Runner Ducks (Updated)
Last year I wrote some blogs about different breeds of animals on the farm. A few now need updating so here is a revised version about Runner Ducks.
I have always loved the Caenhill Runner Ducks and their numbers at the farm have gradually been increasing. Bean became my favourite when I first started watching the rush hour as he was one of the animals I could always identify. He apparently came from a place called Froome and was the only survivor from a group of five Runner Ducks following a fox attack. Chris named him Bean as it was an easy name to remember and runner beans were growing on the farm at the time.
Now there are many other individuals to look out for. It is always a delight to see Smile, who was brought up by Chris and Caroline, and is usually with his chicken friend called Scurry. There is also Emmerson, Lake and Palmer (who lost a band member for a while), Sonny and Cher, and staying with the musical theme a new quartet called Sister Sledge.
The most recent Runner Duck brought up by Chris is the wonderful Mo. He is not yet quite old enough to join the other ducks but is growing quickly and is already becoming a star.
My enjoyment of watching the runner ducks encouraged me to learn more about them and have highlighted some information I found interesting.
It seems the exact origin of Runner Ducks is unknown although apparently there are Hieroglyphs of them in a Javan Temple that are 2000 years old. It is thought that in the IndoChinese regions of Java they were trained to go into paddy fields where they would eat slugs, snails, weeds and flies.
They became popular in Europe and America towards the end of the nineteenth century and some were even imported into the United Kingdom as early as 1830. This was because they were recognised as good egg layers.
Today they are still recognised as a good egg laying breed. Females can lay an average of 250 eggs a year but they have a poor maternal instinct, rarely make a nest, and usually drop their eggs wherever they happen to be. This might account for an egg suddenly appearing on the barn floor. They are also commercially valued as they provide an effective pest control method and are excellent foragers.
I discovered quite a lot of information about what Runner Ducks are supposed to look like and what does and does not conform to the breed standard. Although over time their stance has become more upright The British Waterfowl Association and the American Poultry Association both publish their own Standards of Perfection. There are many specified acceptable colours but quite strict rules about correct shape of such things as head, body and eye position. Personally I love all the variation amongst Chris's collection but one comment from an American Poultry Association judge did however make me laugh. He apparently said; 'They should not have heavy shoulders where the lower neck and body do not blend smoothly – they should not look like a head and neck stuck on the end of a shoe box.'
Although their appearance is unique there does seem to be consensus about certain facts. They have an upright carriage with their legs set quite far back. Although this means they tend to quick step rather than walk Mo has demonstrated that they can still move very quickly.
Their height from the crown of their head to the tip of their tail is 50cm (20 in) in a small female, whereas a tall male is about 76cm (30 in). Females weigh between 1.4 – 2.3 kg (3.1 – 5.1 lb) and males 1.6 – 2.3kg (3.5 – 5 lb).
Their eggs are usually white, or greenish white, and weigh 65-80g. Usually it takes 28 days for the egg to hatch but can take 33 days.
It is initially difficult to tell their sex but once mature the drakes (males) have a small curl at the base of their tail but the ducks (females) tales are flat. Only the females quack whereas the males have a hoarse whisper.
Runner Ducks cannot fly. They have small wings which are close to their body and they overlap at the rear. Although they can swim they apparently do not need a lot of water and some of the sites that advertise them for sale suggest that all is needed is a tub of water so they can dunk their head. The Caenhill ducks however seem to enjoy the water and have Caseys Pond as well as several others to choose from if they fancy a swim.
Although described as 'social with an urge to flock together' many of the the Caenhill Runner Ducks often seem to like to keep in their own preferred sub-groups. It is always exciting to spot a favourite at feed time and I am always on the lookout for Sunbeam, a white duck I was fortunate enough to name.