Botulism in Ducks ￼
Winter in Wisconsin is upon us again and I am ready!
The most important part of getting through winter is having all your ducks in a row. My preparing starts in fall before the snow flies.
Being prepared got use through last winter’s polar vortex with lots of straw, bucket heaters, extension cords and a milk house heater.
For me late October is when I start and that starts with the ducks and chickens themselves. First by adding cracked corn and scratch grains into their diet giving them a little extra fat insulation to keep warm. Second by giving everyone a health check, feet, feathers, bills and combs, making sure to send them into winter as healthy as possible and having time to deal with any issues I may find.
Then I start going down the check list:
Getting out bucket heaters and extension cords making sure they are in safe working order and replacing if needed. Snowblower checked out and ready, yes I have a snowblower for my run. Snow shovels out. Pond emptied and covered.
The ducks favorite part STRAW!! Stocking up, filling the feed shed full to get us through the whole winter! I do not want to be caught in the middle of winter or another polar vortex stretch without warm cozy straw.
Many others have the job of getting their coops ready but this is the first winter we don’t have to winterize with plywood and plastic. Yay! We built a new coop in spring using all the experiences and struggles learned in past to withstand any Wisconsin winter weather, keeping everybirdy warm and cozy.
Lastly, when the below freezing temperatures hit, hoses and kiddie pools get emptied and put away, only to come out on warmer sunny days or above freezing.
Winter is beautiful but trying. When the temperatures drop and the snow flies, everyday life begins to revolve around it. Being ready and having back up plans makes it easier to enjoy it’s beauty.
What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness. -John Steinbeck
I arrive home from work in the afternoon and see the Ducks already free ranging next to the house. A couple grazing on grass, a few taking a snooze under the picnic table and one standing on the deck in front of the patio door staring in waiting for hand outs. With a surprise tone I thanked my husband for letting them out. “Well I didn’t have a choice!” He says. “They saw me in the house and they lined up along the gate and screamed until I let them out.”
When I’m home they’re usually free to roam the yard but sometimes that is not the story and that’s when we become stealthy through the house. Avoiding being seen in the patio doors that face their run, like a scene from Mission Impossible, I can hear the song playing in my head. “Get away from the window!” Or “Don’t open the patio door the’ll hear it.” I’ve said to my husband. Sometimes when I get home I just need a minute or two in the house before I let the Ducks out but they know my car so it’s “MOM’S HOME! LET US OUT”! When they’re free ranging and I’ve been in the house too long the Ducks come looking for me or they have decide they want treats so they hop the two step of the deck, waddle up to the patio doors and I hear a tapping as their bills touch the glass and they begin echoing demanding quacks off the glass. If I ignore them they head for the front door. Hop the porch and try again.
Eventually my husband or I cave. Their cuteness wins us over and they get whatever they want and we reinforce bad habits but who wouldn’t want an adorable flock of ducks begging on their door step. And Don’t leave the doors open! They know were the kitchen is.
6:30am the sun is just starting to make an appearance. In my Pajamas I slip into my usual morning hobby farm attire, bathrobe, Muck boots, hat and gloves. I step outside and off the porch and feel a light rain against my face. Oh goody! The coop door automatically opens and I’m running a little behind so I am greeted by 10 hungry ducks at the gate. As I fill water buckets I get the stare down and few Screeching yells from Daphne to hurry the hell up.
Soon they’re feasting on morning treats of mealworms and scratch grains but the excitement of the yesterday’s warm up continues into today and now with the rain they can’t even finish breakfast and their excitement explodes into running around like crazy with no directions with wings flapping and chattering quacks and calls. Running from puddle to puddle, bucket to bucket dunking and splashing their heads in. If you’ve never heard the sound of webbed feet on a hard wet surface it’s a freaking adorable sound! They have no idea what they’re doing it’s just pure excitement. It’s hilarious! I stand in my feed shed out of the rain laughing at these goofy birds wishing I could be that excited in the morning to start my day. With the sun still rising and the ducks excitement I worry about predators lurking. Learning our routine or hearing the commotion and thinking it’s an easy meal. I usually hang out for 20- 30 minutes with a watchful eye up in the trees and sky. Glancing over the open pastures and into the thickness of tree lines that separate multiple pastures. I walk the perimeter of their run letting my scent and sounds send a warning and scare off any lurking predators. When I’m content with my inspection, I head back to the house stopping on the way to fill the peanut tray for the bluejays. Back inside, I settled in under my blanket on the couch, fresh cup of coffee in hand. Through the two sides by side patio doors in my living room I watch the chickens and ducks search for bugs in the grass and the bluejays hammer and peck their way through peanut shells. God I love my mornings in the country.
It’s the day after Thanksgiving and It reached almost 50 degrees today. I left work a little early to come home and fill the duck pools and clean up thawed poop and straw that’s been building up outside the coop in the run area for the last couple of weeks. I know It’s a glamorous life I have as a duck mom & maid.
I opened the gate and they made a mad dash to the two big pine trees near the house to rummage underneath. I tried to call them back as the pools filled but they just weren’t listening through the rustling of the leaf pile they were in. The pools have been empty for a week or two because it’s been below freezing so it took a little of me splashing the water with my hand to get them to realize the pools were full. Soon they were all crammed in. Splashing, jumping in and out, running in circles around the pool with excitement. Working hard at getting as much water out and as much mud in as they could. Ducks in water is hours of entertainment.
Today’s warm up also brought on the urge to stay up late. Like a fear that if they go to bed they will wake up to cold temps again so if they just stay awake all night it won’t come. Harley Quinn my newest girl, was enjoying the unfrozen pool with a late night swim before it turns into a frozen block. With a few back and forth past the coop door, I out stretch my arms and one last “c’mon girls, bedtime” they finally single filed their way in. Minutes later on the coop camera with heads tucked they were fast asleep.
Finally! Time for a glass of wine for me.
To say I love my ducks is the understatement of a lifetime. They have completely taken over my life and thoughts.
The second I put them to bed in their coop, say my good night I love yous, I can’t wait to see their happy quacking at sunrise. The best part of my day is the coop door opening and thee excitement of a new day and breakfast!
The second I walked in the door from work I check on them, listen to their stories of the day in an eruption of loud quacking and calls as if trying to outdo each other. Then I go into the house open the vegetable drawer in the fridge labeled “Duck treats” and begin chopping lettuce, defrosting peas (their favorite treat) and make them a delicious dinner salad as they watch at the patio doors with a few impatient quacks.
Every grocery store visit is not complete without picking up fresh veggies, peas and other treats for them.
I am always fussing over their coop cleanliness and design. Driving my husband nuts with changes.
I’m sure they wonder what my obsession is with their feet and checking them regularly to stay a head of any bumble foot or frostbite issues.
My sunrises & sets around my ducks daily routine and meeting all of their needs, wants and desires.