The Awkward Teenage Years

Once the ducks grew to full size, I forgot they’re really still very young. We’ve had them for just over two months, and they’re still three to five months from producing a single egg. They’re sort of like Tom Hanks in Big: appearing full-grown, but actually nowhere near mature.

So while they’ve avoided orthodontia and Clearasil, there are some tell-tale signs that their duck bodies are… changing. Their sweet and constant peeping has turned into full-on quacking, which initially scared all of them when one would let loose, unexpectedly, with a deep-throated adult quack. And lately their sleek chests, which seemed fully covered in adult feathers, have started looking mangy, as what I believe to be their underlying fluffy baby feathers have started working their way through the adult feathers and onto our lawn.

They spend an inordinate amount of time every night grooming themselves, after which our lawn looks like there was a cougar attack on a chicken ranch.

And their new favorite nesting spot under our deck during hot summer days not only has laid- and nibbled-on hostas, but enough feathers to make ourselves some down mattresses. Or at least pillows.

Of course, I’m guessing that they’re just molting during their awkward teenage years. My duck books say nothing about this teenage molting. Just like the books made no mention of why, when their wing feathers were coming in, both Sophia and Diamond bled from their feather tips down their sides in a Walking Dead display that made me, for the first time, question the wisdom of backyard ducks.

I’m bracing myself for them to ask for the car keys.

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4 thoughts on “The Awkward Teenage Years

  1. We have a large and a small pond on our property, with ducks coming and going. How do you keep ducks from flying off? Do some types of ducks lay better eggs for eating? And one last question, have you had to do anything to protect the ducks from predators? (We have coyotes in our area.)

    • Hi, Lili: We’re pretty new at this, so I’m not an expert, but I’ll tell you what we’re doing. First, I’m jealous of your ponds! We fill a baby pool for the girls, and a pond would be a lot nicer! Our ducks are young, but we’re going to clip their wings, which is really just giving the outer feathers of one wing a cut — like a haircut. They can’t fly yet, but are practicing constantly, so it won’t be long. I don’t know about the quality of eggs, but the quantities differ by weight. The lightweights, like our two Khaki Campbells, can lay from 250 – 330 eggs per year per duck. The middleweights, like our two Blue Swedish, are more like 100 – 150 eggs per year per duck. This is all book knowledge, as we haven’t seen a single egg yet and won’t until they’re five to seven months old. And yes, I’m very paranoid about the predators. The ducks are in a coop that has hardware cloth on the bottom and a window high enough (and also covered by hardward cloth) that a raccoon can’t reach in and grab them. The coop is in a fenced enclosure that has netting (to keep hawks away) on top. During the day, they can run in our yard, which is just a backyard in a 1/4-acre suburban lot. When we leave the house for a while during the day, we close them in the enclosure. At night, we lock them in their coop. There are a lot of raccoons and possoms around us, and we’ve had some coyote sightings, but so far those measures have kept the ducks safe. They’ve been a lot of fun so far!

  2. “How do you keep ducks from flying off? ” Most of the Mallard derived domestic ducks don’t truly fly in the sense that wild birds do. Selective breeding for meat and aesthetic value has developed a bird with a diminished flight wing. They can get a little off the ground for short distances but that is about it. The Muscovy is the only domestic that I know of that can truly fly because it is not descended from Mallard stock.

    • Thanks so much for that, Sarah! We knew we didn’t need to clip this year’s Pekins, but assumed we’d need to do the rest. That’s great that we might not need to. Thanks again!

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