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Herding ducks – the real story

I thought it best to keep the ducks secure in their enclosure, for a while. I wanted them to understand that this was their new home before I let them out to free range, but after three days I noticed that they seemed quite relaxed. I would sit by their gazebo and toss in scratch grains and they would happily waddle out of their house and scoop up the grains in their wide duck bills. So I decided that yes, it was time to open their front gate and let them out to explore our creek valley world.

Well, no sooner did I open the gate than they made a fast duck waddle past the goat yard, down to the end of the bee hives, across the orchard, and straight for the far end of the upper field. They did not pause once, the two slightly smaller ducks following in a straight line behind the larger, crested headed duck. It looked to me as though they thought that they were making their get-away to return over three miles up the road, through creek coyote country, to the neighbors who had given them to us.

Thankfully I had thought to put the dogs in their pens before I let them out, so when I headed out across the orchard in hot duck pursuit, the dogs did not chase them farther away. I circled down to the lower end of the field to head the escapees off, and marched straight towards them, arms out stretched, cooing “Good duck, duck. Good duck, duck. Let’s head back home now. Let’s head back home.”

The lead duck saw me and came to an abrupt halt. He waggled his tail in what I have learned is perfect duck fashion, made a quick about face, and headed back up through the orchard, past the bee hives and the goat yard, to the gazebo enclosure. His two slightly smaller companions followed dutifully in a line behind him. As I herded them, still gently cooing for them to return home, it occurred to me that the phrase “Keep your ducks in a row” made perfect sense. Here I was, guiding my little line of ducks back home.

I sighed as I closed the gate safely behind them and tossed some scratch grains inside. I sat down on the ground beside them as they ate, still cooing that they were good ducks to have returned home.

So I waited a few more days before I let them out again. This time I stayed close by their side and we made a purposeful single file march around the upper field. They were amazingly easy to steer. I simply veered slightly to the left and they would head to the right. When I veered to the right, they would head left, and at the end of our walk, of course I rewarded them with scratch grain as I sat on the ground beside them. I smiled as I realized that I had kept my ducks in a perfect row!

We made a few such excursions over the next several days. I noticed that they were no longer heading off in such haste, and were beginning to pause and nibble at the ground here and there. The slightly bigger, crested headed duck was always in the lead.

And then today I opened their gate and simply stood back. Rather than dash out they seemed to leisurely step out into our creek valley world. They circled the windmill tower and paused by the pigeons, nibbling at what goodies the pigeons had thrown from their coop. They even went right up to the wire, as if to say “look at us out here,” and then they headed up, still in single file, to rabbit row.

Ahh, there were good things to explore and eat under rabbit row, and they stayed there for quite a while, but when a rabbit jumped inside her cage, they dashed back out into the field, the crested headed duck once again leading the way.

My ducks had done well. I cooed that it was time to return home and gently corralled them back into their duck enclosure and scattered their scratch grains. We shall get the hang of this, my ducks and I. Someday I imagine that they will free range all day and have a solar powered door to close them safely inside at dusk, but for now I am enjoying my duck walks. I wouldn’t say that it is anything like a cake walk, but it is still quite enjoyable indeed.

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