Chickens & Ducks

The daily routine of a duck-keeper

a bookish baker

It’s early. I open the back door and breathe in that fresh, early morning air. Up the steps I nip, across the lawn and out the back gate into the field. I can hear them already. They’re not quacking as such, it’s more of a murmured quack.

A wack-wack-wack rather than the louder quack-quack-QUACK.

I open the door to their run, then drop down their front door. Sometimes they’re jumping up at the door, trying to get out of the small heart shaped window above it, and as I open the door out they drop. One, two, three. In their haste, in their exuberance, yippee!, they fall over, but quickly recover and at top speed they’re out of their run.

Like me, they’re overjoyed to be out in the fresh air. They walk along in the grass, shake their tails and…


Yep, all three make rude noises as they empty their bowels. It’s the child in me but I laugh every time.

As I make my way over to the new chicken area, to tend to their demands, the ducks make their way, through the open gate, into the garden. Since our fox attack a few months ago when one of the four ducks was taken, they now like to be nearer the house. That’s fine with me. As long as they don’t sit by the back patio doors. I’ve put a temporary duck block up to stop them from doing it. Why? Because ducks are messy. In fact, messy is too tame a word.

Ducks are absolutely filthy.

For a bird that spends a large part of its day preening you’d think they would have a bit of pride.

But no. They sit in their own poop. Where they sit, there is poop. Where they swim, there is poop.

Anyway. If I’ve let them out particularly early they may not have laid their egg yet in the duck house. Yesterday, one was so excited to be out she laid it on the path as she scurried into the garden. There’s a dint in it where the shell hit the hard ground.

They don’t sit there like chickens do. Some chickens can be in the nesting box for simply ages. But ducks? Well, there will be more murmured wack-wack-wacking as the duck makes a temporary nest in the garden. Often as not it’s in my lavender. They have a thing for scented plants. It used to be in the rosemary but I’ve stopped them going there for the time being because of some rare orchids growing; which I just know they would eat.

By the time I’ve come back from the chickens there’s a bright, white egg, sitting next to the lavender and the duck has run off. She really isn’t bothered. They just lay and run.

But at least if it’s there by the lavender she hasn’t had chance to poop all over it, like the eggs in the duck house. I told you, they’re filthy.

They love fresh water in their plastic pond. They love to come and drink the water whilst I’m filling it up, and they wait, not very patiently, until I turn the hose on them. A fine spray of water which they try and drink in mid air. They flap their wings, give themselves a preen. Again, they drink, any small puddle on the ground will do, they love to drink.

Drink, poop, swim, preen, sleep.

Oh and hunt for slugs. They’re amazing slug hunters. If I’m gardening they’ll come and hang around me. Not too close, they still don’t trust me, but they’re waiting. It’s challenging for me to find slugs now; the duck-gardeners are doing such a good job. But then I find a snail. I throw it to them, wondering what they’ll do about the shell.

Turns out, they’re not fussed about the shell. It all goes in their beak, the entire thing, the other two ducks now chasing the prizewinner, wanting to get their own beaks on the slimy prize.

When dusk creeps up on us, the ducks hang around their duck house. They’re so well trained now. Since we’ve had them from ducklings, we’ve always locked them up at night. They don’t automatically do this, like a chicken. But they can be trained. I lift up my arm in front of me, like a dalek, and herd them into their run. They scurry in. If there’s fresh bedding they’re delighted and shake their tails in appreciation.

Ducks are simple creatures. Simple and filthy. But a lot of fun.

Morning routine from Helen || a bookish baker on Vimeo. Music: Sláinte ‘She moved through the fair”.

embracing slow living

duck keeping, ducks

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  • Reply Elizabeth

    1. Very jealous that you have ducks (we would love some but aren’t allowed in our current rented property).
    2. Your ducks are so cute!
    3. Have just found your blog and love it!

    30th June 2016 at 6:40 pm
    • Reply Helen Redfern

      Thank you, Lizzie. That is so very kind of you to say. :)

      1st July 2016 at 7:59 am
  • Reply Gemma Garner

    Your ducks sound like real characters! Lovely video :)

    30th June 2016 at 6:42 pm
    • Reply Helen Redfern

      Thanks, Gemma. I can see (and hear) the ducks as I write this. They’re rooting around in the grass. So funny to watch!

      1st July 2016 at 7:59 am
  • Reply CJ

    Wonderful, I need something that eats slugs and snails. They look so happy in their pond, and I love the video, nicely done.

    30th June 2016 at 9:56 pm
    • Reply Helen Redfern

      Thanks, CJ. Ducks are so good at the snail and slugs bit. Totally worth the mess they make!

      1st July 2016 at 7:58 am
  • Reply Amelia May

    This is so wonderful to read! the joys of country life…the video makes it even more lovely. Xx

    Keep Calm and start writing –

    30th June 2016 at 11:46 pm
  • Reply Sarah @ Say Little Hen

    I love ducks! I had some for a short while, but the place I purchased them from didn’t seem to have a healthy bloodline. They all perished between 12-24 months old, I have no idea why. I’ve talked to other people and their healthy ducks have been brought up from south. There are a lot of dodgy poultry breeders in my local area :-)
    I dream of a flock of Pekins or Appleyards waddling about an orchard – a very large grassy orchard as they are indeed very messy!

    I loved this post, as always :-)

    Sarah x

    1st July 2016 at 12:43 pm
    • Reply Helen Redfern

      Thank you, Sarah! Yes there is something rather lovely about seeing the ducks, always in a row, waddling around. I’d love to get some indian runner ducks.

      11th July 2016 at 9:33 am
  • Reply driftwood

    oh they’re so funny! love them x

    1st July 2016 at 6:47 pm
  • Reply Sara Ward

    Love this, fab film too… Very jealous – would love ducks!

    2nd July 2016 at 9:51 am
  • Reply H

    I am new to your blog but I am absolutely loving it and this post was amazing!

    10th July 2016 at 12:04 pm
    • Reply Helen Redfern

      Thank you so much, H!

      11th July 2016 at 9:27 am
  • Reply Penny

    They sound like real characters! X

    10th July 2016 at 8:29 pm
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