The duckies slept outside for the first time last night, in the doghouse! No, they are not in disgrace or disfavour. We were just testing out the outdoor set up to see how the ducks would take to it. They must get used to sleeping outdoors and not in the house, but still be protected as they are still young.
I set up the dog house and the framework of the enjoined run in a small rectangular grass patch between the garden shed and the pond. The run is not predator-proofed yet. I plan to wrap the whole thing, over and around, with hardware cloth (1/2″ wire mesh) and I am not quite finished yet. It’s more time consuming than it looked at first. I will have to cut and join the mesh pieces to fit the shape of the run, and then cable tie everything together so that there are no spaces or holes anywhere around the pen where a raccoon or weasel can get in. I’m not sure if we have raccoons or weasels here, but I’m not waiting to find out!
The cut edges of the mesh can be very sharp – I’ve already cut myself on it several times – so I have to be careful that none of it sticks out where a duck might tear it’s webbed feet on!! Finally all this has to be joined to the dog house in such a way the ducks can go freely between the house and run but there will be no gaps for predators to come through..
Since yesterday morning, I started leaving their dry feed and water in the run for them, to get them used to going in there. Well, would you know it, they got so used to getting their food free-flow there, that they stopped following me, or even bothering to react when we call! They even seem a little afraid of us and don’t like us coming too close any more.
It doesn’t seem that many days ago, when they still ran to hide under the patio chairs we were sitting on, or tried to claw their way up the insides of my trouser legs for protection and warmth! We think they are imprinting more on each other than they did on us – which is fine, since we hope they will fly away when they have their wings and be independent and free.
Anyway, today I latched the door of the run so they can’t get in to their food so easily, and will have to come looking for me to open the door for them. They will become too lazy or spoilt otherwise, and have no reason to work for their food, which they must in the wild.
When previously they were fed indoors, all 5 had organize themselves to come together to “knock” on the house door to be let in. Now, they individually hop out of the pond any time they like to go to the food bowl, since it’s just a couple of steps away!
So, anyway. I had lined the dog house with newspaper and straw, installed the brooder heating plate, and some water and food. There are small gaps between the floor boards and a couple of millimeters of space where the hinged top meets the top of the walls, enough for some air circulation. I hung a small tea towel over the plexi glass door (as a sort of curtain), since I thought they would feel safer and will go to sleep easier, if they can’t see anything outside at all – but H. seems to think they need to have some light!
To get them to go into their new “bedroom”, I closed the opening to the run while they were inside eating, grabbed them one by one and put them in the dog house which conveniently has a hinged top that opens up. They freaked out at first, but once all of them were together they calmed down somewhat. It was past 8pm, but still very bright outdoors.
The ducks still could see a little through the door on the sides and below their towel-curtain, and were cheeping and banging their beaks on the plexiglass, trying to get out. They would not go to sleep even though I talked to and coaxed them like I do every day. Finally I put a large piece of cardboard in front of the door to shut out the light – and voila, after 10 mins, nothing more was to be heard – I guess they gave up trying to get out, and went to sleep.
Feeling rather guilty and worried I went back to the dog house to check on them a few more times before I went to bed myself, but heard nothing. I couldn’t see them but guessed they were asleep. Later while I was making dinner, I started missing the sweet little noises and soft peeps they make in their cage every night. I felt really sorry for them freezing their asses off outside, and almost decided I would bring them back indoors the next day and wait till they were a little older before I made them sleep outdoors again! However this morning, when I let them out of the dog house, they seemed the same energetic and hungry ducks – no worse for the one night in their new quarters. In fact they seem to enjoy being outdoors much more than indoors.
I will try to finish predator-proofing their pen by this evening so they will have a bit more space to move around while sleeping outside and not be confined to the dog house again!