09/27/2006: "The Early Morning Routine"
I was down at the farm on Sunday morning, and I had an opportunity to let the ducks out to pasture. The ducks are definitely creatures of habit; when I presented myself outside their pen at the back of the barn they looked unsettled about going out: initially they were clustered up against the pen door, but when I opened it and stepped back they took one look at me and retreated further back into the pen, muttering away in duck-talk. One could almost imagine the discussion going on: "Well, the door is open... but we don't know him... let's wait for Nate... well, I for one am hungry... it's getting late... but who is he? what does he want... come on, lets go" and so forth.
To help them make up their minds, I opened the second pen door. Now there were two ways down to the pasture, but the problem was that different factions wanted different doors. Finally, one of the drakes took the lead, and they were out! Click on the photo below (warning: large 3496k file) to see a little movie that shows how eager they were to get out to pasture.
What's amazing is that at this point the ducks have no need for human intervention in getting them to go to the pasture pen, or the barn pen: in the morning they know to just go to the pasture pen and wait for Nate to close the gate, and in the evening they know to go to the barn pen and wait for Nate to close the door.
Once out in the pasture, the ducks have a very set routine in the early morning:
1. Dig in the grass for bugs and tender grass, dig, dig, dig! Quick dip of the bill into the water bucket to rinse off the mud, then back to work!
2. Wait for the swimming pool to be refilled: march impatiently around in parade formation.
3. Bathing in the pool: bobbing their heads under water, letting the water run down their backs, rinse, repeat.
4. Hop out, preen, preen, preen. Wiggle those tails, get rid of any loose feathers!
They do all these early morning activities practically in unison, in contrast to the rest of the day, when they lollygag around doing different things.