Back a few months ago, Mollie became broody, she often does, but this time I decided to leave her with a few eggs, including three duck eggs from our Indian Runners and Pekins. The ducks had been vigilantly sitting for a month, but the eggs went bad and after I checked by candling, shining a light through the egg shells, sadly none were fertile or hatched. But one seemed it might have a fertile spot…under Mollie it went!
For 30 days Mollie and me had a routine. Once a day I would lift Mollie off her nest, plonk her down a few metres away near food and water and splash her hot broody face to get her to drink. After having eaten and drank copious amounts of water, I would leave Mollie squawking, puffed up and running madly about on her toes, colliding with the other hens and leaving a huge poop that honestly was nuclear and so smelly, everyone would end up with their noses tingling! A broody poop is unique and immediately had to be removed and disposed of. Meanwhile I would clean the nest, turn the eggs, wetting the duck egg to encourage humidity. Duck mother’s swim, and the eggs get a steamy atmosphere, but Mollie doesn’t do swimming.
At 26 days, pottering about the coop, I had to look twice…babies! Pea and Peach had hatched. I felt faint, breathless and now hugely responsible. I spent the rest of the morning checking the little coop garden for gaps, putting trays of baby mash down, low water bowls with a tile in, so no chick could drown. Mollie looked very happy, proud and even puffier. We did the usual routine but this time the babies yelled and quickly Mollie returned, but let me tend to the babies nevertheless. I felt hugely honoured.
One baby was smaller..I named her Pea. Her sister became Peach. I knew they were girls from their tiny combs and wing shapes. The other eggs three were down to one. Mollie had actually pushed two out of the nest and they were bad. One remained. I decided to give that egg another week and then for Mollies sake, take it away. Over the next five days the chick’s were restless and busy exploring, hiding in mums feathers, standing on her and sleeping. I was allowed to hold them.
Then Dottie appeared. At first I had to look twice. Was it a duckling? It was! It looked like a Pekin duck, so that meant Winston was a dad. I had moved Winston to live with Chesyer and Oliver. He was very boisterous and damaging the girls feathers, plus I didn’t want any risk to little Dottie. But I announced the news and its funny that now grown, Dottie actually has the same forehead slope to her dad!
After the initial week of me fussing around them, Mollie and her family headed out into the garden, mum was vigilant and showed them how to preen, peck for grubs and dustbath. Dottie didn’t get any of it and wanted to paddle. Mollie looked very disapproving as I carefully showed Dottie how to swim. After a few minutes, mother hen announced playtime was over and time for bed. The days became weeks and the little gang grew, accept Pea. She lagged behind Peach by half. I worried but with the right food, she was healthy. Dottie slowly went from egg yolk yellow to white and wouldnt let her sisters out of her sight.
Being a duck had some difficulties. For one she could perch. At bedtime Dottie got very agitated but found her place within sight of her siblings. The hens didn’t swim, so Dottie didn’t either. The hens didn’t dig in mud, neither did Dottie. Mollie eventually grew tired of her brood and moved out. In fact she was quite aggressive with them, but it gave them a swift, sharp lesson in independence, accept for this huge two legged muma still fussed. Dottie had no idea she was a duck, but no one seemed to mind.
Each morning Dottie, up at duck 6am, waits for Pea and Peach, quacking loudly. Once up, they all head into the orchard with Rudi and his hens, with the other ducks and the geese, Pip, Bonnie and Bumble. At midday they all snooze in the long grass. Mid afternoon more swimming, bug hunting and meeting the other flocks of chickens and geese. Then at 6pm, Pea and Peach head to bed. Dottie seems at a loose end and finally sits with the other ducks, but as the sun sets, she is tucked up in the coop and keeping a guarding eye on the hens. It’s a happy family.
As I write Pea has grown, but is still small. The strangest thing though is that mum and dad chickens are cous-nous, naked necksbut Pea and Peach have no sign of this. I don’t know why, or did I muddle some eggs from the other hens. No matter, they are perfect to me. Pea loves me to pick her up and swing her through the air making weeeeee noises. If I don’t, within a few moments Pea is pecking my foot and chirrupping. I can’t resist and coop cleaning is on hold for a while. I adore these three little souls, so precious and I feel blessed. ♡