Seems there are many creatures destined to be our teachers. Each new family of animal that comes into our lives begins with a fearless band of warriors ready to train us in how to care for them. At their expense.
The ducklings were a bit of an impromptu purchase. We had planned to eventually get ducks, but hadn't really talked about WHEN, until the Saturday before Easter. The conversation went something like this:
"Shall we get ducklings to surprise the kids?"
"Yeah, if the store is still open when I'm done with this I'll go down and get some."
You'd think we were buying ice cream, not five living creatures.
So they come home in a little box, with instructions for baby chicks. Box says on it "Chicks and Ducklings." The feed bag says "Chicks and Ducklings." Great, we know how to take care of baby chicks. No problem.
Ducks are messy. I mean REALLY messy. They need water mixed with their food in order to swallow, which means that when they drink, they have food in their mouth, and the backwash pretty quickly "nastifies" the water. They also like to walk in the water. And dunk their heads in the water. And their poop is very, um wet. And squirts. MESSY.
They also grow really fast (at least this breed does). So they've outgrown their Rubbermaid tub already. They would have even earlier if not for the unfortunate early demise of one, at the hands of that menace to all waterfowl, that poultricidal three year old, The Princess.
Overheard talking to her grandmother:
"Well, I squeezed its neck a little too tight and it quacked really loudly and wouldn't stop, so I threw it on the ground a little too not gently and it died."
You know that thing I said about the fearless band of warriors? Exception here. Ducks are not fearless. Not at all. One is almost tempted to offer them valium they are so highstrung. I suppose given the aforementioned incident one can hardly blame them.
And while I joke about it here, I was really upset about it, which was compounded by the fact that the dead duckling was left outside alone for all of three minutes, and when I went out to bury it was already gone (dog undoubtedly). Despite the fact that chickens die at our hands on a regular basis, this was different and I'd really wanted to bury it. I also blame myself for not supervising the children with the ducklings. In one of those common farm drama coincidences, as I was cleaning the duck tub and the kids were taking care of them, our back fence neighbor came and told us our cattle were on his property, so I walked to the back with Stephen to look for them. I returned minutes later to a dead duckling and four VERY stressed live ducklings.
I have looked up duckling information, and even on the web, it has been scanty. I still have not found definitive advice for when to let them live at the pond, although I have surmised. I did find a good general site early on that the children enjoyed, called All About Ducks for Kids.
Last night I finally found this quite useful site on duckling care, and realized it was time to let them have a daily swim.
Here are the first two swimmers:
They were so happy. Absolutely delightful to watch. They are in a big rubbermaid tub (their former home), and the green stuff floating around is little pieces of lettuce. They love to "dabble". These little birds, who had never swum before, took to it like a duck to water. OH! ;-)
We sifted threw a number of ideas for places for them to live for the next few weeks (they still need some temperature control and protection from predators until they are bigger). In the end we settled on the bathtub. The lovely big jacuzzi tub that doesn't work. I lined it with plastic left from moving mattresses, poured pine shavings in, and voila! Our new and improved Chez Duckling:
Note that the water is already murky, the food is knocked over, and the pine shavings are rather "soiled". This set up was pristine four hours before this picture was taken. They don't waste much time.
I am enjoying them greatly, extensive poop cleaning chores notwithstanding.