Ducklings Make Themselves at Home

Another story of life at Sage Hen Farm
by the creator of Henderson's Handy Dandy Chicken Chart

Over the last few years, we've been happy to help out some friends with hatching projects. We have supplied them chicken eggs, and more recently with duck eggs, too. They hatch chicks or ducklings out in an incubator and watch them grow for several weeks. Since they live in a city that currently does not allow the raising of poultry, the young birds then "come home" to the farm.

Recently our friends made a trip out to the farm with four chicks and six ducklings. The chicks joined the cohort of differently aged chicks in one horse stall in our horseless barn and were accepted immediately. They will remain inside for safety until they get bigger. The ducklings were given a new home in a different stall. Since the ducklings are almost full sized, they are now allowed to free range outside. They spent a week in the stall, mostly so they could learn where they belonged at night. I also introduced one of our older ducks, a Cayuga Black that has always been a loner, into the stall. I hoped that if they had a week to spend together, they might bond. The older duck might provide some guidance, and the ducklings might give her company. I opened the stall door on a weekend day that we would be home to observe them. They didn't go far their first day, and they proved they had the right instinct by heading back to the stall before it got dark. During the day, the Cayuga Black ignored then, but she did choose to spend the night with them in the same stall. By the next day, the ducklings started expanding their exploration of their new world. They met our other older ducks, our three turkeys, and at least some of our hens and roosters. With some steering by me a few days later, they waddled up to our pond. Because we have had so much rain recently, many sections of our lawn are water-soaked, and they have prefered those spots to the pond.

ducklings in the grass
In the tall grass.

ducklings by the pond
At the pond.

ducklings on the pond
Still at the edges.

ducklings feeding
Feeding outside.

ducklings with rooster
Feeding time becomes
an interspecies encounter.

The other day, when we came home from the Trumansburg Farmers Market, we noticed some dark, somewhat downy feathers in the driveway that we hadn't noticed before. Concerned that the feathers were evidence of a predator attack while we were gone, I looked for other signs of dead, worried, or injured birds, and did an immediate inventory of the flock. At the creekI found nothing amiss. The chickens, turkeys, and ducks seemed to be in full complement. No, I realized in an immediate second thought, the new ducklings were missing. I checked and double checked the barn, garage, pond, and farm, but I saw no sign of ducklings until I walked along the creek where I had never seen them before, and, ah, ha, there they were, splashing the creek in the shade of an overhanging branch of an old willow tree. No predator. On the pond.All was well. They were simply enjoying themselves in just the kind of place that I might have spent as a kid on an evening when my mother was wondering where I was.

Since dark was approaching, however, and I wasn't positive the ducklings had figured out that they were supposed to go into the barn for the night every night, I tried to encourage them to leave their idyllic spot and head home. I crossed to the other side of the creek and approached them from the rear. The bank was pretty steep, but eventually they found a low spot, scooted up and headed in the right direction. I followed them from a short distance, and once they got close to the barn, they even seemed to speed up. Good ducks.

Over the years, we have had numerous breeds of ducks, including Pekin, Magpie, Khaki Campbell, Runner, Swedish, and Cayuga Black. All of the ducklings, and almost all of our older ducks, currently, are mixed breed.

This page written and maintained by John R. Henderson [jrhenderson9@]. Last modified on June 18, 2015.