The daily routine of a duck-keeper


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