This morning when I let the ducks out I could see we had duck difficulties. As we enter spring and mating to brooding season our little flock start to pair off. Never, of course, in a simple or easy manner. Nope.
Our 9 ducks, 5 males / 4 females, instead of pairing off in to couples have split into groups of 2 and… addendum. Maggie and her updated entourage of George, Louis and Little Lad. Sir Studly and Gabby vie for BeepBeep. And… Macy and Neige, our young little girl call ducks who flit between the two.
Boys being boys in the animal kingdom, they vie for alpha position, dominance and testosterone. This means fights. Or maybe better described as chesting. Beaks flatten against their chests, chests raised and puffed up, they then push their chests against each other trying to essentially wrestle the other into a lower, more subservient posture. The ultimate is to get the other duck onto its back. But in the meantime, lots of grabbing of feathers (read hair pulling?) in amongst all of this.
The girls don’t help as they are in flirt mode. And they enjoy a good fight over them. So lots of coy cooing sounds, head bobbing and egging the boys on as they watch the fight. Honestly. I should sell tickets.
Our ducks, having split into these two groups (plus), now keep themselves separated. All the time. They have staked their territories. Maggie has chosen to have the courtyard (and our neighbours ‘fenced off’ adjacent courtyard) whilst Sir Studly’s gang prefer the enclosure.
Yet even within these areas there are separations. The enclosure has a dividing wall with gates, so we can put all the ducks in there when we wish to, yet still keep them in their separate groups. Their ‘bedroom’ in the old stable has a dividing wall, so when they go in at night the two groups are also separated. (One learns from experience.)
Which leads me back to this morning. When I let the ducks out I could see that amongst our two groups we were starting to have more duck difficulties. After Sir Studly led his posse off to the enclosure, I released Maggie, George, Louis and Little Lad. And heavens, Louis! To say his feathers were ruffled was an understatement.
Normally Louis is the most fastidious of ducks, with nary a feather out of place. Of all the ducks, he loves to bathe the most. He is also all white, so it is very very noticeable when he is not. This morning he was a hodge podge of white, grey and brown and definitely ruffled. Obviously George came out as alpha in their encounter.
Little Lad looked a bit worse for wear too. He had obviously been pecked a bit around the chest as some down feathers were showing through. The time had come to separate Louis, along with Little Lad, from Maggie and George. This would also give Maggie some respite from all the attention. A necessary consideration as the boys are a bit rough on our now middle aged duck.
She can’t help it that she has that certain something that all the boys want. And it’s wonderful (for we humans) to know that ducks get sexier to the male population as they get older. But it takes its toll in mating season.
Ducks don’t mate for life, but they are definitely routine orientated. So although Sir Studly may fancy Maggie,and often gets overwhelmed with lust when he sees her, he has taken on the care and protection of Beepbeep on a day to day basis. Young Gabby, now a proper teenager, is their third wheel. He grew up with them, so it is no surprise he has sided with them.
Macy and Neige vary each day. Sometimes they join Maggie and her entourage, sometimes Sir Studly’s gang. These two teenage sisters go everywhere together. But, I am suspecting that Neige fancies Little Lad (and possibly vice versa) in the one camp. Whilst Macy is eyeing up Gabby, in the other group. These four are all teenagers, so like teens they haven’t quite made up their minds as yet who they really like. Life will be a lot easier when they do.
Leaving Maggie and George in the courtyard, I scoop up Louis and Little Lad. They join the girls and Sir Studly’s gang in the enclosure. Time to head inside to my office, curious to see what I would find upon my return later.
What I found was Louis pacing by the chicken mesh wall gazing longingly towards the closed door of the courtyard, hoping his Maggie would appear. Sigh. Little Lad luckily is varying his time between pining and eyeing up the girls.
Perseverance is necessary with ducks, especially when trying to break a routine. I left Louis pining whilst I went back to work, with the intent to check on him again at lunchtime.
A beautifully sunny day, the onset of spring, daffodils popping up in the garden, I headed out with my laptop to write this vignette in Cafe du Canard. A chance also to watch this melange of ducks interacting with each other first hand. Except.
I found Louis still with his beak pressed up against the chicken mesh, staring intently into the now open door of the courtyard, calling for Maggie.
My heart is simply not strong enough.
Opening the enclosure door brought a running Louis, as well as Little Lad, out and heading straight for Maggie. So much for watching the interactions of ducks whilst writing about them. Now I am considering whether I will try again tomorrow. Much will depend on the state of testosterone come the morning.
I do know that eventually these boys will have to be separated from Maggie if Maggie takes to a nest. Whilst George is happy to sit by and protect Maggie as she broods, Louis has the terrible desire to turf her off her nest and make mad passionate love with her. Hey, whatever floats your feathers.
Hopefully, in time, a natural order of separation will occur. But with more males than females this year, I am really not sure how this will pan out.
Such is spring in our household and dealing with duck difficulties. But it will soon get even more divisive once ducklings arrive. Stay tuned.
(The divided ducks and enclosure.)
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