BRENTON, N.S. - The egg came first… followed by the duckling, a unique arrival amongst the chickens on Becky Cottreau’s Brenton, Yarmouth County, property.
The collection of poultry on her hobby farm includes a flock of Australorp, Araucanas, guinea hens and Seramas.
Cottreau works as a computer business consultant and owns Song of the Paddle, a kayaking excursion business, but her love for her flocks has earned her the nickname of Mother Clucker from her friends.
When her son Josh found an abandoned nest of eggs from his pair of Indian Runner ducks, he gave them to his mother. The male had disappeared and the female was not broody. Cottreau had a setting hen she could put the eggs under, and access to an incubator.
Runner ducks are less common in North American barnyards than other duck breeds but are not considered rare.
They originated in the East Indies and are known for their upright stature. The ducks are flightless and run instead of flying to get from point-to-point so were easy for farmers to drive to market and keep in penned areas.
Cottreau had no idea if the eggs given to her were viable.
“It was late February. They might have frozen, but we thought it was worth a try,” she said.
On March 28, cracks appeared in the one and only egg to hatch. The little duckling was having trouble breaking out of the tough shell so Cottreau assisted.
As the new arrival was very weak, Cottreau wrapped her in a warm fleece sock and took her to the Yarmouth County Learning Network for the day, where she works as an administrative assistant/bookkeeper. Staff celebrated "quack-a-doodle” Wednesday as a result.
By the end of the day the duckling, now dubbed Phoenix, was fully recovered from her hatching ordeal and already getting “quite accustomed to snuggles,” says Cottreau.
After work she was introduced to Chicklet, an Australorp chick. The pair formed a bond and learned to accept each other completely.
“Even though Chicklet thinks Phoenix is crazy for wanting to swim in the pond and Phoenix thinks she's nuts for not wanting to,” Cottreau said, laughing.
She refers to them as her chicklings, as “neither one of them could properly be described as either a chicken or a duckling.”
During Phoenix’s growth spurts, she developed Angel Wing on her right wing. The condition causes a wingtip to turn out as feathers grow. It’s treatable by wrapping the wingtip and training it to grow where it should.
“It looked easy on Youtube, but because she's an Indian Runner duckling, she has a unique body shape and she turned out to be a bit of a Houdini when it came to getting out of anything wrapped around her slender body,” said Cottreau.
On her third attempt at wrapping, Cottreau jokingly says she succeeded by using duck tape (actually surgical tape) and in a few weeks the condition was fixed.
The duck sleeps in the barn on a puffy comforter that used to belong to Cottreau’s dog, along with Chicklet and a tiny chicken named PeeWee.
Phoenix receives morning, afternoon and evening snuggles, which she “seems to prefer even to going for a swim, says Cottreau.
Recently, she took Phoenix kayaking. The duck wore a special harness to make retrieval easier.
“She's game for anything as long as she can be near me,” said Cottreau.
For another story on Becky - read about her discovery of a broody chicken who hatched her chicks outside in January.