The door between the inner enclosure and the greater rice paddy is also opened. The ducks spend the day paddle-gobbling and gobble-paddling and waddle-muddling around the paddy. They eat weeds and their little legs going helter skelter around the place kicks up the mud which stops weeds from growing as well.
The ducklings in the big wide paddy. They ran to the fence when I approached so of course I threw some grass in and of course they went wild over it and then I couldn't get a good picture of them. boo hoo.
Because this is the first year this paddy has been used as a paddy for a long time (if at all) there are not many water weed seeds in the paddy. This means there isn't a lot of food there for so many hungry little quackers. Never fear, ducks will eat land weeds too and the aze- barriers around the rice paddy- are absolutely covered in fast growing weeds of all kinds- grasses, dandelions, mugwort, purple clover, white clover etc etc. We cut these down, chop them up and throw them in the paddy to be gobbled up by the ducks. It might seem weird to throw weeds into the paddy when the whole point of the ducks is to keep the weeds down but remember that just having them swim around in there is keeping weeds from even taking root at all so it's all good. They also eat chopped up rotten apples, kitchen scraps, bread scraps etc if they get them.
6:00ish in the evening. Tea time. By now I don't even need to call out 'koi koi koi' at tea time. Just the sight of me and they get excited and run after me. The Pied Piper of ducklings, that's me! I go into the small enclosure and put the feed trays out and fill them with a mix of rice bran, broken waste wheat, rye, chook food and chopped up grass. The ducklings go wild and it is a cinch to close the door between the inner enclosure and the greater rice paddy. The bedding (sawdust, rice husks and chopped up straw) gets a new top layer so it is dry and warm in there. This is a much bigger job with ducklings than with chooks as the ducks are wet each night when they go to bed so the bedding gets soaked nightly. And I thought I was past the bedwetting stage... sigh.... Then it's stamping down the mud around the gate of the inner enclosure so they don't escape and do a walk around the perimeter of the paddy checking the fences and looking for wayward ducklings. The fence checking is for peace of mind because night time is the most hazardous time for ducklings with all the nocturnal predators out there.
In the inner enclosure. These guys have scoffed their food down and are now staring forlornly through the mesh of the door to the outside. Darn it, fell for it again!
7:00- 7:30ish goodnight time. It's back to the rice paddy to close the ramp/ door and lock the ducklings up for the night. Depending on the day/ weather/ temperature/ phase of the moon or whatever the ducklings will be all waiting in the hut and I just waltz in and put the water containers down (they drink paddy water all day but need water containers at night while they're locked in the hut) push the feed trays in and close the ramp/ door and latch it or on a bad day I get to chase them around the inner enclosure cussing and explaining the delights of peking duck and san choi bow as a bedtime story until they are all safely in their hut for the night. Then it's just checking around and under the hut to make sure there is no rogue duckling sneaking around past bedtime, locking up the inner enclosure and off home for the duck keeper as well.
It's a big job and one that needs doing every day, rain or shine, no matter what other commitments we have. It's a big responsibility too as you know that if you make a mistake and a predator gets in you will be responsible for the loss of a duckling life.
But they really are cute and they stop the weeds and we aren't crazy about weeding so we'll keep 'em!
The inner enclosure, the duck hut and the wider paddy. The yellow containers are the water containers. They don't go in the hut until the door is closed at 7:00 or the ducklings drink all that water rather than the paddy water and don't have enough for the night (when they have no access to the paddy water.) The blue sheet is for rain protection where the door meets the roof. The hut is sitting on apple crates to keep it out of the water. The other crates in there are for us to walk around on. And darn it you can't even see a single piece of my 2000m of string!