Cute but Stupid


Originally uploaded by bnmng

Ducklings will drown in a container, even if you’ve ensured that they can get out of the container by waving your hands around and scaring them out. After you leave, they’ll hop back in and, without the wavy-handed boogie-man threatening them, will swim around until they get too tired to hop over the wall. To keep the adorable dumfucks from drowning, you have to make sure their exit path is as easy to cross as it is to walk out of a natural pond. This hardware cloth ramp seems to work. I know it will get rusty soon so I’ll replace it as needed or come up with something else, but there has to be something there.

Another note: don’t use poultry netting to enclose chicks or ducklings. The 1″ hexagonal holes are perfectly sized and shaped to let them get stuck halfway through. Use hardware cloth.

Duck Motherhood

Our usual plan is to let the ducks raise their own ducklings. This usually lasts about two weeks before the mother looses track of her brood and the ducklings eventually wander off to do their part in providing nourishment to natural fauna. It’s amazing to me that the Muscovy breed actually manages to propagate itself in the wild. The ducklings get confused about who their mother is. I occasionally see them following roosters around, and once I saw one trying to keep up with the guineas. Since the mother can’t count, she doesn’t notice her flock diminishing. I suppose after the last one disappears she gets an idea that something’s wrong.

As an experiment we’re trying to circumvent that process by enclosing the ducklings in a little pen. The mother can fly out whenever she wants.

Mother Duck with Ducklings in Pen

She has difficulty getting back in. I think it’s because she gets fixated on her ducklings in a line-of-site orientation, and can’t imagine going the wrong way (up) in order to get to them. So she just wanders in circles around the cage. The ramp helps. We had to put it sideways so we can chase her in a circle around the cage and eventually up the ramp.

Duck Pen with Ramp

Ducks love storms, but not when they’re young.

I found nine almost-dead ducklings after last night’s storm, and was able to revive four with a heat lamp. Their fuzzy feathers don’t resist water like the oily, stiff feathers that they’ll get when they grow up. They could have survived under the wings of an adult but my ducks are lousy parents and often loose track of their young. It could be because they’re descendants of farm-raised birds; it could be because the parenting instinct is short-circuited by the little-ones scattering from me while the adults follow me around looking for food; or it could be that ducks are naturally lousy parents and survive by producing enough offspring to cover the losses.

From a financial point of view, I put little effort into them and get little return, so it works out. But I feel bad about the losses and am thinking about how much effort I should put into preventing them.