Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Duck Daddy and His Five Girls - Day 40

Now Duck Daddy had been away in Washington DC for nearly a week, and returned to find his girls had grown up.

So here are the tales of the days I was away:

While in Washington the girls ended up in another public appearance. Last they posed for Runner Duck magazine, and now we find that they have once again appeared in print this time as teenage heartbreakers in Art Throb. Follow the link to read the story.

Now they also started doing things they had not done before. We were ready to put them outside permanently at about six weeks, which we are just coming to now. Well, at five weeks I was away, and they started giving Duck Mama heck - just like teenagers.

They got faster, they started showing a little more independence, and did not want to come back inside after being out for hours. But, of course that independence was not independence from one another - only from us. They did not want to be picked up, so our extra large family sized pool brooder became a difficult place to catch these now Olympic speed duckies.

They also started quacking loudly. Now that their voices were changing from cute little squeaks to larger than life honks, once Bev would take one duck outside all the rest would start making a fuss. Of course the fuss does not stop until they are together again. Duck Daddy laughs when this happens. Duck Mama does not, and becomes a little flustered hoping the ducks won't hurt themselves as they jump onto the back deck and try to run in the house to be reunited with their sisters who still haven't made the transport outside.

Upon my return I noticed that there were some significant changes in the girlies. They had some rather ugly feathers on their wings before I left for DC. As can be seen in the pictures their quills were showing making them look like they needed to join the Hair Club for Men. Upon my return their feathers had all filled in, and their wings looked significantly better.

Having returned from DC, I am now setting up their outside pen. The area is about 16' X 16' and I will eventually make part of the shed into their duck house. A hole will be cut into the side of the shed, and a duck house will be built inside the shed. For now we have a dog house which will do the job.

That's all for now. More observations tomorrow I am sure. The ducks amaze us more each day.

Did you get your own ducks yet? We are advocating for urban mini duck farms, and having your own eggs each morning.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Some Ducks Videos, and the return of Duck Daddy

Duck Daddy has been away in Washington DC, and just returned. After all this time away, the girls grew so much, and are faster, and crazier than ever, and definitely ready to move outside.

The ongoing chronicles of Duck Daddy should return tomorrow. Until then here are few video shots of the girls from a couple weeks ago. Thanks to the inimitable and funny John Harding for these shots of the girlies.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Duck Daddy and His Five Girls - Days 29-32

These last four days have been quite busy, and I haven't had the time to post. So, here are the basic observations over the last four days:

1. These ducks are getting big, fast, and what they are going to look like when their feathers are fully in is more obvious.

2. These ducks love to forage in the yard. Bugs, grass, weeds, flowers - all these things are up for eating. Like people they are omnivorous. They especially love a muddy little hole to forage through. One of the girls caught her first worm yesterday - darn she was happy!

3. They love to duck (obvious to me now why we use this term for a quick submergence under the water) and dive in the little pool we have for them. One website suggested putting certain food at the bottom of about 4 inches of water so that they can "wash their eyes." These girls don't need any eye-washing encouragement.

4. They are pretending to be a little more independent. They will run off in some meaningless direction in the yard when we take them out, but after about 5 yards they will make a circle and come back to forage around my feet.

So what follows are a few of the eye-washing, feigned independence, and foraging pictures from the last few days:

This last picture shows what happens when I stand still. Please send shoelaces.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Duck Daddy and His Five Girls - Day 28

Well, the girls are getting famous now. They will be on the cover of the Indian Runner Duck Association Newsletter. Wow! They're Covergirls!

The newsletter is still upcoming, but the a photo of them is up and can be found on the front page of IRDA website.

With the the continuing saga of why our ducks are not white: Glyn writes to us after reading yesterday's blog post:

"I have just read your blog and wanted to let you know that your ducks aren't white ducks they are fawn and white. Far more attractive in my view. This is obvious from day one, white ducklings have pure yellow down with no other colours.

Good luck


Thanks Glyn

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Duck Daddy and His Five Girls - Day 27

Yesterday was the third day that we turned off the heat lamp in the evening. It has remained cold the last few days, but the girls are bigger now, and we figure they can handle 60º at night when they huddle together. We are now only using the light after they swim and go back into the brooder wet. Of course the 6' by 10' inflatable kiddie we have set up is not really a brooder anymore. It is more like an indoor duck pen.

The ducks are getting scraggly - some fuzz, some feathers, some stuff in between that looks like they haven't shaved in days. These are some li'l Bohemian ducks right now.

When we take them outside, which is a couple times a day, they run right for the pool, and want to swim. I have to trick them by moving the location of the pool to keep them from spending the whole time swimming. They are supposed to be Runner Ducks, so I figure they need a little running.

