CacheCrazy.Com: Tending To Ducks.........Updated

Monday, January 16, 2012

Tending To Ducks.........Updated

Authored By: Bloodhounded

Notes from author: This has about as much to do with geocaching as cats have to do with water but hey, I warned you, right? I do however; have a lovely story to tell you about some beautiful Mallard Ducks.

It started a few weeks before Easter 2010. My Mother in-law was so kind to purchase two ducklings for each of my three kids. Six ducklings in all. Oh, they were so cute and cuddly with their yellow and brown “fuzz”, their tiny feet and their innocent dispositions. It wasn’t long before they started to grow and grow fast. Man, we had our hands full. I built the ducks a “temporary” pen to hold them through the summer. Being Mallard ducks, they will surly want to fly south come fall.

A couple of good looking "chicks"
These ducks turned out to be a handful and they had a personality that reminded me of a scatter brained bunch of kids. It took everyone’s efforts to keep these guys happy. I didn’t want to clip their wings because how would they learn how to fly if we did? So, as new duck parents, we raised our kids with the freedom for them to make their own choices. Two of them didn’t make a good choice when they decided to fly into the fenced in area where our two bloodhounds roam. Let’s just say “they played a little too rough” and then there were four.
These four Mallard Ducks turned out to be three males and one lone female. We weren't able to figure that out until they were about 6 months old. Big beautiful ducks that had the run of the property. I’ll never forget the day I read some information on the internet and realized they are not going to fly south for the winter! Holy crap, I had better get building a duck coop! I have to “winter” (that’s duck talk for holding them over for the winter months) these guys! I was both glad to know they weren't going and yet a little disappointed that they were going to stay. A love/dislike (I won’t use the word HATE) relationship classic.

Winter was tough! The bitter cold had me lying in bed at night feeling sorry for these guys. We did all of the right things I guess because we didn’t lose one duck and that in itself was a feat. Soon spring rolled in and I noticed that the female was acting weird. Before long I knew why. There were eggs in the coop, on the ground and in a makeshift nest she had constructed in the corner. What to do? Internet said she would lay 19 to 23 eggs. OK, 10 down 13 to go. At egg 29 I was getting worried. We had been harvesting the eggs and placing them in a homemade incubator that my son and I constructed out of a large Styrofoam cooler. I texted my friend Shell with the problem. I could hear her laughing all the way from where ever she lives, “you have to let her broad (duck talk for let her sit on eggs, I think)” she texted, “if you don’t she will keep laying eggs, silly”. As much as I felt like a goof, she knew what she was talking about because she and her husband, Ian have a farm (they are the nicest people I have never met, lol). Our female laid 7 more eggs and sat right down on them and stopped laying. Shell was right!

Mike(my son) and I took care of these eggs like as if we laid them ourselves. Turning them religiously, the right temperature constantly, humidity at 40%, marked them to keep them organized and keeping them safe from harm for days until the big weekend came. We were going to “candle” (that’s duck talk for putting a bright light to the back of the eggs to see what’s going on in there) the eggs! What we found was AMAZING! LIFE was evident in some and not so much in others. We learned a lot about eggs, embryos and life together. I will never ever forget it, a grown man and teenage boy sitting in the dark “candling” eggs and all you could hear was; "cool, wow, check this one out, awesome"! It was a day that my son will surly remember long after I’m gone and I will never forget.

We soon realized that not all were going to hatch but, we’ll still have a bunch! After all, we had 23 eggs. Even at about 50%, that’s 10 baby ducks. Oh, and the ones that momma duck was lying on, they would probably not hatch due to a cold snap that likely ruined them but, we’ll let her sit on them (mainly because she would not move from the nest without taking you out).

As time went on we started to realize that there were several eggs that did not look good. Lots of them! In fact we were down to something like 5 eggs after 18 days! Good Lord, did we do that bad as Dad’s of these eggs? Then a miracle! A duckling hatched! Our first little baby! We named him LUCKY who was followed by Omelet and Noodle. That was it, 23 eggs handled with tender loving care and only three ducklings! Well guess what? The 7 eggs that “weren’t going to make it” that the mother was sitting on turned into five beautiful ducklings. Just goes to show, no one or nothing replaces Mom.

