Sunday, May 31, 2009

Duck Daddy and His Five Girls - Day 12

Almost two weeks old, and these little girls have grown from tiny little ducklings to being about 9" tall when they stand erect.

A few new things in the last two days:

1) The wood shavings on the bottom of the pool-brooder. We were using towels and doing the laundry a couple times a day. Of course, we also felt like duck poop was everywhere. Fortunately duck poop is not as nasty as chicken poop, but it still is not an odor du jour. Of course, the french use the term "eau de toilette" for perfume. Maybe we should bottle this stuff and send it to people who like "eau de toilette." We did not use wood shavings, which we can buy at $6.10 for a huge bale, until we were sure that the little duckies would not eat the stuff, or simply be covered in it all day long. It has made the process of cleaning easier, but the real improvement was the waterer.

2) I set the one gallon waterer in a larger shallow bowl. It acts as a moat system. When the ducks drink, and make a mess by spilling the water all over (which they always do!) the larger bowl catches the overflow. The water stays in the large shallow bowl, and then they drink from the overflow as well. Two problems solved: a) they do not waste as much water, and b) not nearly as much water ends up in the brooder floor - so the girls stay drier, and this is extremely important for their health. It has been a good deal of work to keep them dry until now. In most professional brooders there is a screen system which allows the water to flow through the screen. We did not use a screen, because a screen is not good for the little duckies tender young, big, floppy feet. This moat watering system actually has worked as well as a screen system - at least for now, and is far simpler to create with no work, and what you can find in the kitchen.

Here's today's thoughts on how ducks change your life:

I was cutting up some lettuce for the girls. I took the lettuce out of the fridge. It was the end of a romaine head. When I took it out of the fridge, I saw a dead bug - something like a fruit fly on a lettuce leaf. Now I remember finding a bug on food many a time, and someone responding with the line, "Oh, that's just extra protein." Today I saw the bug, and was happy, "Oh look, some extra protein for the duckies!" I thought. Wow, haaving ducks really changes your perspective on life - and bugs in the lettuce.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Duck Daddy and His Five Girls - Day 11 :-(

This morning our little weak ducking was weaker than the day before. Bev and I took her out of the brooder and held her, and hand fed her. She was so cute. She would make her way up my chest, and snuggle under my chin, and pick at my neck, and beard hairs. We separated her from her sisters in case she had a communicable disease. By noon she had had a couple bouts which looked like grand mal seizures, and I held her through these, but after one of those seizures I went back to some of my preparations for Sunday morning, and came back to find her dead. So, as you can see by the title, Duck Daddy has juts five girls now.

Because she had these little seizures, we were concerned that maybe she had something, and it could pass on to the other girls. So, we are on watch to see if any of the others show signs of lethargy and sleepiness, or loss of appetite. She was weaker than the others right from the beginning, so that is a hopeful sign in terms of potential disease.

The rest of the girls have grown so much,and today they spent a good deal of time outside on the lawn with us. I have to be careful where I walk when we take them outside, because they follow me everywhere, and they are beginning to take on characteristics of their breed - they can really run! These two pictures they are running after me, and catch me finally. Don't they look like a poorly organized troupe?

Once they catch me they stand around my feet, pull on my shoelaces, or if I am sitting they try to sit under me, and of course they will do the same with Bev, but Duck Daddy seems to be the one they really follow.

Bev made the comment this afternoon that 5 ducks seemed like so many less than 6. It does seem that way. Why is that?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Duck Daddy and His Six Girls - Day 10

In the last two days one of the girls has been looking slower, a little weaker, and now that they are all growing at such a crazy pace, it is easy to see that she is almost 30% smaller than the others.

She always slept more than the other ducks, and did not push her way to the food like the others, but today she took a turn for the worse. She was getting tired easily, and on two occasions become clumsy and started falling down. Whether she is weak - perhaps genetically, or because of niacin deficiency, or she is sick we are not sure, but all the others are alright.

Each of the duckies still had little bands on their legs, and today I cut them off, and unfortunately, the band on the the weak duck was the most difficult to remove. So, she had to put up with being handled, and prodded a bit more than the others.

For a while this evening Duck Daddy just held the little girl, and kept her warm. She was quite comfy, and squeaked ever so gently for about 20 minutes. Tomorrow we will see if we can add niacin to her diet, and perhaps that will help. We may need to quarantine her from the others, but it does not appear to be sickness. It appears to be a more general weakness. It is so sad to see a little duckling falling down, and having troubles.

