Wild ducks in winter normally would fly south, or at least to slightly warmer climates. As our ducks are not wild but pets we have to offer an alternative.
As soon as the temperatures look to dip below freezing here at night we move our ducks up into the stable (which is full of warm snuggly hay) for the night. Ducks can tolerate cold temperatures… to a point.
Two sort of random duck facts for you. They do not have nerve endings in their feet (hence why they can stand on ice). And, they can get frostbite. (Probably something having to do with no nerve endings.)
So once we start to hit the negative degrees (celsius) here in France, we start herding them out of the enclosure at the end of the day and up into the barn.
Taking care of ducks in winter means dealing with lots of frozen water and food, and also very hungry predators. To better safe guard them, as well as give them a more comfortable nights sleep, we choose to change where they sleep at night.
The first evening is a bun fight. Breaking a routine causes chaos. They are used to me letting them out of the enclosure for a good forage. I add water to water bowls and mealy worms are dispensed. Suddenly I am turning over water bowls, emptying them instead (so they don’t freeze solid over night). And there are no mealy worms!
Rather I have put water bowls in the barn, topped up with their tasty treats. Except they haven’t figured this out yet. So I have to get them in to the barn. Herding ducks is like herding cats when they have yet to understand the outcome.
Easier is to let them see me go into the barn and call them. They are curious souls and if I can get one to come in usually the others will follow. Result! Only Beepbeep and Sir Sudly are left in the enclosure.
With Beeps being blind it is now harder to get her to move our of her comfort zone. Luckily the happy ‘we found something yummy to eat’ sounds that ducks make generally calls to the others to join in. Sir Studly hears the call and helps Beepbeep find her way.
Once all in the barn, I close the door to the garden. The courtyard is theirs to explore and forage until dusk. At dusk we have complete and utter chaos as I try to get them to go into the stable. Although the hay brings on lots of happy sounds normally, it doesn’t outweigh that it is dark in there.
The older ducks have been in the stable before. We did this last year, and the year before. So getting them in is not too problematic, but once in they have to establish which corner is to be their home for the night. The new ducks from this year have no idea what is happening. So as soon as I scoot them in, they run back out. And it doesn’t help that through out Gabby has decided he will help me by running in circles around my feet.
I put Gabby in the house hallway, closing the door, keeping him out of harms way. Phew. Now to the others. Finally, all are in the stable. Lots of shuffling and whispered sounds can be heard as they settle themselves in to their new home. (Gabby is taken upstairs, where he sleeps.)
It takes 4 days to establish a new routine with ducks. Now that we have done it once, the next night becomes a little easier. And the next easier again. By the fourth we are all used to how it works. This is confirmed by Beepbeep who now makes her way up, with Sir Studly, from the enclosure without needing prompting.
Our new routine is helped by the darkness. Unlike the first night I now wait until almost dark to tuck them into the stable. Beepbeep and Sir Studly have already put themselves to bed in their chosen corner. (Which, no surprise, is the same corner as last year. I did mention ducks are creatures of habit, didn’t I?)
Maggie and her entourage are next to go in, to the opposite corner. Then our little Zoomie girls. They still like to zoom about as they have decided that herding is a wonderful game. We always have one or more trying to run about and out, but eventually all are settled and the door is closed.
Taking care of pet ducks in winter can cause wonderful chaos.
And in the morning…
PS: Love Ducks?
We have a selection of duck gifts available for you or those you know who love ducks. Some vintage, some our own designs, all unique.
(Simply click on the photo to see more, and/or purchase.)