Bath-time for Ducks and Chooks

The Barn Yard

Ducks don’t actually need a pond full of water as long as they have deep bowls of water but they LOVE it most when they can have a proper bath in a pond. Ducks preen after a bath. The main function of preening behaviour is to re-distribute the oils secreted at the base of the tail throughout the feathers. This is a natural waterproofing.

They have a good wash then redistribute the oils back through their feathers. In the sun. On a lovely farmy day. With Boo on guard.

With the big rock pond still out of action, I let the hose run into the old duck pond in the corridor field. The corridor field is where the feed hut is. I call it the corridor field because it is in the centre of all the little fields. A corridor to everywhere. The ducks were beyond excited to have a little pond again.

I dug this deep puddle myself years ago when we first got ducks. It has no lining (of course – you know how I feel about plastic) so it takes a few weeks for the sludge to build up in the bottom to hold water for very long.

Three brown ducks swimming in a home made pond.

I am sure it is empty again this morning but the ducks had a good wash and a thorough preening yesterday afternoon. They looked so much happier afterwards. I will fill the puddle pond up again this afternoon to begin to develop that base layer. Wai will lie in the shallows too, this is his wallow. And I think we are going to have a hot summer so he will need his wallow.

Mud is suntan lotion for pigs. Wai and his thin skin need mud.

Three ducks shaking off the water from their wings after a swim in the pond.  One duck has her wings fully extended rising up on her toes to shake them out.

The chooks (we call chickens chooks in NZ) got in on the action and decided to have group dust baths in the dry dirt beside their house. They all bathe together like ancient greeks.

Aren’t they funny. Dust baths are important for chickens to keep their feathers free of parasites and make sure their feathers don’t get too oily. The opposite of the ducks.

Though to be fair ducks will have dust baths too on occassion.

Hereford Hog sitting in wallow, beside his trailer home.

Free Bee sat, Eeyore fashion, morosely, with his bum in the mud; watching the circus from his seat in his cool wallow.

Apple tree blossom

The apple trees are full of bees and wild native pollinators. Hopping from blossom to blossom. And if all goes well with the weather, touch wood, these blossoms will set and we will have fruit. Delicious apples. I will leave them now until mid summer when they will get a summer prune to help train the tree into a shape that is most efficient for fruit development and picking.

Dog and potbelly pig on concrete pad looking out into the farmyard and quietly waiting.

WaiWai and Boo waiting for the snack bar to open. They are even a similar colour these two old friends. Both grey. The pot belly and the mutt.


Another excellent day ahead.

weather at 7 am  in Central Illinois May 5 2023

I think (touch more wood) that the danger of a late frost is almost passed so I am going to begin the no-till field tomato experiment.

When I was really young my brother and his friends and I were employed to do the first pick of field tomatoes. We turned up to the fields at dawn and were driven out into the fields in the back of a truck with other pickers then given buckets and a row. You could not really even see the row because these tomatoes grew along the ground. The tomatoes for sauce are grown in huge fields. I have never forgotten the thoroughly daunting view of acres of dusty hot tomatoes to be picked through. We went through and picked any perfect tomatoes that had ripened early – these were sent off to the markets.

Later the machines would come through and strip the fields for tomato sauce.

It was back breaking filthy hot work. I must have been about 14 or 15. And I hate to admit it but I only lasted a day. I got home and told Dad I was never going back and the next day I started in his workshop. He was a boat builder. Welding was much more fun than tomato picking. The money was better in the tomatoes, but it was horrible work. Horrible!

Anyway – I have thought of those fields often and this year I am going to spread thick straw out here in my kitchens garden and plant the last of the emergency tomatoes in there. I will let them grow with no training and no support along a bed of straw. I have the space!

Have a lovely day.

You can find me in the garden!



The Kitchens Garden Podcasts

I will be reading from July 16, 2011 today. Talking about the origins of the farm plus my favourite potato cake recipe. Go here if you would like to sign up. I would love it if you join me there. The podcasts are free for the whole of May. The Monday stories are free forever!

29 Comments on “Bath-time for Ducks and Chooks

  1. Yesterday, while on vacation in northwest Spain, we visited a woman who is a bee keeper. She often presents to school children and makes the story very entertaining. We then walked to a local residence for lunch in the very small town.

