here we go again

Petal and Ringo - paired mallard ducks

For the past couple of weeks, Petal has been coming back to the garden and pond with her handsome mate, Ringo. Her brothers Evan and Jake follow them up here from time to time, but Petal flies off and Ringo follows her: they come back when the brothers are gone. There's been no sign of the two sisters, Rosemary and Violet.


Tom dies

Tom died on Sunday 12th December.

He seemed to have a cold for the previous couple of weeks, then became weaker a few days before dying.


neem oil

That Scaly Leg Mite spray didn't do the job. So it seems that the problem is something other than Scaly Leg Mite.

It hasn't been possible to identify the problem via the internet. There's not a lot about duck problems. Most searches fetch up a load of duck recipes.

We searched on herbs for bird skin problems, and from that were led to try tea tree oil. We already have some tea tree oil spray: we tried that, but without major effect.

On further searching, we came across neem oil, recommended for pets and for mites, lice and scabies problems. We had half an inch left in a bottle of 'Nice'n Clear' head lice lotion containing neem oil, so we tried that. Tom stopped biting his leg for about four hours, and we now put the lotion on regularly.

We've sent for a jar of pure neem oil, and when it arrives, we're going to use that.


scaly leg mite

For a while now, Tom has been biting his legs hard with his beak; sometimes making them raw in places.

We've sprayed his legs with Savlon spray and rubbed them with Vaseline petroleum jelly, which provided some relief for him. We've also sprinkled his pen with 'Total Mite-Kill' powder, otherwise known as diatomaceous earth (which is made up of silica-shelled fossilised diatoms. Diatoms are algae.)

However, researching further, we've read about scaly leg mite and feel pretty sure that this is the problem:
"Scaly leg is a disease caused by a parasitic mite (known as cnemidocoptes mutans) that burrows under the scales of the legs or feet, where it causes great irritation."

We bought some Net-Tex Just for Scaly Leg spray, and it looks like Tom's about to get relief from his 'great irritation'.
Just For Scaly Leg is said to:

Suffocate and kill the scaly leg parasites instantly.

Provide immediate relief against itching and irritation.

Give a synergised blend of repellents and natural oils to provide a protective coating and prevent further infestation of the affected area.


Tom outdoors and in

Tom feeding on the moss on an old doormat.

Tom out for a walk in the rain.

Tom asleep in a shirt.


winter quarters

We've rejigged and moved the pen so that it's better suited for Tom to go through the winter. It's near the house, so more sheltered from the wind, and he can now hear the TV and voices.

Though he sometimes likes to watch as well as listen -

(The dog is not real - it's a statue of Nipper, the HMV dog.)

We have waited a while to see if Tom would fly or try to go away to the other ducks, but he didn't. So we decided to feed him up for Christmas (just joking!). No. We decided to keep him through the winter and try to build him up ready for the spring. Then we could try him with the others, his brothers and sisters who are still on a nearby pond, and see how it goes.

Meanwhile, he's getting plenty of TLC -

And trampoline practice -

And, since he won't bathe himself, a bath -


now only Tom

Day 68. Wednesday 8th September 2010

This morning, we walked Violet, Jake and Evan round to the pond where Petal and Rosemary were. They all met up and made friendly noises. We left them and they were still all together when we checked an hour or so later.

Tom doesn't seem too bothered about being on his own. He still spends his time doing his own thing - foraging in the grass, preening and, unfortunately, still wandering into open spaces where he is in danger from predators.


That was when he was first on his own. He was enjoying the luxury of doing whatever he pleased, without being pecked and moved off.

But afterwards, he spent a lot of time searching and looking in all the places they'd all been before: in the pools, in the bedroom bins, round the yard and in the garden.

He was not keen to stay in the pen, where previously he'd been content to be in there. I shut him in the pens for a while, but he wandered around, mainly by the doorway, looking to get back out.

Tom alone.

then there were four

Day 67. Tuesday 7th September 2010

This afternoon, four of the ducks flew off. Two came back, leaving Petal and Rosemary staying away on a duck pond in a neighbour's garden about 70 yards away.

Violet missed her sisters and was making a strange throaty croaking noise. It appeared, when all the others flew off, that she had purposely stayed behind with Tom, who isn't able to fly.

This is the state of Tom's wing feathers, and the likely reason why he can't fly. He spends a lot of time trying to get those feathers right, but without success.


in the field

Day 66. Monday 6th September 2010

A short video of the ducks out in the field.

A hen pheasant takes advantage of the ducks' absence.

second day out

Day 65. Sunday 5th September 2010

Weather for ducks.

Out for a walk.



Day 64. Saturday 4th September 2010

Today was the ducks' first day of freedom.

First out, Petal - the smartest.

 The others are eager to join her, but can't find the way out.

Two out.

All out.

The pansies take a bashing.

Shade under the chairs.

The ducks discover the garden pond.


bowl of feathers

Day 62. Thursday 2nd September 2010

See how the wings tuck into the feathers on the duck's underside.

These feathers on the duck's underside act like a bowl when the duck is sitting on the water, and keep the wing feathers dry.

With Tom, he doesn't tuck his wings into this 'bowl' of feathers, so they hang down instead.

what ducks do to a lawn

Day 61. Wednesday 1st September 2010

They turn it to mud. They dig it up with their beaks as they forage for roots.

Evan says hello

Day 60. Tuesday 31st August 2010

Lex is back from holiday.


wings flapping

Day 58. Sunday 29th August 2010

A very short video of Petal flapping her wings:

Here it is again, in slow motion:


flight and quack

More madness in the pool as the water is changed. Without the fence in the way of the camera this time. There's the usual argy-bargy in the water, but there's also a bit of flight and a quack.

