I don’t like ducks.
Okay, maybe that’s not fair. Let me just say that to this point in my life, I have yet to meet a duck with whom I wished to be friends.
The homepage on my computer is a weather site. For reasons you don’t care about, the current weather for Clinton, MN and Kampala, Uganda show up at the top of the page.
Last Monday, I noticed that it was -18 at my hometown and 82 in Uganda.
In case you’re not good at math, that’s a difference of 100 degrees.
And the ducks don’t even care.
Here’s the thing. We have half a dozen ducks, the result of a failed experiment, living with our chickens. I read somewhere that duck eggs are better than regular chicken eggs for baking, so we bought several baby ducks last spring. That’s all I knew about ducks. I know a lot more now.
For one thing, they’re bullies. Because their necks are longer (all the better to wring, my dear), they’re taller than the chickens and take full advantage of their height to push the hens around. In addition, they’re greedy slobs. They eat about twice as much as the chickens and waste twenty times as much water. Fill a six-gallon waterer and chickens will come over, take a sip and then go back to their nests to lay an egg and maybe knit a shawl or a granny square afghan.
Do the same thing with ducks and six of them will run over, stomp in the water until it’s all muddy, and then spend the afternoon smoking cigarettes, flipping the water out onto the ground with their bills, and quacking about what a rotten farmer I am.
That’s the part I hate the most – when I walk to the pen and one duck looks at me, quacks some smart remark, and the other ducks all look at me and laugh. “Quaaack, quack, quack, quack…”
And the reason they all have time to cluster around the waterer is because they’re not taking care of their eggs. You may be able to get away with egg neglect if you’re a bird in Uganda, but when it’s a hundred degrees colder, a responsible water fowl does not just lay an egg, quack, and waddle off. My duck chore routine the past couple of weeks has been to buy duck food, fill the waterer every hour, and collect five frozen eggs, which I give to the cats.
This isn’t the most pointless thing I do, but I think it’s just a sad commentary on how miserable my life is.
The cats aren’t even grateful.
I listen to weather reports just like everyone else and I figured that if the eggs were freezing when it was 0, they were going to freeze faster at -20. So one evening when I really had nothing better to do than eat supper and sleep, I insulated and paneled the chicken coop.
The next morning, when it was deep in the minus digits, I went out to the coop and found the eggs intact and unfrozen. What was left of the water was muddy but thawed and all the fowl seemed very comfortable.
“Quaaack, quack, quack, quack, quack.” In case you’re wondering, that’s not a duck saying thank you.