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 6 ducks, 3 males / 3 females, instead of pairing off in to pairs have split into groups of 3. Maggie and her entourage of George and Louis. Sir Studly and his harem of Beepbeep and Pi.
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.
Our ducks, having split into these two groups of three, now keep themselves separated. All the time. They have staked their territories. Maggie has chosen to have the courtyard (and house) and Sir Studly prefers 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 if we need or want 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 girls off to the enclosure, I released Maggie, George and Louis. And poor 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.
The decision was made to put Louis in the enclosure with the others. As Sir Studly has taken on the care and protection of Beepbeep, and shows little interest in our tiny Pi, I am hatching a plan to matchmake Louis with Pi.
They are both the odd ducks out. Okay they are all odd ducks in their own way, but in terms of mating season as Sir Studly and Beepbeep, Maggie and George have already paired up, that sort of leaves Louis and Pi. I just wish they would see it that way. Life would be a lot easier if they did.
So with Louis in the enclosure, I took Chewie for a walk, curious to see what I would find upon my return. What I found was Louis standing by the chicken mesh wall gazing longingly towards the closed door of the courtyard, hoping his Maggie would appear. Sigh.
Still, perseverance is necessary with ducks, especially when trying to break a routine. I left Louis pining whilst I went to work, with the intent to check on him at lunchtime.
A beautifully sunny day, the onset of spring, daffodils popping up in the garden, I headed out with my laptop to write today’s vignette amongst the ducks. A chance also to watch Louis interacting with the others first hand. Except.
I found him 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 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 Louis come the morning.
I do know that eventually he 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.
But this is not good for Maggie. Ducks go into a sort of trance when they are nesting. I suppose it is to make the time go faster. They stay on their nests for almost 23.5 hours, only coming off, normally, for about 20 minutes a day, when the day is at its warmest.
It is best that they are not disturbed and can follow their bodies natural rhythms, so Louis’ great desire for Maggie has to be curtailed. So even if I don’t manage to separate him and turn his eye to Pi in the next few weeks, I will have to keep him from Maggie once she broods.
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.)