Mar 13, 2007

Has This Duck Been Eating Spanish Fly?

Phinaeus Taft is a very strange little duck. Like a great many of our ducklings, he was born too early in the season to be outside because of the cold, and as such, he was hatched in the warmth of our kitchen by a chicken hen (as a general rule, duck hens make not only lousy mothers, but frequently dangerous ones as well, as anyone who raises ducks can attest to). I always try to use the same little Silkie hen as she's not only reliable (a chicken who decides as she's grown bored with doing nothing but sitting for a month, she's entitled to pop permanently off the nest just a day before the scheduled hatch is a bad thing), but is a doting and gentle mother to the babies, be they chicken or duck. And it's also normal for the young ducklings to have a bit of an identity crisis when they first go out to live with the ducks. It usually takes a few months before they no longer want to be with their "mother" and the other chickens, but eventually they all give up on being permanently with mommy and even actually enjoy being active members of the duck flock. Having a young duck who is overly friendly with me isn't unusual as they've spent so much time with me during those first few weeks in the room in which I spend such a great portion of my day. It really is inevitable. However, there's friendly and then there's too friendly. And I would say that, without question, Phinaeus is way too friendly.

As we're approaching his first birthday, he not only should have long ago given up his fixation with the chicken hens (he hasn't. He spends hours and hours a day watching them and pacing up and down the divider wall between the ducks and the chickens and then immediately joins the chickens when they're allowed to mingle with the ducks), but also should have gotten less close to me as he's spent more time out in the barn. And with mating season here, he should certainly be pairing off with a duck, instead of trying to get with me. Seems young Phinaeus thinks I'm his hen. Seriously. He struts right over to me when he sees me, jockeying for my exclusive attention and will even physically push the other drakes away from me, biting them as he sees fit. He "talks" to me nonstop, to the point where he actually becomes hoarse and then loses his voice entirely. He routinely chases and attacks my son, whom Phinaeus apparently thinks is a potential rival for my affections (yup, this just gets creepier and creepier), and when he thinks he finally has me to himself, he does his ritual mating dance around me in a circle. As this has been going on since last fall, I had asked a respected breeder at that time what she made of this behavior and she told me, aside from never having ever heard of such a thing, "He'll either outgrow it by spring, or this situation will get really interesting." Chalk one up for the latter.

Every day I'm hoping the little duck hen who is smitten to pieces with him and follows him everywhere, even mingling with the chickens herself to be close to him, will finally catch Phinaeus' eye (female ducks are the ones who choose to pair off with a mate, not the boys choosing the girls) and that he'll finally see what a little charmer Babette Fleur is. So far, no luck. I frankly haven't a clue what do to. I continue to be as gentle and kind an owner to Phinaeus as I am to all the other birds and animals here, but I also try not to encourage the creepy mating madness, nor the hostility towards Griffin. Short of that, I'm stumped. I can however, safely say that while he is short, dark and handsome, Phinaeus is most definitely not only not my type, he isn't exactly my species either. Love can be such a cruel thing.

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