Old Frontiers in Pest Control
FIRST THERE WERE WILD ANIMALS, birds and predatory insects and the like, to eat the insect pests that plagued the human race. And then there were domesticated animals. Ducks, for instance.
Say hello to Duck, Cover, Run, and Hide, the newest members of the family here at Wild Flora's Farm. About three weeks old, they are Muscovy ducks. Native to Central and South America, they are already big by baby duck standards and will get a lot bigger. In fact, some people say this breed is as much goose as duck. (Genetically they are ducks, but Muscovies are not related to any of the other domesticated breeds of duck, all of which are related to mallards. Their closest wild relative is now thought to be the North American wood duck.)
Ducks are said to be a great addition to the garden if you have space for them: Like other free-range poultry, they eat lots of pest insects, but supposedly they are less destructive to the garden than chickens are. They also produce copious fertilizer. (This, with an accompaniment of long, loud pooting sounds, DCR&H have already demonstrated.) Ducks are also supposed to be less susceptible to health problems than chickens are.
I chose this breed of duck partly because they were available; a local farmer breeds them for eggs, meat, and pest control in his commercial vegetable-growing operation. (Not to worry: DCR&H will never grace anybody's table if I can help it. I am hoping to eat duck eggs, however.) Another attraction is that this breed has a reputation for being able to take care of itself. I plan to let them spend a lot of time loose outside (livin' la vida ducky), and they need to be able to find food for themselves and to fend off predators. Mucovies are strong, heavy, and aggressive for ducks; can fly well; and (unlike mallards) have strong, sharp claws and are able to perch in trees, all of which will increase their chances of survival.
Right now, they're not looking at all fierce, however. From the moment they first saw me, they've regarded me with deep, dark ducky suspicion; hence the names. (Funny how new pets always manage to name themselves.) Following the farmer's advice, I will keep them confined in their home (a huge dog kennel purchased for my Great Pyrenees dog Molly, who never uses it) until they learn to trust me (no sign of that yet). And I'm assured that, as is so often the case, food will eventually win their love.