Experiences: Ducks and Guineas by Bette Bonnet

After living on our little farm for several years and trying to raise a bit of everything, I decided it would be fun to have a pair of ducks. We have a small pond which I thought they would share with the rest of the livestock- five calves, 14 goats, three pigs and many cats.

So I purchased a pair from the elderly blind lady down the road. It turned out they were two females. We didn't know that, so we came home and proceeded to build them a little house with a fenced yard to keep them in until they became used to the place. We bought all the necessities: straw for the floor, plywood for the house, chicken wire for their temporary yard and of course, cracked corn for them to eat.

The big moment arrived for us to put them in their finished house, so we opened their box and turned them loose in the pen.

Off they went! One went under the fence, the other took off over the top. So much for our well-built house and pen. And those ducks were gone.

About three days later my husband came running into the house to tell me he had seen one of the ducks walking down the road about half a mile away. Off I went with the crab net to try to retrieve at least one.

When I got there I found both, and brought them home one at a time. I put them in the house, not in the yard.

After several days we decided they were familiar enough with their surroundings to be free to roam. At least they knew where the feed was.

They stayed around several weeks. Then we lost one to a fox (we think). The other one decided to live in the chicken house porch, which is a screened-in part of the big chicken house. (We have a Hilton-type chicken house here, which is what convinced us to buy this property in the first place, but that's another story.)

The porch can be closed off from the chickens so the remaining duck had her own place. She proceeded to lay eggs...one a day. That convinced me we needed a drake.

There was no problem settling him in! He took one look at the screened-in porch and the pretty female and he was there to stay.

After much head nodding and other means of showing his masculinity, they settled down to raise a family. Twelve eggs and she was ready to set. He, meanwhile, lost interest, and was content to wander around the barnyard.

Exactly 21 days later there were 12 fluffy muscovy ducklings on the porch. Of the 12, one didn't survive, but the others thrived.

Meanwhile, my daughter felt sorry for me because I wanted ducks and didn't have any. (We don't communicate too well.) She brought me four of her mallard ducklings.

I went from famine to feast. Ducks all over the place. As of this writing, mother duck is again sitting on a nest, somewhere in the barn this time, and one of the mallards is also sitting somewhere close by.

Funny though: none of them ever go near the pond. It is quite a distance from the house and barn, and since there is a full plastic wading pool available in the yard, they seem happy with that. They are amusing to watch and follow us around like little people, quacking as they go. The muscovies don't quack, but the others make up for it!

Don't ask me what we're going to do with all those ducks. I can kill chickens for meat without a qualm, but ducks are another story. They have personalities chickens lack!

We have another bird glut on our farm. I bought four guinea fowl, and discovered one sitting on a nest of 24 eggs! Having heard that guineas make terrible mothers, I removed all but six of the eggs and put them under a broody hen.

The same day the broody hen hatched hers, the mother guinea came proudly up the driveway with the other six. I kept the 18 in the chicken house withe the hen for a week or so while the guinea had the rest.

Who said they weren't good mothers? She attacked me when I tried to get close to see her family. So I kept my distance and watched them grow.

When I finally let the others out of the chicken house with the mother hen, she abandoned them completely and went off with the other chickens. But before a day had gone by, the guineas had all banded together and were all one big happy family.

So now I not only have 17 ducks and who knows how many more about to hatch, but there are 21 (I think) guineas keeping the bug populating down in my garden. (I can never count them accurately since they are too fast.) I've read that guineas will also keep the tick population down, so I will share mine with my daughters, who both have heavy tick populations in their areas.

If another guinea hen sits on a nest, she can have all the eggs to hatch, all by herself.

I've heard guineas are good to eat too, but I don't think I could catch them.

Note from the Countryside Editors: There seems to be some differences of opinion or experience here. We have seen guinea hens lead their broods off through grass wet with morning dew and never look back. The keets get chilled and die. Others get left behind in rough terrain while the hen continues her search for bugs, showing no concern for her brood. This type of behavior seems to be the norm, so maybe your hen is above average.

The 24 eggs in the one nest can probably be explained by two or more hens using the same nest.

When you get 20 or more guineas squawking their heads off from the treetops, you'll probably be eager to find out what they taste like. The only guineas we have ever eaten were killed with a .22 rifle... and they were delicious.

Countryside Magazine W11564 Hwy 64 Withee, WI 54498

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