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"Dad taught me everything I know. Unfortunately, he didn't teach me everything he knows."
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  Volume No. 15 Issue No. 6 June 2018  

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Bill Radford

  Spring, when a young duck's fancy turns to — chickens?
  By Bill Radford

   Longtime local journalist Bill Radford and his wife, Margaret, live on 5 acres in the Falcon area with ducks, chickens, rabbits, dogs, cats, two noisy parrots, goats and two horses. Contact Bill at billradford3@gmail.com
This is sort of a birds and the bees story –- except it involves ducks and chickens.
   
   We have four ducks. Two are pekin ducks (like the duck on the Aflac commercials) that we got as ducklings a little more than a year ago. We've never gotten around to naming them, other than calling them "the white ducks." The other two are Quackers, a sort of rescue duck who seems to be a Rouen, and Honey, whom we got to keep Quackers company; Honey is a harlequin.
   
   We also have chickens, and Quackers this spring has taken an inappropriate interest in them. (Think of Pepe Le Pew, the cartoon skunk who was always making overly aggressive overtures to a black cat –- except that Quackers isn't as romantic as Pepe.) While there's one or two hens in particular that Quackers is intent on mating with, he's chasing them all down when he has a chance.
   
   I won't go into graphic detail, but the problem is that duck and chicken anatomies differ –- and a duck can hurt or kill a chicken by trying to mate. (It's not a danger, however, if a rooster attempts to mate with a duck hen. There is a case of a duck fathering a chicken, not as a result of barnyard antics but from an experiment conducted by scientists in Dubai. As reported by Time magazine, a chicken’s germ cells — carrying DNA to produce eggs and sperm — were injected into the reproductive organs of a male duck embryo. Once the duck matured, it began to produce the chicken’s sperm.)
   
   So we're having to keep ducks and chickens separated at all times –- not just at night when they're in separate enclosures. That means only one group gets to roam freely in the yard at a time during the day. I usually let ducks out in the morning; they're easy to get back in their pens with the order of "Go to bed!" so that I can give chickens their chance later in the day. The chickens, on the other hand, are difficult to herd back to their pens, and thus their coop, until night falls — then they go in on their own. (The ducks would normally party all night if they weren't encouraged to go to their pens.)
   
   Quackers probably is feeling somewhat sexually frustrated. The male white duck obviously rules the duck roost and always chases Quackers away when he tries to mate with one of the girl ducks. We're hoping Quacker's obsession with the chickens is just a springtime issue. Over the winter, everyone got along fine. "Ducks and chickens can coexist fine, usually," morningchores.com states. "Even the meanest of roosters can get along with a drake (a male duck) from my experience."
   
   It would be interesting to see what would happen if our rooster was still around. Would he chase Quackers away to protect his girls? But we gave our rooster away last fall because HIS mating behavior was too tough on the hens. It seemed like a couple of hens were always in quarantine to recover from injuries incurred by the rooster.
   
   Some people keep ducks and chickens in the same coop, but The Cackle Hatchery (https://blog.cacklehatchery.com) advises against it. That's because of, again, the ducks' desire to party throughout the night. "Some poultry owners house ducks in the same coop as chickens, closing them up together overnight to protect them from predators," The Cackle Hatchery states on its blog. "That’s not fair to the chickens, which like to sleep the night through. Ducks, on the other hand, alternate cat naps with play and can make enough fuss to keep the chickens from getting as much rest as they need."
   
   Kellie Dodson, an urban homesteader in Colorado Springs, raises ducks and chickens (in separate enclosures) on her tiny, backyard Homegrown and Happiness farm. Her ducks, she said, are afraid of the chickens –- and make a stink when the chickens invade their space.
   
   "My ducks just have a panic attack if the chickens are even near," she said. "Ducks are full of drama."
  
Quackers, the duck in the front of the photo, is trying to “court” the chickens on the Radford farm. It’s not going well.
 
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