With an eventful summer break and then the hurried nature of the start of a new school year, I have neglected recording and reporting the development of my duck family. So, with great anticipation, I bring you new duck details! Last I posted in June, I was still incubating my new eggs. All three hatched and I managed a few Facebook posts (friends and family who follow my Facebook page can skip down for more recent duck dialogue):
June 13th--Ducklings 3 and 4 hatched during the night so I didn't get to witness them, but it made for a nice morning surprise to see two more babies in the incubator. All three have been moved to the brooder and are drying out and resting. Total count: 4 Anconas + 1 Rouen + Mama & Papa "duck" = 1 duck family! Pictures to come later...Ben and I are out for the day.
June 15th--My three new babies discover water tonight!
By the end of July we were done traveling. My last post to Facebook went like this:
July 21st--I am happy to announce I have named my older two ducks now that I'm fairly confident of their sexes! Introducing Fezzik and Fonce!
And that brings us to the present! Here is my flock as of today...
My older ducks' names (Fezzik and Fonce) were explained above in my final Facebook post, but I had yet to name the younger three. I had to wait for a while to allow their quacks to develop to determine their sexes. Because the Ancona breed came from Great Britian, I felt it appropriate to name my younger ducks accordingly. Sergeant Pepper was the first to hatch of the three. At first he was a very bold little duckling, but has morphed into a more docile, submissive baby. His black and white coloring made me think of pepper and thus his name! Abbey (as in the Beattle's Abbey Road Album) is my only other female duck. She is a very vocal young lady and has no problem putting the male ducks in their place. She was the second of the three to hatch and her coloring is chocolate. Finally, Hugh (yes, as in Hugh Laurie because I have, I don't know...an obsession with the man? And it was all too convenient that he's British!), the last to hatch of the three and the smallest in size, at least initially. I was concerned about Hugh during his early days because his brother and sister picked on him regularly. But once I got the little ones outside, Hugh emerged a different duck...an adventurer, an independent boldly forging where no duckling forged before! Ever since then he holds his own and is now the largest of my five ducks, surpassing big boy Fezzik. The little coloring he has (compared to the rest of his family) is a strange mix of blue (gray) and perhaps chocolate? His coloring is somewhat like Fezzik's back, but retains a completely white breast. Fezzik's breast is a relatively rare color (or so my duck book says) called fawn.
While a rocky transition at first, all five ducks have been living in the duck run together. It was interesting how they came to be a cohesive flock versus the older ducks constantly "discipling" the younger ducks. We had a thunderstorm come through our area one day and the thunder startled the ducks enough to make them huddle together for safety. Since then, the older ducks have stopped regularly picking on the younger which finally allowed their pecking order to be established. For those who have met my ducks, there is no question who sits at the top of the pecking order...Fonce retains that position with her faithful Fezzik just below her. The third and fourth positions are still in limbo as Abbey and Hugh seem to be of equal authority. Perhaps in adulthood one will emerge higher than the other. Lowest on the pecking order is definitely Sergeant Pepper. He does not get picked on all the time, nor does he instigate conflict. He sticks to himself and remains the shyest to take treats from my hand.
At 6-8 months, ducks reach sexual maturity. I am very concerned about this period in their development because I understand males can become very aggressive. Having three males and two females spells trouble when a ratio of 3-5 females to 1 male is the recommendation! I will have to monitor them closely to make sure everybody remains happy, otherwise I'll have to separate them. Fezzik, as the oldest male, recently started doing a weird honk/whistle thing...like he has something caught in his throat and is attempting to dislodge it. He kind of ruffles up his feathers a bit, stands tall on his feet, straightens his back and arches his neck as he does his honk/whistle thing. I was concerned so I looked it up on-line. I discovered, from other concerned duck owners, that it is a mating call! It is hysterical because it reminds me of a boy going through puberty and his voice cracks. Having learned this, I am scrutinizing Fezzik for overly aggressive behavior towards the other ducks, particularly my little girls.