Ducklings: Day 5 – Pond cleanup crew

We’ve been busy all day outdoors in the garden doing yard work, mowing the lawn, raking, and as usual, keeping an eye or eyes on the five ducks at the same time.

We are settling into a kind of routine with them that seems to work well, as long as we are home most of the day. I let them out at 7.30 am, and they have free run of the back yard with either H. or myself nearby to keep watch over them from a distance. About 12 hours later, the ducks come indoors for their last feed of the day and are then caught and relegated to their duck mansion for the night. So far, they have not figured this out and always fall into the same “trap”!

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Enjoying some sunshine

Duck Mess Minimisation

Thanks to the really good weather today, the ducks even napped outside in between swimming or foraging, basking in the sun next to the pond, and only came back in the house for extra food. This minimises cleaning work for me since they do most of their pooping outside! They are very messy eaters though, so I still need to line their indoor feeding area with lots of newspaper. I’ve tried feeding them outside but they still seem too uncomfortable or insecure eating in the patio.

Pond Clean-up Crew

They are growing so fast and are already almost twice their weight after hatching! They are learning so much on their own so quickly – astounding, considering they have no mother duck to teach them all the things they need to know, such as how to find food. They forage all day among the reeds in the pond, and have inadvertently helped with a cleaning up job I had been unsuccessful with. They have removed the string algae choking many of these plants, drilling and pecking with their industrious little bills everywhere they can reach, eating all manner of tiny animal or plant matter at or near the surface of the water, including insects flying overhead. You should see them jump out of the water to catch those! To grow fast, I guess they have to eat like little piggies. We now call them our pond clean-up crew!

Diver Ducks

The ducklings have also learned to dive or duck (well, of course) underwater for up to several seconds at a time and resurface elsewhere – quite a clever trick to confuse would-be predators. It sure confused us. H. got me to wade into the pond barefoot to rescue one duckling he thought had sunk from being too soaked through, after she dove underwater. This turned out to be a false alarm as she had simply turned up in another corner of the pond, unnoticed by us!

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Ducklings resting on a pile of rocks in the pond. It’s a safe hiding spot.

They also seem to have developed their waterproofing oil glands already, which according to internet duck experts, usually takes several more weeks, and until then, ducks are not supposed to swim! I distinctly saw water rolling like little shiny gems off their backs, and they are only 5 days old. I am sure their long hours spent free-ranging instead of being confined to a run or cage has activated all their natural protective/defence mechanisms. They groom and preen immediately on coming out of the water, pushing on the oil gland area on their lower backs with their bills, then rubbing their bills over the rest of their downy bodies.

Bodyguard for Ducks

They still like me to accompany them when they walk across the lawn to and from the house and pond. They are perhaps afraid to make this short trip alone and need me for protection. Today, after their indoor chow time, they even came to call for me when I was in the bathroom, peeping loudly. When I went to the open door with them but no further, they all turned about, came back into the house and stood around waiting, as if expecting me to follow. It’s hilarious!

I also realised today that they have become too familiar with humans. One duck walked through the chain link fence into the neighbour W.’s garden while I was speaking to him over the fence, perhaps assuming it was safe to be among humans, any humans. They may not realise that the fence is a boundary, since they are still small enough to stroll right through the spaces in between the wire. I almost panicked, but luckily the duck turned and came back almost at once. He might have got killed, since the neighbours have 2 dogs.

Enforced Bedtime for Ducklings

We force the ducklings to go to bed before 8pm, even if one or two are unwilling and peep loudly to be let out again because the sun is still shining. We don’t want to risk not being able to find them or get them indoors after dark. If I cover the cage with towels to block out the light, they get sleepy eventually. We also found that the sound of our voices when we talk to each other (not to them) seems to have a calming effect. I am very glad they sleep soundly through the night, unlike human babies. Imagine if I had to wake every 2 or 3 hours to feed them or something!

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