Ducklings are the most adorable baby bird. I don’t think even chicks can hold a candle to them. With tiny little webbed feet, bills that feel like the most luxurious soft leather, and soft fluffy down, they are nearly impossible to resist. We’ve raised two batches of ducklings. The first time we raised four rouens, only one of which turned out to be female. Two of them were very affectionate towards us and the other two could take us or leave us. Sadly they never made it to maturity. One late summer night, when it was still light out and they didn’t want to go inside to sleep yet, an early riser of a racoon or two got in and slaughtered the lot of them, along with several chickens.
It was devastating and our first loss of livestock. And it was just so wasteful, because very little was eaten. It was as if they were killing them simply for sport. That’s when we learned that special locks are needed to keep them out of coops and dens and we were very fast to install them. We did not choose to raise ducks with our second batch of chicks. I think everyone was a little too sad about it. It wasn’t until our third batch of chicks that we chose to try ducklings again, this time the lovely little cayugas pictured above.
We fell even harder for this set of ducks. Although they were not socialized as much as the previous batch and took longer to be comfortable around us, they were sweet once they were. Cayugas are beautiful, dark black with green feathers and the males will get a shiny green head and neck. Slowly they will turn white until by age 5 they are completely white. We turned out to have 1 male and 3 females this time, and they got old enough to start laying. Duck eggs were great for baking and tasted wonderfully good in an omelet.
But alas, those pesky racoons returned. And with them we learned the lesson that racoons can pull out 1 inch carpenter staples. It managed to pull two ducks out the first night and completely fed up, we had an impenetrable duck den built. Sadly that darn racoon came back the night before the den was delivered and the male died defending the last female. After that Lady decided it would be much safer to be a chicken and took to going into the chicken coop at night. She didn’t want to be alone in the den and was happy to chill with the black australorps who seemed to be her particular friends.
We put up a notice at the feed store seeking some companion ducks for her, but no one seemed to have any they were willing to part with. Out of chance, when a woman came into the feed store as we were taking our notice down, we found out she had recently lost a female duck from a nesting pair of cayugas and the widowed male was miserable. She had a big farm, two large creeks, and lots of other birds. While she didn’t want to part with her duck, she offered to take Lady. With heavy hearts we agreed. It was the best decision we could have made. Lady is thriving in her new home and Lance (the male duck) fell in love with her at first sight. We get to visit her and it is wonderful to see her so happy in her new environment.
The question remains, however. Do we want to try a third time to raise ducklings? Fort Knox (the impenetrable duck den) sits empty and forlorn, waiting to do its job. We know that any ducks we might get will be safer than ever before. But I’ve learned in further research that racoons are highly attracted to ducks. They have never gone after the chickens when there were no ducks on the property. I haven’t seen racoon scat since Lady went to live with Lance. Is it worth attracting them back to the property to try to raise ducks again?
This year the answer is no. As much as I like them and as much fun as they are to have around, it’s not a risk I’m ready to take again. And hopefully I will be able to hold firm on that choice when the little quackers show up in the feed store again being all fluffy and adorable. Maybe next year I’ll be ready to give it a try again.