A Place For Ducks

by Ann van Engelen

Duckingham Palace is the home to many white Indian Runner ducks including Lucky, Plucky, Jemima, Showduck, Gronway, Colin and Tony. It is also a haven for rescued endangered ducklings such as the Grey Teal, which get hand-reared and released back into the wild.

When Stacey Austin and Larry Tessier (Sunny) moved to their property, there was a flock of Indian runners with 13 ducklings residing on the lake. 

“They are a lovely duck with great personalities but they are notoriously terrible parents,” said Stacey.

“There were 13 ducklings and one was abandoned and all by itself on the lake, so I called it over and it amazingly came close enough for us to catch it in a net, and we called it Lucky. A couple of months later another lone duckling was peeping away by itself so we caught him and called him Plucky.”

The pair happened to be a male and a female and Stacey says nature then took over, and suddenly they had ducklings everywhere.

“We house the babies in their own private enclosure and hand-rear them, they don’t go on the lake. We have 16 ducks in total at present and the number is growing.

“The Indian runners are flightless and are amazing if you have an orchard or garden because their favourite foods are slugs, bugs and snails. As long as you don’t have brand new seedlings in your garden they will remove the bugs for you and fertilise the garden as they go.

The couple also feed their ducks cracked corn and chook chow with lots of fresh water, and Stacey says ideally people should have three females to a male.

“They are amazing for people with lifestyle blocks and they get on with other birds, but if you want to keep the line pure they need to be kept separate. “They are a very healthy bird, like all ducks they can get worms, but I put apple cider vinegar in their drinking water to avoid this — maybe a quarter of a cup to ten litres of water. “They aren’t really an eating bird but they are the most prolific egg layer, we get approximately 300 eggs per year per duck.” Stacey says the eggs are approximately twice the size of hens, are slightly richer and great for eating.

“They make the best sponge and meringues. If your recipe asks for one egg just use a duck egg. I love them.

   Indian Runner ducks are a domestic breed that are ideal for lifestyle 
          blocks and keeping vineyards, orchards or gardens bug free

“The Indian runners make great companions and their lifespan can be The couple also feed their ducks cracked corn and chook chow with lots of fresh water, and Stacey says ideally people should have three females to a male.

“They are amazing for people with lifestyle blocks and they get on with other birds, but if you want to keep the line pure they need to be kept separate. “They are a very healthy bird, like all ducks they can get worms, but I put apple cider vinegar in their drinking water to avoid this — maybe a quarter of a cup to ten litres of water. “They aren’t really an eating bird but they are the most prolific egg layer, we get approximately 300 eggs per year per duck.” Stacey 15 years. They are super friendly with children and they don’t have sharp beaks like other ducks have. Their favourite treat is lettuce, they love it. 

“Our line is pure white but you can get fawn or a variety of different colours. They stand very tall and slim which is how you can tell they are a pure Indian runner. If it isn’t tall it could be crossed with a Pekin.

“Indian runners are tall and lean and the female has a loud quack that the male doesn’t.

“The male’s tail has a flick in it, the female’s doesn’t.

“They are real characters and all run in a pack and follow each other and stick together, if one runs they all run.

They often don’t know what they are running for.”

Stacey says if you get them young enough they imprint really well. If you feed them in the same spot daily they will always run to that spot to eat, making locking them away at night easy. “They are happy to free range and do prefer to sleep outside under a tree in a huddle. “They are a domestic breed and we highly recommend them for vineyards, orchards or gardens, as they keep everything bug free and they fertilise as they go.” Stacey and Larry also started the New Zealand Endangered Ducks Society. “We run the NZEDS and we have dreams to re-establish endangered duck species. We sell Indian runners and these sales help fund the project. “We hand-rear and release endangered ducks including the grey teal.

“If we come across abandoned eggs we incubate, raise and release them back into the wild. We rescued around45 grey teal in the past year. We want to help save the different species that have become vulnerable.”

Any information advice or support, contact Stacey or Larry at Duckingham Palace on 022 155 7907 or facebook.com/nzeds.