That was supposed to be a duck and update portmanteau, but I fear that I may have just created a new reality tv show. The last time I shared photos of the ducks, they were creepy little dinosaurs, half covered in down, half in normal feathers, and growing rapidly. Things have since settled down and life is easier in Duckingham Palace. Well, mostly. So we have 5 ducks. 2 of them are 2 weeks older than the other 3.
A L’Orange (male): This one was initially my favorite. He’s huge, ballsy, fairly friendly with me, and has this incredible iridescent black on his entire back. But now he’s a jerk. He is definitely the leader of the flock, but he’s like Lenin. He rules with an iron fist. I was feeding the ducks some scraps of lettuce the other night, and he bit one of the females on the back right between her wings and wouldn’t let go, even when she was squawking. I had to flick him in the neck to get him to let go. Jerk.
Ina (female): She thinks that I am satan. Every time I pick her up, she shakes. So I’ve stopped picking her up, and I’m trying to gain her trust in more sneaky ways. Primarily by luring her over to me when I am feeding snacks. She is appreciably larger than the 3 younger ducks, so I assume that her and A L’Orange’s mother was much bigger than the mom of the 3 younger duckies. As she gets older, the brown barring on her chest should smooth out to the blue color seen on the rest of her feathers.
Alison (female): This one was my favorite the day that I brought them home, but then she quickly fell out of favor when she wouldn’t stop peeping. Since then, she has really caught my eye. She is reserved, gentle, and fairly polite. Unfortunately, she lets the other ducks push her around and pick on her (she’s the one that the bully duck bit) Her coloring is interesting. It’s similar to Ina’s, but she has a pretty white apron thing going on.
And then there’s the twinsies, Confit and Martha (male & female): They were both white/yellow when we first got them, but have since developed a really beautiful black and white barring. Based on my research, after a molt, they will probably only retain the barring on their bellies, and the rest of their feathers will grow in as solid black. The main way to tell the two apart is their size. Confit (the male) is about 50% larger than the other 2 young-uns, and also a hair darker than Martha.
OK, so now that you know who is what and you’ve seen current photos of them, I can tell you the rest.
The rodent: I think I have some sort of rodent living in my pen. I’ve seen a series of burrows tunneling OUT of the enclosure. I keep filling them in with rocks and whatnot, and I haven’t been able to find a creature, but we shall see. Hopefully lifting the feeder off the ground will help reduce the ease of food acquisition. Either way, the ducks don’t seem bothered by it, I haven’t seen evidence of any damage to them, so at this point it’s just a small pest.
The pond: Ooof. The ducks make this thing so disgusting that even THEY won’t go in it after 3-4 days. It’s a 125 gallon pond. That’s a LOT of water to drain and refill every 3 days. I have started only filling it to the bottom level and letting them use the stepback as a preening spot. They seem to be enjoying it, and I prefer using less than half the water.
The sexes: I initially had a great deal of stress about determining who is male and who is female. I have literally hours sunk into research. And you know what? None of it was helpful! The only thing that I can effectively use is their voices once mature! The females make a sort of twirring noise, kind of like a high pitched combination of a cat’s purr and a bird’s cheep. It’s actually really cute. They do it when they’re excited that I brought them some lettuce/weeds/kale to eat. The males make a raspy hissy sound. Kind of like I’d imagine a heavy smoker would sound like if they were panting. It’s less cute, but a good way to tell the difference. Which brings me to my next point.
The slaughter: We are going to kill the males. Based on a huge pile of drama on a facebook muscovy duck group in which I got called a “Sadistic Twat,” people are really upset at the idea of eating what has historically been a meat bird, which… whatever. I took a poultry processing class earlier this year to see if it was something that I could stomach. It is. Shortly after the class, I was still processing my emotions about taking a life. Months later, I have come to terms with reality. I’m not vegan. I’m not vegetarian. I’m not interested in being either of those things. What it comes down to, is that animals are going to die so that I can eat them. Chickens from the grocery store have awful lives. And their deaths? Equally awful. They’re full of fear. It’s not a good situation for them. So, by raising and eating at least a few of my own animals(happy, healthy, and respectfully harvested), I am effectively reducing the number of chickens that experience that. These ducks are livestock to me, not pets. And males do not provide a service to me. I prefer not to have siblings breeding, I am not prepared to hatch out ducklings just yet, and males don’t lay eggs. They also rape female ducks. There is no reason for me to keep them around, and there are a few really juicy and flavorful reasons to slaughter them. So that’s what we are doing. I have 2 males, and my coworker and I are going to respectfully slaughter them in a few weeks. It’s going to be sad. But it’s also part of the circle of life. And depending on how this slaughter goes, we may see about raising several broiler chickens next spring for the freezer.