Go Buy a Duck


Those of us who long for a simple, natural lifestyle don’t always have the luxury of a spouse who shares our vision. Some partnerships are fortunate to have different interests that still manifest in the shared goal of self-sufficiency. And then there are those whose ‘partners’ consider things like gardening and raising poultry to be a waste of time.

When I first started trying to grow food, I was ridiculed for wanting to grow vegetables in the middle of a drought. Never mind that I had pretty much unlimited water from the huge dam all summer. Never mind the health benefits of home-grown food. And of course never mind that I ENJOY gardening. As far as he was concerned it was a fool’s errand and I had better things to do.

Chooks for eggs were apparently okay. Until I decided I wanted to branch out. I wanted to breed a Heritage utility variety for meat as well as eggs. I had a broody Silkie and an opportunity to purchase some day-old Plymouth Rocks. I decided to buy half a dozen.

I don’t know whether it was the fact that I left the house for two hours on a Saturday, the fact that I spent $40 or the fact that it wasn’t an activity that he had approved. The result was the same – I was in trouble. The Silkie hen happily accepted the chicks and I was chastised extensively for purchasing them. In the end the Plymouth Rocks didn’t work out, although a couple of the hens were excellent layers. They took ages to grow out, but they were fabulously attractive birds. I have certainly, on occasion, spent more money on worse poultry.

That’s not the point. The point is that I was obviously not considered capable of making these small lifestyle decisions for myself. The time spent in the garden was not time spent neglecting my children. The money spent on those chicks was not going to cause anything even vaguely resembling hardship. But doing things I wanted to, because I wanted to, was actively discouraged.

Fast forward a few years to the day I bought my first geese. I went along to the poultry seller with the view of getting a couple of ducklings, but when I got there I decided on the geese instead. I was single at the time, but seeing someone. When that someone saw the geese he was most annoyed that I had bought them without his permission. Um, what? My money, my place, my geese, what difference should it make to him? Again, it seemed, my decisions were not my own to make.

There came a time again when I found myself single, with no potential suitors on the horizon and no plans to go looking. During this time I bought a duck. A lovely blue Muscovy called Alice. Her purpose was to play surrogate to the pair of Indian Runners and hopefully hatch and raise some ducklings for me.

But that’s not the point. The point is, I wanted a duck, I had the money available, I had somewhere nice for it to live and I knew of one for sale. So I took a drive and I bought a duck. It was one of the most liberating experiences of my life. I realised then all the things I hadn’t been allowed to do, all the times I had been restricted in my choices and not given credit for having enough brains to make reasonable decisions. Buying that duck caused a huge shift in my thinking.

Sadly, Alice the blue duck was one of the birds lost to foxes in the great two-night massacre that emptied my poultry pen of everything but my pair of geese. One of the first tasks Matt took on when he started spending time here was to make the pen secure. I haven’t lost a bird to foxes since.

Now I am fortunate to have a partner who not only supports my lifestyle choices, but encourages and even participates. He will spend a night in a freezing barn waiting for a goat to kid. He can butcher a goose. He will help build fences or bring in the hay. Sometimes he will even milk a goat. He sees the value in what I am trying to achieve. But the main thing is, if I want to spend my time or money on a project and I decide I can afford it, he would never dream of telling me that I shouldn’t, let alone that I can’t.

So I have started off this year by buying two ducks. Muscovies again, because my Pekins and Appleyards won’t sit on their eggs. And Matt’s response when I told him I was going to buy a couple of Muscovies to hopefully hatch and raise some ducklings? He said ‘cool’. The same response I would probably get if I told him I was going to buy a flock of turkeys or a pair of alpacas or a Clydesdale. Because he trusts my judgement and knows that if I am going to fork out for something I will make sure I get good value out of it. Even if that value is just that it makes me happy.

I read about women who have to hide purchases from their spouses and tell them that the horse was cheaper than it actually was or that they are just leasing it or that this isn’t a new rug, it’s an old one I haven’t used for a while. Ones who say ‘I’ve just hatched 20 new chicks and my husband will go mental if I don’t sell some birds’. Who give up things they love doing because their partner told them it was too expensive or a waste of time or refused to watch their own children so the other parent could take a bit of time for herself. And while I understand that family finances can be complicated, it really doesn’t seem fair that one part of what is meant to be a team has the power to veto or otherwise negatively influence something fairly minor that the other person wants to do. If you can trust a person to raise your kids, surely you can trust them to make sensible choices about following their interest.

If there is one thing I have learned, it would have to be never to trust a man who would have a problem with me buying a duck.

My new Muscovy ducks.

My new Muscovy ducks in the reinforced poultry pen.