      • We are not staying there. Instead, our group moved on to Santiago de Compostela. It is the destination for many walking along the pilgrimage trails through Spain and Portugal. Our group has visited by bus many of the towns along the way of one particular route across northern Spain. We’ve also visited a number of places that are not connected to the pilgrimages. It is a beautiful part of the world.

        • How lovely that you were able to visit Santiago de Compostela! I have made the pilgrimage on foot 4 times and have hope to do it again from France (I’ll soon be 77, so it’s (as my mum used to say) ‘in the laps of the gods.’

          • Good for you! I hope you are able to do it again. We visited with several people walking the path. Their stories a quite varied and interesting. Today, we had a long visit with a young woman in the plaza by the cathedral who had just finished her journey. It was her 2nd time up from Portugal. The plaza was filled with joy and excitement. Lots of fun to see.

  2. Our apple trees are blooming also, but hardly a bee in sight. I find that extremely worrying.

  3. The small birds like their dust baths as well. I always see the evidence in the morning when I go out to check the feeders. There is a spot of dead dry dirt near the neighbors front porch. You can tell exactly where they’ve been! I can add another touch of gray to the conversation about Wai and Boo- the gray squirrel sitting on the walkway waiting for the opening of his own snack bar this morning. He seemed rather put out that I apparently was a bit late in producing his breakfast.

      • Peanuts, sunflower seeds since I already have those in the birdseed mix, and I tried sunflower nuggets today for the first time- those were winners. Oddly I read that squirrels like dried corn- nope, not any that visit my yard 🙂 Peanuts are by far the favorite.

      • Ugh squirrels! I do not love squirrels. We have them here in abundance running over and destroying everything. They dig up my plants and throw them on the ground, they chew and destroy patio furniture. Yesterday I went out to my little bird feeder thrown on the grown with all of the perches chewed off. We had to stop potting Christmas lights in our trees and on the front porch because they even chew through the wires of those. We had to throw out our lights 3 years in a row so we just stopped.

          • They are just jerks. We live very close to a lot of nice restaurants (not fast food) and they go through the garbage there and eat lots of good food. They are not hungry. I often see them sitting on the fence eating an big piece of wood fired pizza! I also find alot of eaten coffee pods in the garden, they find them in someone’s garbage and chew the bottoms off the thrown out pods and eat the coffee grounds. They are caffeinated!

  4. When Jemima duck got caught in the heron wire (and was rescued) she sat on the pod for 10 minutes splashing water on her back, I think it helped calm her down after the shock. Afterwards she flew off after her friends who’d fled the pond relative to the bad fox scarring them.

  5. I don’t think I’ll ever get over the delight of watching the various birds enjoying my birdbath, whether they have a full bath or just drop by for a sip of cool, clean water. I saw a cardinal couple ‘kiss’ last week. Actually, I think he fed her a seed. We also have a mother robin who’s built a nest just under the gutter on our garage. and now she’s brooding. Is that the right word? She’s well hidden by the coat of ivy covering the brick.

    • Those robins – they and their nests are such a delight. How lovely to see a cardinal feeding his mate. Those cardinals are beautiful birds.

  6. I love the very farmy photos this morning… it is Saturday morning here as I sit in bed drinking coffee before starting the day when I will listen to the latest podcasts while I do what I do.

    • Perfect for when you are doing something! This last one went a bit wonky but that ok- it is still entertaining and the whole genre is very much a work in progress for me!

  7. Like a duck to water! 🙂 If you don’t use their eggs..or do you, I can’t remember why you have them..they say duck is good to eat but I wouldn’t. Also, have you taken your AirBNB off the market for good or do you plan to start it back up someday? Our wild yard rabbits take dust baths’s funny to watch them make little dirt wallows out there.

    • Fancy rabbits taking dust baths!

      The Airbnb is my studio now. And there are only about 6 duck eggs a day. What we don’t eat I sell. They are great for baking. These ducks are old Christina- I am not sure they would be very tasty.

  8. I love the two grey buddies. They have won my heart (again). The tomato picking sounds dreadful, and makes me feel for all those migrant workers in our various countries who are slaving away at their back-breaking chores in the sun and dry dust…good to think of these things and to be reminded.

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