We’re rounding out our first week with ducklings. They’ve already visibly grown and seem to be more duck-like every day. They are parked next to the washer and are completely chill while we do laundry; they’re also fine with us talking loudly near them. They still get a bit freaked out when a hand comes into their nest, but all three kids are getting experienced holding and petting them.
They’ve been living this first week in a Rubbermaid container that my friend Holly, who is raising chickens this year, said might get snug in short order. It is. Holly’s moved her girls to their outdoor mobile coop and is loaning us the big steel trough they’d been living in; this means the ducks will get a 150% space upgrade this week. They’ve very excited and have been looking at upholstery fabrics and paint swatches.
Here are five things we’ve learned this week:
1. Ducks are apparently a close relative of the lemming. One leader (usually one of the Blue Swedish who early on established herself as a troublemaker) will do something, and they all follow suit.
- “I’m thirsty!” “So are we; let’s all drink!”
- “I’m feeling peckish!” “Let’s all nibble some food together!”
- “Hey! I wonder if I can pull off the duct tape that’s holding this thermometer on the wall?!” “Let’s all try!”
- “Phew, I’m feeling sleepy.” “Let’s all fall down together and take a little snooze.”
They run together from one side of their little home to the other, and then run together again. And then drink together, eat together, make trouble together, and start it all over again until they crash together in a little four-billed furball.
2. They love water. I mean love it. They don’t delicately sip; they revel. They stick their heads halfway into the trough of water (practicing looking for underwater edibles) and then throw their heads back and let the water run down their throats. They walk in their water. They lie in it. They go through almost a gallon a day. Half their home is constantly wet from their shenanigans. I’d bought a kit to make a Poop-Free Waterer for when they get outside, and the FAQ mentioned ducks will need supplemental water on top of what they can get from the waterer. I understand this now.
3. Chick starter feed is good, but ducks like treats. Like finely chopped kale, or dandelion stems, or lettuce. We’ve been popping out to the backyard for little treats for them. They don’t care if the lettuce is bolting and inedible for us; they love it. They also love finely chopped hard-boiled eggs, which frankly seems a little ghoulish.
4. They poop. A lot. Seriously, I had no idea. Phil has really taken the lead with changing their bedding (every other day, with a “half” change in between), and four minutes after he changes the newspaper lining and litter and washes out the container and fills their waterer with fresh water, the place looks like a flophouse. Or another kind of “house.” Tommy named one of the birds “Brown Chest” because it woke up one morning with some new and beautiful (to Tommy) brown accents on her chest. I didn’t have the heart to tell Tom that this unfortunate Blue Swedish had just been on the wrong end of one of her coopmates. One reason ducks make such great garden helpers is the fertilizer they can provide, and if this first week is any indication, it looks like we’ll be all set in that department.
5. We love them and are fascinated by them even more than we imagined. And we haven’t even tried putting them in the bathtub yet.