, chickens become very, very distressed when the ducklings take to water and in a couple of accounts I've read, follow them in and drown! Maybe provide only very shallow water at first?
Secondly, many alesburys are not really...more a generic white duck. If they are the real macoy they have pale pink bills not orange.
Again, this is just what I've read....not personal experience.
They are beautiful things though. Are they to be pets or dinner?

Stuart and Gabrielle said...

Thanks for the useful info, Tara. When they leave the chicken tractor, they will go into a fenced area, to keep them safe and away from our wildlife pond, which they would otherwise trash. They will get a shallow dish to paddle around in to begin with (such as an upturned dustbin lid) so the worst that will happen is that the chicken will get wet feathers. Once they're 'weaned' and mu has returned to the chicken flock, we might give them a larger container of water, we'll see how it goes.
Yes, I think you may well be right about the Aylesbury bit. Either way they're cute and, yes, they are eventually for the pot. We don't have passengers around her, even the cats need to look over their shoulders! (only joking) After these ones, we fancy trying to get hold of some Rouen Clair ducks. We might even get a breeding pair; watch this sapce.

pip said...

what a great photo! It'll be cute watching them waddling after their mum :)

Christina said...

Such a cute picture!
C x

Anonymous said...

awwww, i love these trans specie stories.

Vera said...

What a great idea, and I hope that Mum and ducklings continue to do well. Lovely photo!

DOT said...

I don't usually do cute - but cute! Give the mother water wings.