Ducks on Video (care of John Harding)

Here they girls are on video. As you can see they are messy, and it is time to clean up their brooder! They are dang cute though. More duckie flicks to come.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Duck Daddy and His Six Girls - Day 9

I am going to write a book about cooking for ducks. Well, it's not really cooking, but it is work. These six girls love their greens. Sometimes they squeak incessantly until I bring some chopped up greens. I have gone out in to the yard to pick the dandelion leaves. (I suppose it's a good thing there are dandelions in our lawn.) Other times I chop lettuce from the fridge. It is almost midnight, a few minutes ago one of the noisiest girls was squeaking away, and now they are quiet. I chopped a big Romaine leaf up finely, and fed it to them. You should see how happy they get! I think they ate 6 large romaine leaves today. They'll be working on a whole head of lettuce in a week or so.

Since the new brooder design we have to pick the girls up and put them in the original small galvanized steel washbasin (with a towel on the bottom to protect their young duckie feet, because this is the time they can injure their little feet.) Then we remove the poopy wet towels, and clean out the double-decker kiddie pool brooder. Then we transfer them back with fresh water and food. The ducks poop so much, and get things so wet, that this has to happen at least three times a day.

Yesterday, Bev called the doctor, because her eye was itchy and red. She thought that maybe she got duck poop in her eye, and that she had some disease as a result of that. The doctor gave her something for it. She feels better now. I guess she had duckpoopeyetis. ta-dum.

Well, that's all for now. The ducks are quiet again, and it's late. Here is one more photo. They are so cute, and I am sure they know it. Bev's co-workers at BU Dental School wanted to see photos of the ducks. Here she is taking some photos with her cell phone. Check out these little posers!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Duck Daddy and His Six Girls - Day 8

Day 8 was another day of quacking crazy girls wanting Duck Daddy's attention. The one change was that I had to figure out how to make their brooder something they could not jump out of without putting a net over the top. They were simply getting too tall for the netting.

Indian Runners stand tall when excited, and need headroom. I have read that they will have a crooked neck look if they are penned in places too short. So here was the solution as suggested by Jeff Menasco when he came to see the girls yesterday.
I had a second plastic kiddie pool. I cut the bottom out of it leaving just the sides, and clamped that upside down on the top of the first kiddie pool brooder. Now the sides are twice as high, and the girls don't even think about trying to get out now.

No Video yet of the ducks. Look for that in the next two days.

Duck Daddy and His Six Girls - Day 7

Baby ducks grow amazingly fast. Their little heads are now beginning to stick out over the edge of our makeshift plastic kiddie pool brooder, and the net we put over the top of it is getting too close to their heads. Of course, they eat amazing amounts of food, and drink more water than we do.

In the last seven days, we have changed their brooder to a larger one, and changed their waterer to a gallon version from the quart version which we were refilling every couple hours. I guess today's change will be to adapt the brooder to their height. Not sure how I will do that yet.

The little girls are becoming more and more familiar with us, and squeak for my attention when I leave the room. Yesterday was day 7. It was also Memorial Day.

I had to pick up a second bag of mash (this is the duck food which has been ground into fine grit). It is necessary for them to eat it as mash until they are about a month old. Note: If you are going to get your own cute little Indian Runner ducks, because they are so cute in the pictures here don't give them chicken feed starter mash!

Chickens are prone to disease, and typically are fed medicated starter mash. Ducks are typically disease resistant, and the medicated starter mash given to chickens is not good for them. It will compromise their immune systems,and make them more susceptible to disease. Remember that when you decide whether you should get chickens - maybe you ought to think about ducks instead. :-) Besides look how cute they are!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Duck Daddy and His Six Girls - Day 6

Yesterday, Memorial Day, was day six with Duck Daddy and his six girls. The weather is typical New England spring weather. At one moment a bit chilly with the clouds passing, and the breeze blowing, and at another moment warm with the sun shining, and the wind still. We brought the girls outside on one of those warm moments, and they puttered about the lawn attacking dandelion heads, and chasing little gnats.

The weather has swung from the 90ºF days from a couple days ago to cold evenings. It is forecasted to be in the high 30s tonight. Even though we have the girls inside, we need to carefully monitor their kiddie pool brooder, and make sure that we keep the temperatures up around 90º. Last night the temperature dropped lower than it has been in weeks, and this morning at 5am I checked the brooder to see the little duckies all huddled together. The temperature was closer to 80º than 90º, and I had to adjust the heat lamp accordingly.

Yesterday, we spent a little more time allowing Holly the greyhound to spend time near the ducks. Of course it is always on a leash, and out of snapping distance. The ducks are not only cute, but the are crunchy too. Holly spent the first years of her life chasing small simulated crunchy things around the rail of a racetrack. She still gets excited about such things. Her favorite word is "squirrel."