So, now we have four adults and six babies (we lost two to unfortunate accidents we won't discuss). We are all adjusting to our new lives. We keep saying we are giving some away but I kinda know better. Come winter, we’ll have 10 ducks and then comes spring! What will happen then? One thing is for sure, I retired the incubator and will let nature run its course. They could leave anytime they want but they never go too far because they love us. Mrs. Bloodhounded is the Mother Duck and they follow her all over the place and always want to play with her. I’m Daddy duck and I think they like me a little bit. I take good care of them and keep them clean, fed and healthy. I like to talk to them because they always have so much to say and I actually listen to them.
In addition to my crazy world of corporate affairs, bureaucratic bull $#!t, restaurant kitchen chaos, trying to raise a family in this economy and hold everything together as best as I can to be a good husband and father, I still find myself, tending to ducks! And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Quack, Quackkkkack, Quackkk (that’s duck talk for, have a great week :)

Update 1/16/2012

Today, our ducks are doing great! We are now down to only 6 (the babies) but they are all paired up as "couples" and everyone seems to be getting along wonderfully. We took down all overhead netting, leave the gate open and the ducks fly high and far. They could leave any time they want to but they don't. Every evening they fly back home, walk in the gate, have a bite to eat and climb up in the coop for a good nights rest. That is the only time I lock them in, or should I say, lock the trouble out. Coyotes, raccoon and wilds cats want them for dinner but not on my watch.

We put a small pond in for them this fall and we'll landscape it nice in the Spring. They still prefer the large puddle by the barn but that's only full when it rains. They took to their new little pond right away. I want to place a bench under a nearby tree so I can sit and talk with them. They are surprisingly smart and very true to their mate. We could all learn a few lessons from ducks. Lesson number one; stop and listen. They call me by name (which is "Quack") and I call them "my girls" and the males don't seem to mind.

So, we are all getting along nicely. I expect that this Spring we'll have more eggs, more duckling and just as much fun. I'll keep you posted!

Update 4/10/2013

Well, I guess it's official, we have a Mallard Duck Farm! Because we free range our ducks some have shaken off their domesticated inheritance and we have had a few return to us from a nice visit south for the winter. How cool is that?

I managed to stock a few ducks on local game lands and have been in touch with the local chapter of Ducks Unlimited to assist in a program that will insure that Mallard ducks will always prosper on state game lands 119 which is adjacent to our property. In fact, they are interested in "sponsoring" our farm (meaning they will offer some funding for food and medical treatment) as long as we continue to place them in their natural habitat at local waterways and ponds. I never want to see any of our "friends" be shot by hunters however, they risk that as free rangers everyday anyway so let life and the good Lord take it's natural path. I have a great amount of respect for the organization and hunters in general so it looks like we'll form a relationship and see how it goes.

That's it for now but I'll add another update soon.



BigAl said...

Well it sounds as if you guys are great duck parents. I think you have done a marvelous job raising them. We used to raise chickens and we would incubate a lot of them as a project, and then we let one mommy chicken hatch her own. We loved doing this. We plan on having some more at some point in the future because we just love fresh eggs. Great story.

Heather Cook (Lady-Magpie) said...

Firstly Bloodhounded I think your quackers, but saying that what a lovely story. My only problem was as I read through it I found myself foundling an omelette pan and had to quickly put it back in the cupboard as the eggs hatched. When I was young, yes I can remember that, my Father got 4 chicks in exchange for some old clothes, that was the days when we had a rag and bone man on a horse and cart. Surprisingly Eeny, Meeny,Miny and Mo survived until Father eyed them up for a Christmas. I couldn't and only ate sausage and bacon for Christmas lunch. We didn't have little pigs so it was alright.

Do you not find that you keep bending down when one of your family shouts "Duck".

Ann said...

Brilliant.........well done. What great story...

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