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?!


Lamont said...

Oh gee - I love spinach! What is a girl to do? Thankfully, I'm not a duck.

Pastor Phil said...

I guess a girl is to turn blue!

cern said...

It doesn't seem to pose a problem for the Nac Mac Feegles. :) Those ducks really do seem to be growing from your pics. :)



Pastor Phil said...

Hey Mike,

Not having read Terry Pratchett I had to look up Nac Mac Feegles. I think my ducks are bigger than they are.

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