We are beginning to see the personality of these little girls begin to emerge more and more from day to day. One girl tries to leap out of the brooder regularly. Another girl squeaks loudly for my attention when I am not in the room. One girl loves to sit in my cupped hands and nibble at my wedding ring. One girl loves to stand by my hands and nibble at the hair on my arm. Another is the first to go back to sleep after a feeding, and when she rests she sticks her legs behind her, and in the air a bit. One drinks by submerging her head completely, and she always looks like she is trying to get that BrylCream part your hair in the middle 50's hair do.

Okay. A few last photos for the day:

Monday, May 25, 2009

Duck Daddy and His Six Girls - Day 5

Yesterday, being Sunday was our 5th day with our six little Indian Runner girlie ducks. I went off to prepare for church services early in the morning, and Bev stayed behind to care for the girls, and then join me at the morning service later.

About 9:30am Bev called me.

"Do you have any ideas how make a wall around the tub for the ducks?"

"Why? Did one of them jump out?" I knew this was on the verge of occurring, because I saw one of the little girls leap high enough to almost clear the top of the plastic pool we are using as brooder #2.

"Yes! I was sitting right there in front of the ducks, and one of them jumped out in front of me." They do always appear to want to get as close to you as possible.

So Bev pulled out the netting we have to put over the duck pen when they finally make it outside, and stretched over the top, and clipped it with clothes pins.

Here the girls are trying to look over the edge of the plastic pool brooder. I suppose we ought to figure that ducks called "runners" might also turn out to be jumpers.

Bev's netting solution works fine, but these little girls always want attention, and so we have to sit down and unclip it to get our hands inside to hand-feed them or just hold them.

Holly our greyhound had her first encounter face to face with the ducks today, We put Holly on a leash. We let the ducks run around the lawn, and Holly looked on. We Holly gets excited about chasing squirrels her ears go straight up. When she first saw the ducks her ears went up. She exhibited the shaky jaw syndrome which also comes with chase nostalgia, bua few gentle reminders, and she calmed down. Here is Holly with the ducks back in the house with the brooder for the first time.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Duck Daddy and His Six Girls - Day 4

Today was colder than yesterday here in Salem, MA. Because the temps were in the 60's we did not have another outdoor excursion for the girls. Their new brooder - the plastic pool with the heat lamp hanging about 18" over it was larger than the previous wash basin so the girls started running around a bit more.

This evening they started doing a quick lap when they got excited. Okay, I think maybe I am getting the idea why they are called Indian Runner Ducks.

Two of the little girls started snuggling up in my hands when I kneel down and hold them cupped together. Here's one of them in this photo. She likes ot simply sit in my hand and nibble at my fingers lightly.

If they are awake, but not feeding one of the girls starts squeaking for attention, and then sometimes they all join in, and once one of us (especially me - the Duck Daddy) shows up, they all stand at attention excited, or maybe even run a lap for us.

Bev went to Agway, and bought a new waterer. This one is a gallon size, and we don't have to change it every hour on the hour anymore.

The girls met a few new friends today. Bev's dad come over in the morning. Now I know where Bev gets her farm girl ways. She grew up on a dairy farm. It is no longer a working farm, but her dad still lives there, and wishes it was a working farm. They don't have animals anymore, but at the end of breakfast her dad said, "I was thinkin'...maybe I should get some ducks and keep them in the barn." Bev's step-mom replied, "Oh no you don't!" He kind of had a slightly sad far away look in his eyes - poor dad.

Bev decided to read the Duck Daddy chronicles today, and she was laughing. Jeepers, she is living it and she's laughing.

Carlos came over to see the ducks while I went down to the church to prepare for tomorrow morning's service. Carlos is a sociologist. I guess that helps him understand ducks. Carlos started quacking like a duck, and they all stood perfectly still, and at attention - straight and tall as he quacked. I wish I was here to take a picture of that.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Duck Daddy and His Six Girls - Day 3.5

End of a long duck day. I have been able to work from home. Today was mostly prep for the new company I am starting with my buddy Gareth Jones. As you can see, I was a little more relaxed with the girls - sipping on my icy IBC Rootbeer on a 90º day.

Since my morning post, and that sick pic of the poopy brooder the girls have had a busy day. It was a day of firsts. Of course, when you are 4 days old most experiences are firsts.

They ate out of our hands for the first time.