If you've been following the progress of these ducks, you'll understand why it's a bit sad at the end:

Tom later went into the pool on his own and swam normally - until one of the females joined him (Petal - and she thinks she owns the pool):

But Tom's not totally innocent. I've seen him take a few pecks at unsuspecting passers-by, and happily shove a lady duck into the pool.



Evan checks to see if his beak is as long as his neck.

8 weeks

Day 56. Friday 27th August 2010

8 weeks old. Here they all are (waiting for their presents):


iridescent colours

Day 51. Sunday 22nd August 2010

This short video is an attempt to catch the iridescent colours in the band on the females' wings. They change from green through blue to purple, but in the flesh the green is greener and the purple more purple than the video shows.

liquid tonic

Day 50. Saturday 21st August 2010

I found a good forum discussion on droopy wing duck. The general advice seems to be to leave it for the moment, and to give vitamin and mineral supplements in their drinking water.

So, they're now having this - - - >


more about Tom

Day 49. Friday 20th August 2010

It has rained a lot lately. This doesn't bother the ducks at all: they're outside whether it's raining or not. It makes no difference to them: the water rolls off their backs.

But Tom's feathers get wet. He's small and less-well developed than the others. He does the same things, except for swimming: he's reluctant to get in, except occasionally.

He can often be seen, when the others are bathing, standing on the edge of the pool and dipping his head up and down in the water, with a flick of his head as he comes up. Then he'll spend a lot of time preening, but mainly on his wet chest. You don't see him rub his preen gland then rub his head over his back like the others do.

Because he doesn't bathe himself properly he walks around much of the time with a muddy chest from where he's been rooting in the ground. They all root, but the others wash more. He'll probably need to bathe and preen properly to fly; to knit his feathers together, and have them stay dry.

Here's a short video (with fence!) of the other ducks' behaviour when there's fresh water in the pool:


an early night

Day 48. Thursday 19th August 2010

I fell asleep on the sofa the next night as well, and woke about three o'clock. When I went out to check on the ducks they were outside in the pen, and I noticed they were on the duckboards on the right in the picture. When I was hosing the duckboards down in the morning I noticed there was a lot of muck on these boards, where normally there isn't much; they don't go over that side a lot in the daytime.

Then I figured that they'd probably chosen that side at night because then there would be water between them and any intruder, if there were one.

Tonight was funny. I went out to them about 9:15, it was raining and nearly dark, and all except Tom were in the pools. I stood outside their pen and said, "Come on, then", and they left the water, walked in, single file, and all went to bed.


fun for ducks

This is the ducks' favourite pastime, after swimming and preening: ferreting with their beaks in grass made swampy with the hose pipe. They dig out bits of root, perhaps seeds, eggs and insects, too.

ducks' dormitory

Day 46. Tuesday 17th August 2010

I haven't been sure that all the ducks are finding a place in the bedrooms. So, first I tried a small one extra, then I tried a large one extra, then decided they might as well have all of them. So now they have a four-bedroom dormitory.

Late night antics

They were all in the dormitory, and several were asleep, for three hours this afternoon. Why is that, you might ask. It's probably because they were up most of the night.

I usually leave them to go to bed when they're ready, then latch them safe in the cage for the night. This is usually about ten o'clock. But I fell asleep on the sofa last night; woke at one-thirty; went out to lock them up, and they were all, except Tom, out in the pen floating on the pool.

So I left them out.


last year's brood and the year's before

This is the mother duck with her brood two years ago, hatched in a plant container.

That year's ducklings.

This video shows the same mother leading her ducklings (also hatched in the plant container) away in early May last year, through the garden and into the long grass of the field. This is what should have happened to the six little ducks on this blog, but unfortunately it didn't.

Dickensian duck

Day 43. Saturday 14th August 2010

Three typical stances by Tom.


how to siphon without sucking

Ducks make mucky ponds. After two or three days the pools are filthy. Fortunately, our pen is at the top of a slope, so it's easy to siphon the liquid out of the tanks.

The first couple of times I cleaned out the pool, I sucked on the pipe enough to bring the pond water up over the tank, and then let go, holding the pipe down low and waiting for the flow to start. I didn't get anything in my mouth either time, but it's a risky thing, so I looked up methods on the internet.

I had success with this method:
1. With the open end level with the top of the tank liquid, fill part of the pipe with water.

2. Put your thumb over the end when the water in the pipe reaches the top.

3. Lower the pipe end to the ground and take your thumb off.

First the water you just put in will run out and stop, then, after a few seconds (or more, depending on the length of pipe), the liquid from the tank comes running out.
(Apparently, the siphon, or syphon, works by gravity, not by atmospheric pressure: See here.)


Tom's droopy wings

Day 41. Thursday 12th August 2010

At present, the wings on all the ducks droop often and they pull them back up again, but little Tom seems to have a hard time keeping his up.

I read up on it, and I don't think it's 'angel wing'. I read somewhere that at this stage the quills making the wing feathers are full of blood and so weigh heavy. He's smaller and weaker than the others, so his muscles will tire more quickly.

He looks comical, though, when he walks around like that - like a Dickensian urchin in an oversize waistcoat.



mom and dad

The mom and dad in April this year.

The girls look like their mom already, but the boys have got some way to go before they look like their dad (though seeing the scuffles going on in the spring, there could well be more than one dad.)


paint brush feathers

Wing feathers coming on.

A close-up of the quills with the wing feathers growing from them. They look like a set of little paintbrushes.

swimmin with the wimmin

Day 37. Sunday 8th August 2010

This is Evan with Rosemary and Violet (I can't tell the difference between the two).

You'd think that ducks liked dirty water to forage and dig about in, but these seem to prefer it clean. After the tank has been cleaned out they all go mad in the water: washing, swimming, diving and ducking.

"Water off a duck's back" - Petal.