I envisioned taking them home, setting up their little home by the stove and watching them bathe in my claw-foot tub. Oh the pictures I would have and the blogs I could write. I began to slightly question my decision after thirty minutes of loud peeping; how in the world was I going to sleep through this racket? Ducklings are no shrinking violets and what seemed cute at first was rapidly becoming annoying. However, as with any task I undertake, I decided I'd just figure out a way to live with it.
Once we arrived home and the little critters were safely housed in what will be their home for a few weeks, until the weather warms and I can make a predator proof oasis, I took to the internet to learn all I could about these little ones. I love the internet with it's vast array of educational information right at my fast little fingertips. I was thankful right away, as I learned the bathtub idea was a poor one. You see, when ducklings are hatched (not born as my daughter corrected me) in the wild, they sit under their mama, which I knew. What I did not know was their mama has glands which produce an oil. This oil waterproofs the mama and her babies and allows them to swim without becoming waterlogged and then drowning. I would have felt like a horrible mom had I put my little ones in the tub, surrounded my children, only to have them sink to the bottom. The thought just horrifies me right down to my tippy toes!
There were a lot of great pointers and much needed and wonderful information on the web. What the web did not cover was the mess....and oh heavens...the smell! You cannot underestimate the smell of three small waddlers! The little ones out grew their first box rather rapidly. We also found that while they may not be able to swim, they still 'love them some water' and while drinking they bathe themselves, and their entire habitat with water. At first I thought, they cannot be going through three quarts of water a day! I did not realize it was because they were throwing it everywhere, until my first round of "cage" cleaning! Every inch of the box was soaked, so we had to adjust and realize a card board box just wasn't going to cut it!
We have all sorts of things here on the farm, so the search for another home became the focus. We found a wire dog traveling cage someone had given us. While preparing the home, I made the mistake of putting the ducks on the floor with my daughter watching them. After a few piles of loose You know what, back in a box they went. Time out to bleach the floor and then back to their home. We lined the bottom third of the cage with thick painters plastic, using black Gorilla tape(I LOVE THIS STUFF) to secure it to the sides of the cage. Then in an attempt to make sure there is a dry place for them to bed down, we placed a box with bedding in it on one side with short edges for them to climb over. Then we placed wood shavings over the floor of the plastic covered cage. We placed the waterer and feeder at the opposite end. Then with much trial managed to get the heat lamp attached to the cage. I did not realize baby ducks are just as curious as human toddlers, and ended up with a slight mishap with the duckling and the heat lamp, but thankfully all is well! So, set that heat lamp where they cannot come in contact with it if you decide to give ducks a home.
The stench issue was the next problem we decided to tackle. My dear cowboy man is all for animals being "IN THE BARN" which was said with a stern man voice. I'm sure it is another moment of "thank God I love her" which I imagine happens a lot for him. After a days of twice a day cage changing, I'm beginning to see the wisdom of it. However I want them to be people social, so I have to balance the two, knowing with mono I will not be trudging up to the barn, as just walking across the house wears me out some days. This weekend our plan is to spend some time on a compromise. A warm, protected, outside and close to the house duck habitat! I have envisioned a cute cottage style, painted with a fence around and over it, while cowboy man ...I'm sure has other ideas! This should be an adventure in compromise!
I have also learned a lot about how tolerant the other animals are in our home. The dogs are learning not to even look the ducklings way or get put outdoors, and the cat has not climbed back up on the cage since it sent them into fits of hysterical cheeping which caused me wild eyed and wild haired to leap from the bed to shew her from the room. I think the sight and sound of me running through the house was enough to scare any creature into rethinking duck for a midnight snack.
I have been asked many times why in the world I chose ducks. I must confess the decision was mainly because they are cute followed by some quick thinking reasoning of 1. They are great bug eaters and since I want to be as organic as possible here, this is a good opportunity to try something new. 2. They are cute ( yeah we already covered that). 3. IF they are girls they will lay eggs. I say if because you cannot tell the difference until later :) ...if they are the egg laying kind I will be able use the eggs for eating purposes and to paint the shells. The eating part we shall see...if I like the taste otherwise the pigs will get the insides of the eggs).
We have discovered joy we did not have pre-ducks. They really are funny to watch. We don't have TV, so this is great entertainment. We also discovered one of them is quite musically inclined and cheeps to the sound of the microwave or computer beeping sounds and even mimicked the cell phone beep so well we did not realize it came from the duck! I now have someone to talk to during the day, and the kids have fun laughing at me for one more thing and it has given them great facebook status fodder. I am sure there will be many more adventures, and Ill keep our tales of ducklings updated.