Well, even more than yesterday it looks like our little Indian Runners are not white Indian Runners. Their incoming feathers are getting darker each day.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Duck Daddy and His Five Girls - Days 24-26

Three whole days without writing about the girls. I've been busy, but then they are a part of the busy-ness.

Here are the highlights of these last three days in Duckyworld, and the Adventures of Duck Daddy:

It continues to be cold for this time of year in New England. In the mid 50s in mid June is really chilly. So, the ducks are not getting out as much as we would like, but they are getting big - and not just big, they are also getting quite fast.

About four days we began to notice something which we found quite humorous. Now we were told that these were going to be white Indian Runner ducks. In these last four days we have noticed that their chest feathers are coming in with a brownish tint, and getting darker each day. Never having raised ducks before I figure there are three options to this observation: 1) white feathers don't start out white, 2) our ducks are filthy and need to take a bath more often, or 3) these ain't white ducks. Noting that #1 seems silly, and that they look the same after swimming I am betting on #2. What do you think?

We have a temporary outdoor pen set up, so that we can take them outside, and work in the yard without them swarming around my feet the whole time. So far, when they are outside they follow me so closely I can't get anything done without fear of stepping on a duck.

This pen is in this location just for now, and will be replaced by a taller, more secure location next to our shed. We are thinking that cutting a duck entrance into the shed, and creating a duck house on the inside of the shed is our best deal - especially to deal with the brutal New England winters.

In the last few days duck paraphernalia has begun to arrive. We now have two Max the Duck stuffed animals. My mom sent the second one, and knowing that Bev shopped at Kohl's where they are selling for $5, she sent a note saying that she hoped we hadn't started a flock of Max the Ducks. With Max, and the book he comes from, Duck at the Door, came a note for Holly the greyhound saying that this was the only duck she could play with. Holly doesn't really play with stuffed animals, but sometimes she will sleep with them. Maybe it will help her make duck buddies instead.

I wrote to the Indian Runner Duck Association in Wales about a week ago and let them know that I was writing this blog. So, they checked up on me, and they responded with a few comments which were quite helpful. Of note was the fact that they do not recommend feeding ducks lettuce, because lettuce has been found to be high in nitrates, and this in turn is unhealthy for the ducks - well for people too - it might make your babies turn blue! Really, it's true, and in the UK they monitor the amount of nitrates in lettuce.

Side note on the Indian Runner Duck Association: The only negative thing I have to comment on them is that they don't siarad Cymreag (speak Welsh) - oh well, can't have everything going for you. ;-)

Okay, so I thought that I would look this up: Nitrates and Duck Health to see what we we might be inadvertently doing to these poor little ducky waifs. Here is some information I discovered. Quotes from government websites, and links below followed by other random info:

* Nitrate is a natural component of vegetables although the levels present are affected by growing conditions, fertiliser use and plant species / variety.
* The UK has carried out annual monitoring for nitrate in lettuce and spinach since 1996. Every Member State is required to monitor and report levels of nitrate in lettuce and spinach as part of a European Commission Regulation.
* The European Commission Regulation sets maximum levels for nitrate in lettuce and spinach, however UK growers are currently exempted from meeting these limits for a transitional period.
* The levels of nitrate detected in lettuce and spinach do not pose a risk to consumer's health; all dietary exposure estimates were below the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) set by the European Commission's Scientific Committee for Food (SCF).
from www.food.gov.uk.

Organic Lettuce Packs 25 Times Less Nitrate than Conventional Lettuce

Nitrate levels in organic lettuce are a fraction of levels found in conventional hothouse lettuces. Experts, however, say authorities are reluctant to showcase the benefits of organic farming.
from Persian Road. I am not sure of the validity of this statement, but it is a commonly found statement on many sites across the internet.

At Agroecology.org you can download a 64 page abstract with a 1999 study of nitrate levels in spinach, romaine, and iceberg lettuce grown in California. Organics generally did better, but some organic farming can also raise nitrate levels. Spinach generally should be avoided it appears because the nitrate levels were higher, and exceeded the UK levels of acceptability. Iceberg and romaine were acceptable regardless of the growing methods, although using guano as fertilizer was a set up for higher nitrate levels.

Now, here's the good news for our little Indian Runners. They are being fed mostly romaine, iceberg, and a spring mix without spinach. They are also being fed organics most of the time. I appears that they are not white ducks turning fawn colored because they are being feed too high a nitrate level. Whew - I was worried there for a moment that I was turning them into mutants.

Actually it turns out that they are merely going through an ugly stage with feathers coming out, and fuzz disappearing.

Well, here are my thoughts about nitrate levels:

Duck poo has piles of nitrates.
Poo is used to grow lettuce.
Ducks love lettuce.
Ducks must have a poo/nitrate addiction.
I need to take my ducks to NA meetings.

