And now we enter the phase of nesting ducks.
Somehow it seems appropriate that with Easter comes nesting ducks. We can definitely see why ducks (and chickens) and eggs have become synonymous.
We went from our duck difficulties of finding a mate in February to brooding ducks in March. Nesting ducks can occur any time thereafter, but is essentially linked to the weather. As soon as the warm spring weather arrives, our females start sitting.
We discovered that the nesting instinct is linked to temperature when Maggie used to live all the time indoors. And we had heating. Her first year of nesting, she had 3 nests. Two nesting phases is not uncommon, especially if they have ducklings early in spring. There is always a chance of a second nest in summer.
Because of the heating being on (through autumn/winter) in our previous cottage, Maggie ended up having a third nest in October, and started on a fourth again in January. Though by then we had figured it out and she spent more time outdoors which quelled the need to lay eggs and brood.
Nesting ducks brings a new phase of ‘how to deal with your duck’. It’s all change again. We go from funny, flirty females before nesting to bad-ass hormonal harpies when nesting. Even Beepbeep, normally of the most even temperament, turned into a mild version of duckzilla.
But then so would you if you had to sit in one place for 23 ½ hours. Then you come off your nest at height of the days temperatures to stuff your face as fast as you can, then bathe, wetting your belly feathers in readiness to sit again. (The wet feathers are to create humidity in the nest, which aids in the incubation process.)
Full on nesting lasts 28 days, from the first day of 23.5 hours of sitting. All of our females are about a week in now, so ducklings are due around the third week in April. Beepbeep is the only one not nesting this year. She laid the odd egg, but then stopped. She is 6 this year, but I think it has more to do with her blindness and general health than age.
And what about the boys? The ‘mates’ will guard the nest, though less and less as the time wears on. They sit nearby making a certain quiet ‘pwaahhp’ sound to let the girls know they are there. Even if they wander away to stretch their legs or bathe, they will make this sound to continue the connection.
Once though the girls have their binge moment and return to the nest, this is the call for all boys to sidle up to the bar together and swap husband stories. Honest. It really is like that. Late afternoon, we will see our boys gather and they all talk at once, not letting the other get a word in edgewise. Truly, we can just imagine the bar, the beers and the ‘my wife is so hormonal stories…’
Mostly life is now pretty calm, especially compared to the last two months. The only difficulties are when the girls come off their nests and Beepbeep not nesting. Because Beeps isn’t nesting that means she is uber attractive as the only available female to the other males.
Both Gabby and George are particularly keen, for any of the girls really, as they are the odd males out this year. And bless our Sir Studly, gentleman by nature, and Little Laddie as they have designated themselves as Beepbeeps protector. And are quite affective at it. But still, to protect Beeps from too much male attention we have to be super careful about making sure that George and Gabby can’t get to her at this time.
This involves a lot of dividers and doors. We have the duck enclosure, and any other space set up with moving parts, specifically for this time of year. The duck enclosure is divided in half, with two doors that can be kept closed. This year, essentially mallards are on one side, call ducks on the other. Their choice.
We also have a door into the barn and to the duck winter bedroom in it. Niege, one of our call ducks has claimed the barn bedroom as her nesting spot whilst the other 3 girls nest in the enclosure. George and Gabby spend much of their time (when not at the bar swapping stories) running between the barn and the enclosure in hopes one of the females comes off her nest.
The boys have finally stopped turfing the girls off their nests for a bit of x-rated fun now that they are fully nesting. (Yeah!) But with Beepbeep in plain view, if the other males were allowed near her… Well, you may not know but it is possible for too many male ducks to actually kill a single female with their overly testosterone attention.
So we close off one section of the duck enclosure and Gabby, George and even Louis can visit from afar. And they do. They spend a lot of time with beaks pressed up against the chicken wire fencing, pining with longing.
Little did I know when we put up the protective bird netting over the top of the duck enclosure that it would also be used to stop Gabby from getting to Beepbeep. At least once every couple of days Gabby flies up, and in, only to land on the netting. It always brings on laughter as everyone looks so surprised and he just stands there, sort of in mid-air, until I come and rescue him.
I will say, with all these spring antics, that I am glad I have an excuse to work and be in the garden. Nesting ducks time is always fraught with chaos and laughter. And in three weeks time it will be all change again as we add in ducklings.
PS: Love Ducks?
We have a selection of duck gifts available for you from our shop, or those you know, who love ducks.
(Simply click on the photo to see more or purchase.)