-By Kym Sunday, a Cox Farms Farmhand
Imagine sitting by a lake, fishing pole in hand, listening to the sounds of nature when along comes a mamma duck with her ducklings swimming close behind. . . talk about putting a smile on your face!
Comical and lovable, ducks are often featured as fictional characters. Donald and Daisy Duck and their family, Daffy Duck, Huey, Dewey, and Louie, Irwin the Disco Duck are all familiar ducks that bring a smile to your face. But what do you actually know about ducks?
You probably know that baby ducks are called ducklings, and their mamma ducks are called ducks. You may even know that male ducks are called drakes. But did you know that ducks are omnivores? They eat grass, aquatic plants, insects, seeds, fruit, fish, crustaceans and other available foods (especially the bread that you like to feed them). Our ducklings LOVE lettuce and my own childhood duck ate worms like spaghetti!
A duck lines her nest with feathers she plucks from her own chest to make it soft and warm for her eggs. Most duck breeds hatch after about 28 days. Once hatched, ducklings are able to walk and leave their nest within a few hours. A duck will lead her ducklings as far as a half mile after hatching to find water for swimming and feeding.
Ducks love the water – both fresh and saltwater – and you will often find our ducklings hanging out in their own special pond by the Barn Slide. Ducks have webbed feet that are made for swimming and water-proof feathers so their bodies don’t get wet. Their feet don’t get cold on ice or in cold water because their feet have no nerves or blood vessels. Those webbed feet make them “waddle” when they walk. Here at Cox Farms we have 4 different breeds of ducks: White Crested, Rouen, Welsh Harlequin and Black Cayuga.
Most male ducks are silent and very few ducks actually “quack.” Instead, they squeak, honk, grunt, groan, chirp, whistle, bray and growl. Not all ducks fly, but they are found all over the world, except for Antarctica where it is too cold! Rouen ducks came to the U.S. from France before the 19th century. They look like mallards but are bigger and can grow to weigh as much as 12 pounds. Males have green heads, white collars, black tail feathers, and a gray body. The females are mottled light brown with a black crown and eye-stripes. Rouens make great ducks for backyard ponds – they eat lots of insects!
Welsh Harlequins are a breed that was imported to the US from Wales in 1968. They are small, only weighing 5-6 pounds. Highly adaptable, Welsh Harlequins can lay from 240 to 330 white eggs yearly and are active foragers. They are very calm and inquisitive. Owners of Welsh Harlequins love to brag about how sweet their ducks are.
Did you ever see a duck with a powderpuff on it’s head? They’re called White Crested ducks and they are quite a sight! They grow fast and at about 2 months of age ours are already turning from duckling yellow to their soon-to-be adult white. The powderpuff feels like bunny fur!
Named after Cayuga Lake in New York, Black Cayuga ducks have black feathers that look iridescent beetle green in the right light. As they age they can become mottled white. They are popular show ducks, are very calm and can’t fly. They love to eat snails, slugs and other insects. Their eggs range in color from black to white.
Ducks are entertaining creatures. When visiting Cox Farms, stop by the barn slide and try your hand at duck watching. I guarantee you won’t be able to stop smiling!
More Duck Facts
- They live 2-12 years, depending upon their breed.
- They can grow to be as big as 15 pounds!
- They have 3 toes with toenails.
- Duck quacks have no echo. (Ok, don’t believe this! It is not true.)
- They make great pets, but don’t like to be alone. If they are, they will think they are a part of whatever flock they’re around – human, chicken, dog…