Friday, April 20, 2012

Nic, Nack, and Paddy

So we are on the second year of Mallard ducklings.  Last year we had a male and a female, Click and Clack.  This year we have three new quackers named Nic, Nack, and Paddy.  We got them as hatchlings on March 17th and kept them in the house on the living-room table in a small animal cage.  Duckling are very affectionate and love to snuggle with you and sit on your shoulder, in fact that is their preferred spot, so a towel then becomes necessary to keep your shoulder clean.

At about two weeks old the flock can start spending days outside, with supervision.  We have hawks, owls, racoons, foxes, and neighborhood dogs who would love to make an easy meal of the currently flightless birds.  So every morning we wake up and walk outside for our daily romp and then they get cooped up in their run while the weather is nice.  On not so nice days they spend a LOT of time in the tub, water entertainment and easy clean up!

At one month old most of their adult feathers have grown in.  They have graduated to adult duck food and weekly minnow hunting.  At first both sexes look female but very soon the males will start shedding their brown feathers and getting their beautiful green heads.  Right now they are still juveniles and very needy.  They are sleeping outside now but insist on companionship.  They often come to the back door peeping, demanding that someone come out to watch them eat!  Although they are pretty hand shy they are not afraid to come and sit on you if you are still.

Mallard ducks are a wonderful summer project for the whole family if you have the time and the space for them.  There is not a lot of expense involved in raising mallards.  I purchased my ducklings at a local farm and garden store for only $5 and 10lbs of feed only cost $6.  Inside I housed them in a small animal cage or kennel and outside they have a truck topper for a coop and a small kiddy pool to swim in.

The real commitment for these critters comes in the form of time.  It is the nature of fowl to imprint on a mother figure and when they imprint on you they will have a need for your presence.  Ducks follow you everywhere and will insist on you being there several times a day just to hang out.

Mallards, unlike flightless ducks, will eventually leave you to migrate south in the fall.  They will do this by instinct and need no prompting from you.  Often your ducks will come back for a visit in the years to come as they have a lasting connection with the place they were raised.  It is wonderful to be a part of this cycle of life, to love and raise these adorable and entertaining creatures and then to see them learn how to fly and eventually leave for bluer waters.

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