Actually, I will just stick with the organic lettuce for now, and hope it is good enough. I will also use cuttings from our yard (we don't use any nasty chemicals in our yard) like dandelions, and young grasses - I've been doing this all along as well.

I will close with my favorite internet question from someone raising ducks:

"Ok, so I’m new to the whole duck thing, forgive me if I’m a little behind. I just hatched 8 ducklings, and today they are 9, 8, and 7 days old. I've come to realize they are massive pooping machines! I read they poop a lot, but I had no clue this much. They eat and drink constantly...and did I mention grow constantly too?

Anyway, I was cleaning out their cage yesterday and realized I just can’t keep it poopless! I had JUST cleaned it out and within 5 minutes there were dozens of landmines! Finally I counted the poop, and lost count at 26. Do they poop every minute, and a half or something? There is only 8 of them, so that’s 3.3 poops each? Are my ducks normal, or do they have ducky irritable bowel syndrome? Luckily it doesnt stink...yet!" from Backyard Chickens forum.

Now doesn't that make you want some duckies of your own?!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Duck Daddy and His Five Girls - Days 22-23

Cool weather here in New England has made the last two days tough on the 5 girlies. They have not been outside in the yard, because it is so cold, and mildly raining as well.

Yet a few big things happened in the last two days: 1) they got new living arrangements. These girl are getting so big that the old plastic kiddie pool brooder was replaced by a 6' X 10' inflatable kiddie pool. On the last post, you saw me blowing it up. Yesterday I squeezed it into the end of the room they are brooding in - and I do mean barely. I am not sure the picture does it justice. 2) The girls went swimming in the kitchen sink yesterday as well. The sink is deep, and does not have separated sides. It is simply one big sink, and yesterday it was filled with little quackers. I did not have my camera, and my hands were full once they were in the sink - even though I swam only two at a time. 3) Today more swimming. This time we filled their old brooder after cleaning it out from it poo-brooder days. They were all able to swim together. 4) One of the ducks is going through a voice change. One moment super high squeak, the next a little low voiced quack.

Now, as far as the new brooder: This is evidence that we are being influenced by some secret mind-controlling power of the ducks. Why else would be stacking our furniture on top off itself to make space for a kiddie pool in the room?

When we swim the ducks we are putting lettuce in the water. They are simply in ducky heaven. A pool and their favorite meal - well, other than the occasional bug they catch. - this is the closest thing to duck heaven on earth.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Duck Daddy and His Five Girls - Days 20-21

Day 19 was a day of dirty ducks. Day 20 and 21 were the days of clean ducks. The girlies went swimming on days 20 and 21. We had not yet taken them to swim. Bev has been nervous about this because they can drown when they are young, but I was concerned about how dirty they got, and Bev read a website which mentioned taking the Indian Runners for a swim. So two at a time we put them in the original brooder - the old washbasin. The old washbasin was filled with warm water in our shower, and the ducks were placed in staggered rotation so that there were two at time in the basin.

After the swim each duck would get dried off and put back in the brooder. They dried off so quickly that when getting the last duck, we weren't sure which one had not gone, and somebody got two swims.

These were happy, happy ducks, and afterward they were given their greens, they love a good chopped salad! This was ducky heaven today. So now we have clean happy girls!

Today, I was out for a good part of the day working, and the unseasonably cool weather for June in Salem made it so that the girls did not get out in the yard. Today I took them for a swim in the Kitchen sink. Our Kitchen sink is quite deep, and it is a large single basin sink. I did not have the camera with me for the sink swim, and once I started them swimming I had my hands full. These crazy girls got me quite wet.

Tonight we bought a brand new inflatable kiddie pool - 10' by 6'. Of all the stupid things we did not have a decent pump with us. Can you say dizzy? This pool will become their next brooder. They are outgrowing their second brooder, and the days are still chilly enough we don't want to pu them outside - besides we are still concerned about predators, and want to be sure they are older, stronger, faster when they go out. By tomorrow we should have them in a brooder with much more square footage.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Duck Daddy and His Five Girls - Day 19

Yesterday was a day of dirty ducks! They like to play in their water, and when we take them outside they will get the water in the grass, and dirt, and then make a bigger mess. They still follow us around,and stay quite close to us, and they always travel in pack. They also like to sit underneath us if possible. We do hope that the hammock doesn't break!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Duck Daddy and His Five Girls - Days 17 & 18

Yesterday was an uneventful day. Uneventful days are good. That means nobody looks sick, or does something strange which makes the amateur duck parents that we are feel like we are doing something wrong, or that a duck plague has arrived at our brooder door.

