Ducks at The Coombes School

12 July 2010 · 7 comments

in Developing School Grounds & Outdoor Spaces, Nature Play & Learning

I have always been fascinated by ducks and other wildfowl. As a child, one of my favourite books was The Story About Ping. These days I’m bewitched by the rather naughty duck on Farmer Brown’s farm and the star character in Giggle Giggle Quack.

As a child I was lucky enough to have several pet geese, whom we trained to come and find us for food when we called “Geese-geese! Geese-geese!” I named my first goose “Don’t Know” so that when people asked me its name I replied “Don’t Know”. It was my idea of a joke back then.

So when I was visiting Coombes School I was delighted to see the resident ducks and the hands on infant project about these birds.

The ducks are kept right outside one of the Year 2 classrooms. Imagine being able to look out of the door to this sight:

The pathway along the side of the duck run, was covered with children’s chalk drawings.

The ducks have a large area in which to roam amongst fruit trees and grass. As you can see, they have their own little temporary pond too. They need a safe place to roost at night, away from interested foxes.

The children have to look after and handle the ducks. This includes incubating eggs and raising ducklings.

The children kept duck diaries and wrote about their experiences of looking after the ducks.

It may appear a daunting challenge to have livestock in a school. There are costs involved such as setting aside a suitable fenced area, ensuring shelter, paying for feed and organising the cleaning and care routines. But the interest and joy that children show suggest that the effort is worth it. This Youtube clip from The Coombes School may help inspire you!

Finally, if you worry about aggressive ducks or geese, there is a simple test to find out whether they are faking their aggression or are really mad. When a duck comes flapping and hissing towards you, stick out your foot, with a welly boot on it. An aggressive duck will peck the boot. The one that’s faking aggression will back off. I was taught this whilst volunteering at Slimbridge, headquarters of The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust many years ago.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

jenny July 12, 2010 at 07:31

Wow, what an impressive project. And Ping was one of my favorite books as a child too Juliet. I must try and find it to read to my 6 year old.


Teacher Tom July 12, 2010 at 14:39

I’m so tempted to get chickens, but I worry that they’ll spend too much of their lives alone at the school, especially over weekends. How does a place like Coombes handle that? Or is it an issue with livestock?

As you might guess, my parents were farmers, but I’m pure city boy!


Juliet Robertson July 12, 2010 at 16:04

Hi Tom

It is an issue with livestock. When I worked at an outdoor centre that had a farm, then the staff still did the chores over the weekend.

I’m not sure what happens at Coombes but I presume it will be staff or parents who help out. Chickens must have access to fresh water and be safe from foxes or other predators at night.

With some animals staff can transport them between home and school. I’ve seen this happen with guinea pigs.

If you want more info, one of my oldest friends, Wendy, blogs about the hens in her garden and her blog is on my blogroll.


SquiggleMum July 13, 2010 at 06:07

So much to love here. I especially enjoyed the children’s chalk drawings of the ducks!


jenny July 13, 2010 at 07:44

My oldest son’s class is researching what they will need to do / consider to keep chickens at school Tom so I will let you know what they come up with. I have 2 chooks at home, and think that if you have a safe enclosure that would be okay on the weekends. Holidays I think we would handle by getting a family to take them home – we have a fair few chook owners so they could bunk in together.


Sherry and Donna July 13, 2010 at 13:02

I agree with Cath those chalk drawings are very cute! It’s so nice the children have live ‘models’ to inspire them.
Donna 🙂 🙂


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