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Everyone needs a few ducks

Buff ducks after a long hard winter

Ducks were the first poultry to enter my life, those 4 mixed breed ducklings back when I was 8. They started it all. It will be 50 years this next year and I can still remember them as if it were yesterday. They were cute, attention seeking and rapidly became my pets. Then suddenly one morning when they were about 8 weeks old a weasel (which we had a lot of in Idaho) took all in one slaughter. He got thru a hole smaller than a quarter. Thus began a life of dealing with predators and an expanding poultry flock. I had to wait until the next spring to get more and had a year to fix the building and trap predators.That next year there were 10 some pure breeds and away it went.

Ducks have a lot of qualities for poultry that are often over looked. The general public tends to be biased towards chickens and while I do like chickens, and all other poultry ducks just have away of making a person relax. They enjoy life so much and give them a puddle of water and some greens and they will be as happy as can be. Yes, they are messy but they make up for it in many ways. Anyone that takes the time just to watch them in the yard or playing in water can easily see how life can be so pleasant and free from strife and stress. One of the most enjoyable experiences students have in my classes is the duckling imprinting project. I have more students take College Biology and endure long hours of grueling work just for that 2 week time in the spring semester when they each get a day old duckling to care for for 2 weeks.

Duck breeds are not all the same. One has to appreciate the spastic nature of Khaki Campbell's with their nervousness and always on the go mentality. Call ducks and Australian Spotted are just plain cute and adorable but too talkative for some. Pekins, well they were created for meat but still can be great layers. Each and every breed of duck has its own qualities and traits that make it the best for something. I always recommend people get assortments to start out with so they can find the breed that fits their own personal duck "goals". My long time favorite for those who want a pet is the Buff duck, closely followed by the White Crested. Golden Buff Cascades make good layers and are more relaxed. Dark Campbell's are less hyper than their close Khaki cousins. Who can hold back a laugh when you see about 50 Runner ducks heading all in one direction.

For whatever purpose you have ducks can fill that poultry niche. They can lay eggs just as well as a chicken, make a good meat bird, ( especially if you like dark meat as I do). They are the best at cleaning up a garden in the fall for bugs and garden waste. The amount of snails an slugs they can eat is amazing. Last but surely not least they are great for exercise as you clean their pen the waste is excellent garden fertilizer. No animal can make a happier noise than when a flock of ducks has discovered you have cleaned their sleeping quarters and they have fresh dry bedding.

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I really love ducks. They make great hand-warmers in freezing weather carrying one around while doing chores on the place. Unfortunately, I could never have privacy with ducks on the place. No matter where I tried to hide, they would find me, and tell all their friends where I was. And demand attention and treats! Chickens are just easier, and don't look at me the way a duck can (all of the duck breeds I used to keep would guilt me into doing their bidding) or make messes of every place water happens. I can enjoy the wild ducks, swans and geese that occupy the acreage without having them crawl up into my lap if I have a seat under…

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