Duck Lives – Millslade Country House
Boutique B&B
June 9, 2019
Out of Season
March 29, 2020

Our Cayuga ducks have been a real hit with customers – they are stunning with their iridescent black, blue and green plumage. What’s more, their eggs are gorgeous; huge vivid yellow yolks and crystal clear whites (something of an oxymoron I know!). When added to a chicken egg (absolutely necessary or the yolk to white ratio is too much) they make the most luxurious scrambled egg imaginable. They are brilliant to poach too, their whites wrapping tightly around the jewel of the yolk and, because there is less white than a chicken’s egg, you never have to worry about a watery texture.

Unfortunately, this has not been a good year for the girls: five has become three. We lost one to ill-health, whether poison, a gut obstruction or some other natural cause we are not sure but having watched her lose condition and become weaker and weaker we took the decision to dispatch her. A sad day indeed. To add to our duck woes, within a week we lost another. This was equally mysterious; here one minute gone the next. Our fowl are very free range and although it took the ducks a year and a half to move beyond the confines of the paddock, they eventually followed the chickens’ lead and can be seen exploring the garden and occasionally the village hall grounds. One of the four remaining girls didn’t come waddling back for treats as usual. This in itself is not sinister as they have been known to go off and lay in the pig paddock or under the hedge which can take some time. However, after extensive searches and still no sign of duck number four we started to get a little concerned. We were convinced she had not been predated as there were no feathers to be found and no alarm call heard, so unless it was a quick, stealth kill by Mr. Fox, we were hopeful she would be back. However, the days passed, hope waned and the mystery of the missing duck remains these weeks later. Our best guess is she wandered down to the river and got swept away as, ironically, domestic ducks aren’t particularly strong swimmers.

Sadly then, we are down to three and what a state they are in! Early August marks the end of their laying period and the start of their annual moult; and do they moult! Feather carnage ensues and the poor girls lose all condition. When they flap their wings there is little evidence they even possess them – just a boney extension devoid of anything resembling a flight feather. Mounds of down line their coop and the beautiful iridescence is replaced by a mottled browning of semi-shed plumage. The moult is not without an expectant excitement however, as cayugas gradually change their appearance over the years and become increasingly white in colour. So we look forward to seeing how changed they become when their new plumage returns and to the annual renaming of the ducks as they will be unrecognisable from the birds that went into the moult….. oh and roll on February when we can once again indulge in their gorgeous eggs!

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