Flip and Flop are doing well and it is wonderful that they are still with us since ducks are particularly prone to finish up in Mr Fox’s belly and we are almost completely surrounded by forests where he and his cunning ilk live.
Our ducks are Muscovy ducks which originate in Guatemala and can still be found there in their wild state along the Rainforest Rivers. Flip and Flop are two females. We did have a male but after a couple of maternity explosions with over forty ducklings and after the sadness of seeing Mr Bianco, our great male (weight over 6 kilos) beheaded by that insatiable Mr Fox we decided to keep the remaining females just for their eggs.
Muscovy ducks (so called because they were first traded by merchants from Moscow – rather like Turkeys were first traded by merchants from Turkey) have long talons, caruncles round their beaks, a little crest, and a very sharp peck so they have a certain ability to defend themselves. They can also fly, although after a pioneering flight by Flip across Longoio to the car park, I decided that they should have one of their wings slightly tailored so that if they took off they’d behave a little like a boomerang and come back to their starting point.
Flip and Flop’s brains are natural marvels of biological technology far surpassing in miniaturisation and complexity anything dreamt up by computer scientists. I love my ducks and am ever more impressed by their intelligence and friendliness.
In my opinion ducks have these major advantages over keeping chicken. These are:
1. Ducks lay eggs throughout the year and what eggs! You can tell a cake made from duck eggs from one made with hens’ any day. They are much more delicious!
2. Ducks are far less prone to disease than chicken.
3. Ducks can be trained more easily to obey commands and they can even accompany you on trips though I wouldn’t suggest this around here because of the danger of dogs as well as foxes.
4. Ducks, as all other avians, are the missing link between dinosaurs and mammals. They are, thus, an incredibly interesting species to study.
5. Muscovy ducks don’t need too much water and are quite happy to splash about in our garden pond (unlike other ducks which spend a lot more time in rivers and lakes).
6. Muscovy ducks love feeding on grass and are able to keep it short and fertilise it at the same time.
7. Ducks are so happy when it rains that they are able to transmit their joy to you so that you don’t mind too much when it does pour (or even snow!).
8. Ducks are very inquisitive when you start digging in the garden with a trowel to plant something. They sniff over every bit of earth that you turn over, in search for that elusive worm.
9. My ducks are great connoisseurs of snails which they eat raw thus helping lettuces and cabbages grow with less holes in them.
10. My ducks are very quiet. In fact, in Italy they are called ‘mute ducks’ (oche mute). Males are completely silent but the females make endearing soft whistling noises to each other rather like a contemporary music piccolo duet. I think that if I kept geese or other types of ducks I’d go quackers with the noise, not to mention the neighbours!
My ducks have also acquired a taste for cat biscuits and I have to make sure the front door is closed as they will otherwise rush in and help themselves from the cats’ feeding bowls and there’s no question about whose top of the pecking order then!
At the risk of becoming unpopular with some bipedal humans I feel that my bipedal ducks display more intelligence than many of them. To rephrase Orwell’s Animal Farm: ‘Two legs bad, two legs and two wings much better, four legs best.’
ODE TO FLIP AND FLOP
In our garden we love to play
and crop the grass and catch the flies
and enjoy the water’s cool spray.
We are your two wingèd allies
we know, and to that we are quite wise!
Fly back to us soon – we miss you
for you are good and kind and true.
PS Our ducks are called Flip and Flop because they make a noise like wearing flip-flops when they walk about on paths.