Over the past year I have come to respect and not judge all those people who have a chicken running around the inside of their house wearing a diaper.
They are not weird.
They are not abnormal.
They just LOVE their chicken.
It starts innocently enough ... you bring home your peeping box of hatchlings. One becomes "the favorite". I'm not sure if it wants to be in your lap because you are always holding it or if it is a lap chicken. Nonetheless, one of those cuties ends up becoming the family dog. The next thing you know there's a full-blown hen on your couch and she's laying eggs in your laundry basket ...
Well, that's how I imagine it happens. I have never had a chicken living in my house.
BUT — I have had a house-duck.
You need one.
There was a duck in my house. It may seem odd that we had a duck running loose in our home.
When I would hear about people with chickens in their house, I tended to think they were freaks. No offense if you have a chicken running around in your home in a diaper. I get it now. I have joined freak-ville.
I got a duck. His name is Ping.
I got a call from my cousin right after we got ducks. She asked perfectly reasonable questions, for which I had no reasonable answers.
Cousin: "Hi. What are you doing?"
Me: "Playing with the ducks."
Cousin: "You have ducks?"
Cousin: "How many ducks do you have?"
Cousin: "Why did you get ducks?"
Me, hesitating: "Um ... because they were cute."
Cousin: "What are you going to do with them?"
Me, hesitating some more: "Um ... if they are girls, I guess we'll eat their eggs; if they're not girls, I guess ... well ... I guess we'll eat them."
My oldest daughter (Ping's person) declares from the background: "You are NOT eating PING!"
No, I do not intend to eat Ping. BUT, I also did not intend to eat Wayne, Teenyball, Gizmo, Curly, Red, Buff, Crazy, Chubby, or Dumpling, but I did.
If you turn into a Gangster Rooster, snort and stomp the ground, chase my kids around the house, or make my baby cry — you go in the stew pot.
I'm sure Ping would never do anything like that.
If you are on the fence about getting a duckling or two this spring, here are some pros and cons on ducks:
Sorry chicken lovers everywhere ... I wouldn't trade my hens in for the world. They give me eggs. They give me manure. They give me yard art. They give me entertainment. I love my chickens, but the ducks are cuter.
The quacking, the waddling, the swimming. Oh — precious! Since our ducks lived in our home for the first part of their lives, they are friendly.
The first time you get chickens it just seems like that first egg will never arrive. Ya know? You feed. You water. You shut up the coop for them. And 5 MONTHS LATER you may get an egg the size of a quarter.
You won't be twiddling your thumbs waiting for your ducks to grow up already. They will blossom before your eyes. The only animal I've ever seen grow this fast is a Cornish Rock Broiler (meat chicken).
I suppose if you wanted to raise something to eat, and you wanted to eat it in 4 weeks, and you didn't want chicken, a duck would fit the bill. (A little duck humor there.)
BUT we are not eating Ping. He is our first duck. He is our pet. We love him. Although we have been known to eat pets before. Sorry.
1. Water, Water, Water
Good grief. Give a duck a cup of water and he will make enough mud for 4 pigs. I don't know how they do it. The problem is that ducks HAVE to have water. Lots of it. If you are a duck, water is more than something to swim in. It is a nasal cleanser. It is a food helper. It keeps you clean. It keeps you infection-free. It is mandatory.
Ducks need water to stay healthy, but if you don't have a natural water source they can get to, it may be messy. If you have a pond, creek or stream, your ducks will be set. Piece of cake. If you plan to use kiddie pools and drinkers, you are in for a disaster. Whew!
Duck poop is a different animal from chicken poop. It's bigger. It's goopier. It's grosser.
Once again, this isn't an issue at all if you keep your ducks free-range. I don't even know where the duck poop is around our place. However, if you have your poultry in a run, ducks may ruin your life.
I think the bottom line is that ducks are fabulous if you have some water available and enough space for them to run around. You won't be filling pools, cleaning drinkers or cleaning up duck poop.
You'll have the cutest water foul waddling around your homestead being adorable.
More on ducks here:There's a Duck in My Sink
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