A few years ago we bought 2 female ducks for our plethora of drakes. Maggie our Queen Duck had too many males interested in her. To make her life a little less chaotic, we separated some of her male entourage away from her. So with a couple moping males, we decided it might be safer to get them each a new girlfriend. They were, to put it mildly, thrilled. But, ducks are devious and clever. And don’t always stick to the plan.
We were soon enjoying duck eggs. First one a day, then 2 a day, and then 4 a day! We duly took them and enjoyed them. And then, the more independent female decided she wasn’t having any of that. She was not going to go through all the effort of laying eggs (and it is an immense amount of effort for a duck) for us to take them.
Because ducks are deviously clever, she worked out if she waited for the clutch to become 8 or so before she brooded she would be in for a long wait. So, with only 2 eggs in the nest she had built, she sat. If we came near to get the eggs, she puffed herself up and hissed. Then her sister got in on the act. They took it in turns to sit whilst the other stretched her legs, ate and socialised, making sure there was someone guarding the nest at all times. The eggs became 4, then 6 then 8 in a matter of a couple days and then they both sat, side by side on the nest. Nobody was getting past these sentries to their potential duckings.
Who were we to go up against a pair of brooding ducks?
A month later we had 2 ducklings. Now the thing (we learned) about having 2 females sit on a nest is that you are likely to have less little ones. The girls left their nest as soon as the first two were born, leaving the others behind. We didn’t know this until it was too late, so weren’t able to save the remaining eggs. It was a sad moment when we realised they weren’t going to return to the nest and hatch the rest. Another lesson learned.
Yet, we still had two new ducklings, and what a treat they were to watch grow, doubling in size every day! The two mothers watched over them wonderfully, protecting them from everything, including their fathers. Male ducks are jealous souls. They would try and peck the little ducklings, so we had to separate them, keeping them in another section of the duck enclosure. They could still all see each other, but the males couldn’t get to the ducklings (or the females).
But, the boys were very protective of their new family, marching around the enclosure during the day, quacking, quacking, quacking. Once the ducklings were large enough, we let the family be reunited and gave them the run of the garden. It was wonderfully comical to watch them march around the garden, usually in a line, first a proud papa, then the two girls, then the two young ones and another proud paper bringing up the rear. The two ducklings grew into two more girls.
And soon another spring was on its way, and the boys had themselves a little harem. It wasn’t long before we found our first duck egg in their house. Then another. Sometimes there were no eggs, and once we had 4. And then, after letting them out, I realised shortly after that one of our girls was missing. Lots of searching, but no sign. And then suddenly she showed up again. The next morning, the same thing. I had a really good look for her and found her, well hidden, in the hedge. The light bulb dawned.
It takes a duck an hour to lay an egg, so dutifully I waited and after she left her nest returned to the hedge. It took me quite a long time to find the nest back. She had covered the eggs with leaves and if I hadn’t had a good idea where to look I never would have found them. There were 4 eggs in her nest. I took 3 of them, leaving 1 so she would continue laying there and not find a new spot. And with it, the anticipation ‘here we go again’.