They went outside for the first time, and meandered through the grass.
Now their grass excursion was fun. I let them out once during the afternoon for a few minutes, and they looked a little nervous, and had to warm up to the idea of walking through grass almost as tall as they are. The second time is pictured here, and they were quite comfortable, and started wandering around. The nibbled at grass they could not eat, they caught tiny flying bugs just above the grass line, and ate them. Unbelievable! Four days old and they are already catching tiny bugs.

They graduated to a larger brooder. The washbasin was having to be changed five times a day, and it was small for them now that they are running around. We bought a plastic kiddie pool, and this will become their pond in the duck pen once they go outside.

Well, that's day 3 with Duck Daddy and his Girls. Bev is quite happy with our new family members. Although she had a discussion with a co-worker about the ducks.

Bev: "We have six Indian Runner Ducks, and my dad is coming over tomorrow for breakfast."

Co-worker: "How are you going to cook them?"

Well, here they are at the end of day three.
Aren't they cute?

Duck Daddy and His Six Girls - Day 3

So, I thought I might share a few links to let you know why Bev and I decided to go about the ridiculous task of raising Indian Runner Ducks from day old babies.

Here's our story:

Bev was raised on a farm. Bev does not feel complete without animals around her. From time to time over the 26 years of marriage Bev would call me at work and say, "I have a surprise for you." By the tone of her voice I would realize that she would actually have a surprise for herself, and that it would be a living, breathing, eating, pooping kind of surprise.

"When are you getting off work"

"Soon. I should be home in about an hour."

"Well...I have a surprise for you when you get home."


"You got a Greyhound, didn't you?"


"No. What makes you think that I would do that?"

Well, guess what was at the front door when I got home. Yep, a greyhound - only a few weeks off the track.

So, Bev has been threatening (she does not see it that way) to get some kind of farm-like animal for awhile.

First she wanted chickens. I reminded her of the stinkiness, and the potential for disease, and since she has bird flu phobia, that idea was nixed easily.

Then it was a desire for a miniature horse. I suggested that with a mere quarter of an acre in urban Salem, MA, and city rules which would make a complaint by a neighbor force you to get rid of your horse that this might not be a good idea. Whew, dodged that one!

Next it was pygmy goats. Dang they are cute! as the below You Tube video link will attest, but I thought that 5 or 6 pygmy goats might be problematic for neighborliness as well. Besides Bev was thinking of something practical, like getting milk from goats. I began to make fun of the idea of milking pygmy goats. I mean, heck what are they gonna do? Stand over your coffee cup in the morning? Do you have milk them with tweezers? Pygmy Goats Stand on Big Dog

Then Bev came up with the idea of getting ducks. She looked at You Tube videos of ducks, read about ducks, and became obsessed with ducks. The prolific Indian Runner Ducks came to the top of her list.

Well, I had a roommate in college who had a couple ducks. The girlie duck laid eggs around the yard, and they were better eggs than one buys at the store. The ducks were easy care, disease resistant (compared to chickens), and not a bother to neighbors who loved them. So realizing that a surprise might eventually be in store, I agreed that ducks would be an acceptable offering for our little urban farm to be. Heck, Mark and Kelly across the street have bees, and they don't even have a quarter of the yard we do.

So, here is my morning offering of our six girls, now on their third day at home with us. I need to show you what their washbasin brooder looks like just before we change it. They play in their water as much as they drink it, and at this age they should not be getting too wet, but everything gets wet, and then they poop like crazy. In fact they will poop in the newly changed washbasin as soon as we put them in it. (We have two basins, and simply rotate them) So, here's the mess they make:

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Duck Daddy and His Six Girls - Day 2.5

It's midnight, and I am up having just changed the towels in the washbasin brooder. I will check on them once again before I go to bed.

This is day two of the adventures of Duck Daddy, and oh boy were these six little girls busy today.

When it comes to drinking water these girls have put a full grown man to shame. Did you get your eight full glasses of water today? Well they did! and more! Now it may have taken all six girls to do it, but when you consider that together they might weigh two pounds - maybe, it is amazing that the quart water feeder had to be filled six times today.

We have been using towels on the bottom of our washbasin brooder, and today we must have changed it five times, and I had to do a load of wash to handle all the wet, dirty ones. It is important that these little girls don't get too wet in their first days, so we have to keep their area dry. Keeping ducks dry? and giving them lots of water? Okay someone tell me - what's wrong with this scenario? This sounds like a near impossible task.

Now Bev had the great idea of using Walgreen's super absorbant "Certainty™" underpads instead of the towels we have been using. Whoops bad idea. She cut them to fit the washbasin, and those little duckies started picking out all the stuffing they could pull on. Then the underpads seeped some kind of absorbency goo, and she was afraid the little ducks might eat that nasty, hyper-exotic, neo-chemical stuff. So much for "certainty."

