After a couple of raccoon attacks a couple of months ago left us with just one adult duck, we placed an order at the feed store for four more Khaki Campbells. They are champ layers; they lay an egg a day every day year-round, while the chickens dry up in the winter.
Ducks are also pretty messy, and not particularly friendly, but they get us through the winter so we put up with them.
Anyway, we currently have a broody hen. This is moderately annoying and in the past we’ve had success in breaking their broodiness by giving them eggs or chicks. Last summer we had three broody at the same time and we got them six chicks and put two under each. One got out of the nest and died, but the remaining five chicks were very happy with their three moms, who they all shared.
So, we have a broody hen, and we have ducklings coming and we’re tired of brooding poultry in the house, so … hmmm.
We put the ducklings under the hen in the middle of the day today, which is not ideal, but they did seem to bond. The ducklings snuggled right up under her fuzzy butt and went to sleep. Later when they were exploring the coop, and I reached for one, Mama Hen pecked at me with serious authority. So it seemed like it was going well.
However, as the ducklings started to range a little bit further away, and she tried to call them back, I realized the major flaw: they don’t speak Hen. She was saying “hey, don’t go so far away, get back here,” and they didn’t realize it. (I have seen hens do the same thing for chicks, and the chicks definitely understand.) She was very flustered by her inability to round them up and get them back into the nest; they were oblivious.
Eventually she got tired of it, apparently, and went back to her nest on the top tier of the nest boxes — which was another issue; they couldn’t get back up there and she didn’t want to use the nest box we prepared for her on the floor. We put a heat lamp for the ducklings and wondered if she’d come down to them later, but she didn’t. We didn’t want to leave them out all night without her, so we brought them inside into the laundry room, which is our traditional brooding room.
Bummer; it would have been a lot easier to have her raise them for us. But it was worth a try, and we got some super cute pictures out of it.