DOWN ON THE FARM by Cathi Gerhard & Greg Susa
Our safe* of ducks is almost fully-grown, but their feathers are still developing. Until the colors are finished, we will not know how many drakes and hens we have living in our little “Duckton Abbey” in the back of the barn. The most mature and colorful duck is also the biggest – and seems to be the leader of the household. We have named him Mr. Carson.
On command, they tend to waddle as a group from one end of their pen to the other, and take turns swimming in their little pool. Everyone also seems to be making loud sounds now like a quack, honk or chirp whenever we enter the barn, presumably to provide them with their favorite treats. We have been using a non-medicated starter/grower base feed, but supplement their diet daily with fresh greens such as dandelions and clover, meal worms, and koi sticks – all of which they prefer mixed into their water bowls and pools. (Ducks need lots of fresh, clean water for digestion as well as to keep their feathers, eyes and noses in good condition.)
We have been trying out different fresh foods from a researched list so that we can vary our treats. So far, we have found that our Welsh Harlequins do not like grapes, but love kale and broccoli. Other recommended supplements include:
Vegetables: all lettuces but iceberg, cucumbers, corn off the cob, peas, bell peppers (no core, seeds or stems), diced carrots, cooked beans (uncooked are toxic to birds), cabbage, cauliflower, beets, asparagus, diced squash, pumpkin, turnips, cubed zucchini and squash, bok choy.
Herbs: Oregano (a natural antibiotic), thyme, lavender, mint, parsley, sage, chamomile. Fresh and dried herbs also ward of pests such as flies and mites.
Flowers: nasturtium, marigold, zinnias, dandelions, primrose, echinacea.
Fruits: tomatoes (flesh only), eggplant, pears, applesauce, bananas (no peel), peaches, seedless cherries, halved grapes, cut up melons, pineapple, pomegranate seeds, strawberries.
Dairy/Proteins: worms, crickets, diced scrambled eggs, feeder fish (minnows, guppies), plain yogurt, koi food, cat fish food, cottage cheese, dry dog and cat food, milk.
Weeds: bee balm, bittercress, burweed, catchweed bedstraw, catsear, chickweed, clover, dandelion, evening primrose, fat hen, hawkweed, mouseear chickweed, mugwort, nettles, oxalis, plantain, purple deadnettle, puslane, shiny cudweed, shotweed, smartweed, wild carrot, wild carolina geranium, wild strawberry, wild violets, yarrow. (Buttercup is toxic). For weed photos, see www.fresheggs daily.com/2012/02/winter-weeds-101.html
*A group of ducks on land is called a “safe,” in the air, a “brace” or “flock,” and on the water, a “raft,” “team,” or “paddling.”