The little ducks sleep. The little ducks rise. The little ducks get excited, and run around the brooder like crazy. The little ducks eat at a frenetic pace. The little ducks do their best to drink a million times their body weight in water.

When they eat they peck at the starter mash
in the little round trough, and then they shake their heads forward and back really fast as though they are trying to get the stuff down their throats. Then after a few seconds of wild head shaking they go to the water trough. Now if it wasn't for the narrow drinking space of the water trough, they would probably go submarine. You have never seen someone as excited about water as these little girls! Sometimes all six of them are crowded around the water trough at the same time pushing and diving in for water. A bite of mash - heads shake - a drink of water - repeat - repeat again - repeat again....

Then they all fade about the same time and huddle up in a little pile together.

Well, I decided to check on them since they last huddled up together for the evening. That was half an hour ago now.Yikes! Don't they ever settle down for more than a few minutes?

Well, our retired racing greyhound, Holly, doesn't really know they exist yet. The girls are in a back room, and Holly doesn't go there. She must hear them squeaking, but we have finches too, so Holly probably thinks the finches are just being noisy the last two days. Here's Holly with a yogurt cup stuck on her snout. Maybe we need to permanently attach it before she meets the ducks.

Duck Daddy and His Six Girls - Day 2

The brooder galvanized washbasin has been kept at 90ºF to keep these little girls warm. Last night while we slept the temperature dropped to about 85º, and they were all huddled together in the morning. So I moved the heat lamp a little closer to raise the temperature back up to 90º.

They sleep in short spurts, and anytime they hear someone in the room they all get up, and get excited. Often they move together like a little troop of clumsy, fuzzy soldiers. I guess this is why Indian Runners are used to train herding dogs in their herding skills.

Last night a mosquito hawk flew into the washbasin. I would not want to be a bug in a duck brooder. I wish I had a picture of that moment. These little girls went to town on that bug. First one saw it, and snagged it with her little bill. She tried to munch on it, but it was a bit too big to swallow. Then another saw what was going on and tried to steal the bug from the first duck. Pretty soon the poor bug was being picked up, dropped, and passed around from duck to duck. They were not quite big or strong enough to kill it, and eat it, but they gave it a solid thrashing until it eventually gave up the bug-ghost. Meanwhile they were all happily squeaking at the adventure.

They are now three days old, and quite active. Indian Runners are funny ducks. They are like the clowns of the duck world. They are very sociable, they stand erect like penguins, and they travel together. I am amazed how erect they stand when excited - even now at only three days old.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Duck Daddy and His Six Girls

Philip the Evangelist had seven daughters who were prophets. Philip of Salem has six daughters. We'll see how prophetic they will be.

Today our six Indian Runner Ducks arrived. They are one day old. They traveled by freight from Pennsylvania to Agway Feed Store in Danvers, MA. I picked them up at Agway and drove them the 4 or 5 miles home in a boot box. Here they are on the ride home. They were chirping all the way, and jumping against the side of the shoebox hotel wanting to get out.

They are all girls (supposedly), and have little white bands around their legs to mark that they were sexed at the duck farm before they were shipped. We don.'t really want to raise ducks in our not too large yard, and we don't want to eat them, but we do want eggs. Indian Runners are supposed to lay as many as 300 eggs a year - that's 300 per duck - that's potentially 1,800 eggs a year.

Once we arrived home, I let Holly (our greyhound) out, and said the famous word she is so fond of - "squirrel!" She ran around the yard, and I carried the girls in past her unobservant nose.

Once inside I took them out of their temporary shoebox home, and placed them in the galvanized washbasin we are using as a brooder.

It took them a little time to figure out how to drink. I placed some water we had prepared with honey (one tablespoon for a quart) in a shallow dish, and they took a bit of time to figure out that they were supposed to drink.

They pecked at the dish from underneath. They tried to climb over it. They tried to climb in it. I guess that makes sense. They are ducks after all.

I had sprinkled finely chopped grass clippings on the water. Apparently this helps them drink. It seemed to work. After the initial drink, they return to their water trough excitedly whenever I add grass clippings.
In a similar manner it took them sometime to figure out the feeder, and begin to eat the starter mash we have in the small feed trough. Once they did eat some mash they would shake their heads trying to get the mash down. I made sure to be there to give them some water at first, but they eventually discovered that it is good to drink after a mouthful of dry mash.

The girls all seem happy and healthy. This is the first hour home, and I am Duck Daddy.
For now, this is the beginning of the adventure of Duck Daddy and his Six girls. I'll be on this duty for at least a month I imagine. So, stay tuned.