It was too cold (unseasonably so for June in Salem, MA), and the 5 girls only went out for a few minutes during a small break in the clouds in the afternoon. Funny thing - over the last few days, when I take them out, they want to stay right next to me most of the time. When they have the whole yard to roam, they stay together as a little troupe, and stay close to me. If I walk to a new location, they typically follow me - running as fast as their little ducky feet will take them. These little duckies are somewat high strung, full of energy, and make up for the fact that they can not fly (will not ever fly - Indian Runners don't fly - their name is self descriptive) by running like heck.

Now today was a bit warmer, and we were able to take the girls out twice for quite a bit of time. Today they seemed to have grown the most I've seen, and they now are really looking like ducks, and not ducklings. Yet, they still have mostly peach fuzz, and the feathers are only beginning to come out. Bev thinks this is the ugly duckling stage. Some years ago I kayaked out to an island in Salem harbor where all the seagulls and cormorants were breeding. The island was filled with nests, and baby birds about the size of our ducks now. They were almost as large as the parents, but they could not fly, and their feathers were not in. The babies all wanted our attention, but the seagull parents were dive bombing us, and the cormorant parents sat irresponsibly about 15 yards offshore from the island.

Look how much they look like regular big ducks right now!

We still need to keep the temperature warm in the brooder, and the nights have been cold. I want to turn the heat lamp off, but it is not warm enough to do so. I am worried they will start feather pulling, which they are prone to do under heat lamps which run all night. So we may make a change in the heating system in the next few days.

Today I told one of our next door neighbors about the ducks. He did not know yet. He had a real severe look on his face (but then he always does) and asked, "Do they eat bugs?"

"Oh yeah, they love eating bugs."

"You know they sh*t alot!"

Uhmmm...yeah they sure do."

That sh*t is good for your yard. You should spread it all over the place and your plants will grow like crazy." He has a big yrd for the city like we do.

Then I got a short dissertation on sh*t. Well, I am happy that my neighbor is excited about sh*t, and the fact that our ducks eat bugs.

As a parting thought: Here's what a greyhound looks like from duck perspective.

It would be nice to hear from you if you are following this blog, and especially if you have duck envy, and want your own ducks now. Leave a comment below.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Duck Daddy and His Five Girls - Day 16

A few of those reading the ongoing chronicles of Duck Daddy and his girls have wished out loud to have your own Indian Runner Ducks, because they are so cute. So, here are just a couple of the resources we have used to help us on our journey through Duckville. Now, I am sure that we are doing all kinds of things wrong, so please do not blame the skilled Duckmeisters of these venerable Duck Academies.

If you want to get yourself some Indian Runners please visit Wales. Really, visit Wales. Besides being "fy hoff gwlad yn y byd," it is also the home of the Indian Runner Duck Association. The Indian Runner Duck Association is in Welshpool, north east Powys, Wales. So you do not really have to visit them in person (although any trip to Wales is really equal to about 13 pilgrimages to Rome, or 6 pilgrimages to the the Holy Land), but you can go to the Indian Runner Duck Association website.

The next resource is a book by Dave Holderread, Storey's Guide to Raising Ducks. This is such a fabulous book, that not only my wife and I use it as a resource, but even the girls love it. I took it out on the lawn today with me, and as soon as I put it down they swarmed the book for a good Storey-time. ta-dum. Sorry.

After perusing some duck websites last night I was drawn to a particular spot on two of our ducks. Just above the eye, they always look like they are wet, and the down is a little thin. Now I do know that they scratch their necks and faces with those cute little webbed feet like a dog scratches behind his ears, but I had not connected the thinning of the fuzz above the eye to the scratching until today. One little girl has a somewhat pronounced case, a second has this noticeably but not as much, and the others don't have the "scarring." as the website described it.

Here is the scarring above the eye on our little duckie with the more noticeable thin wearing of the baby fuzz, and another pic of their cute little webbed feet with those sharp claws on the ends of their toes. I'm surprised they haven't poked their little eyes out with those serious claws on the end of their cute little paddles. Click on the picture to see the full size version of those little demon feet.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Duck Daddy and His Five Girls - Day 15

Slowly we are bringing the temperature in the brooder down: 90º the first week, 85º the second, and now between 80º and 85º. That at least has been suggested, by the books and websites we read.

The duckies are happy, and squeaky, and are getting more and more excited about the greens we chop up for them each day.We are thinking through issues like where and how we will deal with them living outside in the harsh New England winters. Today Bev went to Agway and bought 50lbs. of 15% protein layer mash (their food), and another bale of pine chips for the girls.

I have to share a few reasons why we decided to raise these little Indian Runner ducks. I have nine specific reasons. These are not Bev's reasons, they are mine. Bev will probably share her reasons another time. So I will present these nine reasons in a picture story below.

If you had all these fake chickens and flamingos in your yard wouldn't you get the real thing to stave off a potential invasion of thousands of fake birds? I am hoping some real ducks will fulfill Bev's passion for winged animals, and keep the garage sale versions out of the garden.