Ducklings Week 4: Almost a month old!

Although we have an outdoor pen, the ducks don’t use it except as a eating/play area. At night, they still sleep in their indoor cage, which is getting too small for the 5 rapidly growing ducks.

Mealtime in the outdoor pen

Mealtime in the outdoor pen

Yesterday, the ducklings refused to leave the pond to come into the house until almost midnight. It was warm outside, and the sky stayed light until very late. We watched a movie while waiting for them, they finally did come on their own to the house just as we were about to give up and go upstairs to bed. Perhaps they chose to sleep indoors because they still feel safer to be near us, but they have developed strong instincts to evade capture. They scuttle away in a panic the moment my hands come anywhere near them, as you can imagine, that makes it difficult for me to pick them. However, they would still readily eat out of my hand and follow me around (or have me follow them around).

I had to chase each of them around the living room before I could get them in their cage. Unfortunately the cage is not the kind where the entrance is low enough for them to get in by themselves, otherwise it would have been easy since I could put food in there to attract their attention and then just herd them in. If I had to do this again, I would buy a large dog crate instead of a rabbit/hamster cage!

After lots of squealing and struggling, all of them were finally together in their cage, allowing me finally to wipe up the puddles of poop they had deposited everywhere. Our house kind of smells like a swimming pool these days because of the bleach I use to disinfect the floor! By the time I got to bed it was way past midnight.

In spite of the inconvenience, I decided they should continue sleeping indoors at night till they are about 5-6 weeks old, or when they absolutely refuse to come inside any more – whichever occurs first. I absolutely determined they will receive my protection as long as they still needed me.

Deep in discussion about algae.

Deep in discussion about algae.

Two interesting things happened yesterday – firstly, the pond temperature warmed up to over 15 deg C for the first time in weeks. It seems to be a critical temperature for Koi, because they started swimming around more animatedly again, and also started eating. I had not seen the two smallest Koi, which we bought earlier this year, for several weeks. They were probably hiding at the bottom, but now they are happily swimming around with the bigger Koi near the surface where we can see them, much to our relief. The larger Kois have even started to follow/chase the ducklings around, it is quite hilarious.

The 2nd thing – which we just noticed – is a metallic greenish sheen on the tops of the heads of 4 of our 5 ducklings. It is only noticeable in very strong sunlight. We are wondering if this means we have 4 drakes and 1 hen, or if this greenish tinge appears on some Mallard ducklings’ heads regardless of sex. I couldn’t get much information about this on the internet. It has been discussed on forums, but most people seem to have little luck sexing their ducks before they are adult and many get misnamed in the meantime :-).

The only foolproof way to tell a duck’s gender is to do “vent sexing” which is to push back their vents to expose their sex organs – but it has to be done when they are just a day old, preferably by someone experienced otherwise the duckling may be hurt or frightened. I have decided to let time tell. We don’t have any proper names for them yet, but we often have fun discussing their different personalities, and trying to figure out which one is the leader, or which one is making the weird fart/cough noises!

Around 3-4 weeks of age, female Mallards start to develop the characteristic “quack” sound, boys are generally quieter and make only peeping or raspy noises as they get older. We used to be able to tell them apart by their facial markings, but now that the yellow feathers have darkened to brown it’s no longer easy to see these markings. I have ordered coloured bird leg bands on the internet and they are supposed to come today, though I haven’t figured out how we are going to put them on the quackers!

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