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    The Obligatory Duckling Photos

    April 7, 2011 by Brandy Vencel

    I don’t post photos of my {adorable} children online, so excuse me while I go a little overboard with our ducklings. It is official, by the way: the four females have names. The children have agreed that naming them after their great grandmas is the best thing to do, so I am pleased to introduce you to March, Jane, Lucille, and Betty Mae.

    While I’m posting photos, I’ll share some things you might not know about ducklings, and raising young birds in general. They certainly are things we didn’t know before we jumped in with both feet.

    Baby ducks peep and chirp. They do not quack until they mature. Most drakes are very quiet and have gravelly voices. I am interested to see how our drake sounds when he is grown.

    When ducks arrive, they still have their leg bands on.

    …brown seems to be for girls…

    These need to be removed within 24 to 48 hours. The longer you wait, the harder they are to get off, because birds grow very quickly, which means the tags get tighter by the hour. {Ask me how I know.}

    I removed bands this afternoon.

    Ducks naturally have a flock culture. This means they do everything together. If one starts eating, they all eat. If one needs a drink, they all drink. They seem to be following a natural herding pattern, even in their lawnmower box lodgings.

    …time for a snack…

    When I first get ducklings out of their shipping box, I take them out one by one, and introduce them to their food and water source. I dip their noses into the water until they drink a little. We introduce water only at first. After each has drunk, we take them one at a time and do the same with their feed {we use starter crumbles for the first five weeks or so} until they take a bite. Once they know what is food and what is water, they attack it all with a vengeance.

    They are quite famished after two days of living in a box with nothing but GroGel to feed upon.

    We line the box with newspaper and it is changed once per day. When they are bigger it will need to be changed twice, or even three times, each day.

    Some people buy fancy chick feeders, but I use my husband’s plastic sandwich container. {He doesn’t mind…much.}

    …ducklings drink a lot of water, considering their size…

    We have a simple watering system. With ducklings, there is the natural instinct to swim, which needs to be guarded against. They do not have a mother to teach them, nor to make sure they do not overdo. A water container that is shallow and narrow keeps them from getting too wet, protects them from getting too cold. {Ducks become “waterproof” when they get their feathers.}

    Even though it is small, they will try to sit in it and splash around in it, which means the water needs to be changed often to keep it clean.

    …family sticks together…

    Ducklings sleep in a heap, even if they don’t have a mother to sit on top of them. {The picture above is not a heap–a heap involves some of them actually being on top of the others.} Last night, Si saw one try to get out of the heap to go get a drink. Its head was stuck and it had to tug and tug to get out.

    If you want your birds to be tame, you need to hold them several times every day. These birds are much easier to tame than our first flock. I think it is due to this breed have a calmer temperament.

    …taming…

    All flocks have a pecking order. It horrifies my children that the birds are already pecking at each other, but this is reality. I am very curious how having a drake will impact the order of the flock. Our current alpha bird, Boadicea, acts like a male in many ways. My son tries to stop the birds from being mean to each other, but I just let it happen unless I fear for a bird’s safety.

    Generally, ducks seem to like to be held more securely, and they do not like being flipped on their backs like a baby {to the great disappointment of Daughter A.}.

    We let them graze for half an hour in the sun yesterday. It is funny that they will try to eat everything, shaking their heads to spit out what they don’t like. The clover blossoms were a big hit! Today turned off cold and rainy, so they will stay in our garage with the heater until better weather. Next time they go for foraging, I will bring a shallow bowl and let them practice swimming as well.

    When ducklings first swim, it is important to watch them and make sure they don’t drown. They can get tired, and their down absorbs water like a sponge. You also need to guard against chill; they can get quite cold from the water, especially if there is a draft. I like to do swimming lessons right at the end of their grazing time so that they immediately go back into the garage and warm up with the heater.

    Swimming lessons could be done indoors, but I prefer it outside where there is very little mess to clean up afterwards.

    …this one started to drift off while I held her…

    In all, we’re having a good time getting know our new babies.

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    7 Comments

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts April 8, 2011 at 4:21 am

    Ha! I just didn’t want anyone imagining I was out there teaching them to kick their little legs. 😉

  • Reply Kelly April 8, 2011 at 3:18 am

    Yes, that’s what I meant. It just hadn’t occurred to me that you’d have to supervise them instead of simply letting them do what comes naturally.

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts April 8, 2011 at 3:11 am

    They really are this adorable. The one with the light head (don’t know if that comes across well in the photos) is the sweetest by far. When the children hold her she climbs up and sits on their necks. I have no idea why.

    I don’t know if “lessons” is the best way to say it I suppose {concerning the swimming}. It’s all instinct–they know what to do. The problem is that, without a mother, they can easily drown if you don’t watch them.

  • Reply Alicia@ eco friendly homemaking April 8, 2011 at 2:50 am

    Oh my goodness they are so adorable!!
    So glad I found your blog.

  • Reply Rahime April 8, 2011 at 2:44 am

    Oh my goodness soooo cute!!! I could hardly read your post because I kept getting sucked into the cuteness.

    🙂

  • Reply Kelly April 8, 2011 at 2:38 am

    That is amazing. I had no idea you’d have to give them swimming lessons!

  • Reply Silvia April 7, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    Priceless, Brandy.

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