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Ducks that drive me quackers.

Byline: By Liz Shankland

When you've too many mouths to feed, it doesn't help to be landed with some unexpected guests

I REALLY have been trying to get rid of ducks, not collect more of them, you know. We're overrun by Indian runners again - or, to be precise, cross-bred runners. It was all the fault of that big white Aylesbury drake we had - the sole survivor of our first batch of ducks, which went, one by one, to feed the local foxes. We kept him because we thought he deserved to stay after putting up so much resistance, but it wasn't our plan to let him loose on the chocolate-coloured Indian runners.

We tried to keep him apart from them but, nature being nature, he found his way to the ladies and did the dirty deed. The result: a mixed bag of strange-looking black and white or brown and white birds, with long, slender necks like runners, but big wide bottoms like the meaty Aylesbury.

They were quite cute when they were tiny, mixed in with some true runners from various different mothers, but now they've grown to full-size, it's time for them to go. As always, the majority have turned out to be drakes, so all the more reason for getting rid of them as quickly as possible.

In a flash of inspiration, I advertised them in the local free ads as 'free- as long as you can catch one'. I also made it clear that any takers would have to be prepared to do so without help - as I've got better things to do than fall into a duck pond - and that they would have to bring their own box, as it's amazing how many people seem to assume you'll have a shed full of your own.

Not surprisingly, I've had few takers. One woman rang and asked us to keep them all for her, but then didn't ring back - by which time we'd turned down four others. Another rang and asked, if they couldn't catch them, would it be all right to shoot them on site? No prizes for guessing what I said.

Next I got a call that wasn't about the surplus drakes, but was still very much duck-related. Alison, a friend who works for the Wildlife Trusts, had picked up a distress call. It was a long, complicated story, but I ended up collecting two ducks on her behalf.

Some people seem to think that the Wildlife Trusts are just like the RSPCA and will take in waifs and strays; the reality is that sometimes, because people involved with the Trusts love animals, and hate to see anything in distress or not being cared for properly, they often find themselves unable to say no, and go out of their way to find new homes for unwanted pets. Which was why I ended up in a supermarket car park one evening last week taking charge of a pair of very distraught-looking young Aylesbury-type birds in a cockatiel cage.

They were absolutely waterlogged and spent the journey home desperately trying to dry out their feathers. I'd never seen ducks so wet, and they clearly hadn't been able to preen and stimulate their natural oils wherever they had been kept. It was hardly surprising to hear that, when they'd been put into a bath, they'd sunk.

I shut them in a spare calf shelter overnight with some food and water and, miraculously, by morning they looked like completely different birds.

They're eating and drinking well and wandering about, preening contentedly, so I've stopped worrying now. Soon they'll be on their way to their new home on a farm - and I'm just wondering whether I can off-load a couple of our drakes at the same time!

Write to Liz Shankland c/o The Western Mail, Blue Street, Carmarthen SA31 3LQ or email lizshankland@hotmail.com
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 23, 2005
Words:646
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