Skittish ducks and other notes

skittish ducks

Apologies for no recent blog updates – Rach and I got married on Sunday and this has taken up much of our time. We were very fortunate with the weather with a beautiful day at The Briars in Mt Martha and magnificent friends and family to share the day.

 The ducklings continue to grow and develop. Still located at our property in Frankston, they are almost full-sized now. As they’ve aged and become more distinct with their feathering, it seems as though we have two distinct groups of ducks – and we’re starting to think that maybe we didn’t get a batch of ten Khaki Campbells X Pekin.

One of the problems that I’ve found is that we seem to have rather skittish ducks. Now, I wouldn’t have found that to be a particularly big deal previously but their behaviour is fast making my life rather difficult.

Our two ducks that we’ve had for some time (Tonks and Niffler) aren’t overly friendly, but will come to Rach or I when there is food available. They’re also happy to wander about and follow us – provided there is a metre or two between us.

However this new batch of skittish ducks are almost suicidal! They will do anything to maintain a large distance from me, and this is making it difficult to put them away at night.

While I would be able to simply put a bucket of food in the coop for other birds, these ducks seem to enjoy jumping on each other and running in a pack. They don’t seem to care if walls are in the way, and will leap at anything and everything.

To get all ten into the coop at night, I need to pack the food and water in, and gently shepherd the flock into the coop. Usually this can take about ten or fifteen minutes though. For some reason, they seem to enjoy running into the electric fencing (at least it’s not currently turned on).

Of course this leads into one of the first mistakes that I made raising these birds

My most major mistake raising skittish ducks

While I’m sure that I’ve made quite a few minor mistakes, there is one clear blunder that has caused me problems ever since making it.

I moved the ducklings outside too soon.

While there are many sources detailing the risks of taking the ducklings outside a bit early (they can get cold and die, because they’re unable to look after themselves) I really needed to move them out. Having ten large ducklings inside the house – and in the same room that Rach was making her wedding dress – was a recipe for disaster. Something had to give, and the ducklings were it. At five weeks of age they went outside.

I wouldn’t have moved them outside if the weather was cold, but fortunately Melbourne had been experiencing some great warm weather. So I felt almost as though it was destiny that they would be moved out early.

No, the issue hasn’t been their health per se. The problem is that I introduced the ducklings to the fencing too early. I had acquired some electric poultry netting Starternet from Allsun Farms. I made the mistake believing that the birds wouldn’t try and get through the netting when they were small, because there was plenty of fresh grass, food, water and shelter accessible in their area. Alas! They tried and succeeded in penetrating the Starternet several times.

As a result of their early experiences, the ducklings have continued to try and get through the Starternet – even though they’re now far too big and fat. This means that I need to untangle a distressed bird, and this is no fun for the duckling or me! My fear is that this tendency to try and penetrate the electric fencing could end in disaster, with birds injured or even killed. I’m working on methods to discourage this behaviour including placing solid objects behind the fencing and expanding the fenced area. I’m also working with the fencing design to relax the birds. This might sound like a strange concept, but if there are fewer corners to the fence, the ducklings feel less trapped and are therefore less likely to attempt to jump through the fence!

Considering all of the obstacles raised, one has to look on the bright side. At least with such skittish ducks, they should be safe from predators!

5 thoughts on “Skittish ducks and other notes

  1. Bernie Peeler says:

    Hi Matt. Great blog. A couple of inexpensive suggestions with fencing which we have tried with small critters that wanted to escape through mesh – 1) gutter guard (The cheap stuff from Bunnings acts as a good low fence. 2) Shade cloth inside your existing fence will stop almost any bird.
    Oh – and thanks so much for having us at your wedding. A lovely day. I still have wiped the smile off my face!

    • Matt Taylor says:

      Thanks Bernie – it’s all a work in progress but hopefully we can share some of what we’re doing and even save some people some mistakes!

      Both of those ideas sound good. Do you think that it’s worth making an additional temporary fence made of either on the inside of the electric fence? The electric fence will need to be turned on soon as the duckies are too big and loud for domestic premises!

      I’m glad that you could all make it down for our wedding, Bernie. It was a lovely day, and the company even better!

    • Matt Taylor says:

      Bernie – an update.

      The ducks are now fully grown and have stopped trying to get through the fencing unless it’s sagging down and they just accidentally fall through it. I’m moving the ducks to the farm this week, so we’ll see how they go there but I’ve got your ideas at the ready if they should try and run through the fence again.

      I’m planning on making sure the fence is relatively tight so that it doesn’t sag, and I should be able to achieve this using tent pegs and some cords. We shall see if it works – exciting times!

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