Tis the season, the time for brooding ducks. Now to most, brooding ducks means ducks sitting on nests, all quiet, peaceful and spring tranquil. Well, I am here to tell you… ‘Ha!’
I’ve mentioned before (in duck difficulties), in January here ducks start to pair up. It’s a hit or miss thing until spring approaches, but by February our ducks are set. Except, of course, ours didn’t pair up neat and tidy.
We have 6 ducks, 3 females, 3 males. Easy peasy, right? 3 couples? Nope. Two groups have formed. Maggie and her male entourage of Louis and George, and on the other side Sir Studly and his harem of Beepbeep and Pi.
So duly grouped, we now approach brooding season. Each year is different, so although we have some knowledge of what to expect, you can never predict. The only thing we can predict is that each day will be different and somewhat chaotic until the girls are nesting. And depending on the weather, e.g. warmth, will depend on when they actually sit. It could be a couple weeks. But, more likely a couple months of dealing with brooding ducks.
The girls begin looking around for nesting spots at the first signs of spring. February for us. They actually prefer to return to previous spots, if it proved to be safe the previous year. So that makes things a little easier. Except. Last year Maggie had her nest in our bathroom.
Louis had paired with Beepbeep last year, so it was just Maggie and George. And Maggie had a house duck brood going on. George is unusual in that whilst Maggie nests, he simply sits by her. And as she sits on her nest for 23 ½ hours, George is very easy to deal with. He stretches his legs now and then and comes to say ‘hello’. But that’s about it.
This year, as Louis has decided he will remain true to his unrequited love of Maggie, we can’t repeat the same nesting location. Why? Because Louis is not one for sitting quietly whilst Maggie nests. For some reason (warning, graphic moment coming), her nesting turns him on. He perpetually tries to turf her off her nest and have rumpy tumpy. Not good.
So this year we have opted for Maggie having her nest in her bedroom, aka the Stable . It’s really about cat carriers you see. Both Beepbeep’s and Maggie’s nests are in cat carriers. And Maggie, at least, recognises her carrier. (It is the largest one, of course.) So, we simply had to move her cat carrier to where we preferred her to nest.
Having Maggie’s nest in the stable aids with timings as well.
Because our ducks have split themselves into two groups, this now means that the males in opposing groups like to fight each other and/or rape the other groups females. It’s a duck thing. Particularly a brooding ducks thing. But especially a mallard duck thing. Louis is a bit more refined.
It’s not that the males ‘want’ to fight, rape and pillage. It’s like a film comes over the eyes, and the next thing you know he is off and running. I can say, for example, “George!” and point a finger and it calls him up short as it diverts his attention and breaks the hormonal moment. But you have to spot the intent. So it is easier to divide than try to conquer.
So timing is about how to scoot them in to the same place at night, or out in the morning. The spaces we have are divided, but we still contend with one entranceway. Of note, fire guards work a treat. Moveable, and easily placed where you need them. We have three of them doing due diligence at 3 entrance ways. And occasionally we even use them in front of the fire pit.
So mornings are about letting one group out first. Usually Studs, Beeps and Pi. They have some water, a nibble and head right away to the enclosure.
Then Maggie and her entourage are let out to gorge themselves before trying to play Houdini and magic themselves into our next door neighbours adjoining, though blocked off, garden courtyard. (Obviously much better foraging there than in ours.) Did I tell you ducks are very curious creatures? And devious.
I can close the first group in the enclosure and then close the barn door so Maggie et al are safe in the courtyard. Then my day beckons. At mid-day a little time in the garden is called for and a change over. I scoot Maggie, Louis and George into the enclosure, and let the others out into the garden for some foraging time.
This is much easier to write than do, as it involves getting randy males passed cute females of the opposing group. Lots of laughter, scolding and scooping up ducks usually ensues.
Once comfortably situated we have a quite gardening moment whilst all enjoy their new areas. Until the next time…