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DSCN7558In Spring 2015, while busy weeding near a pampas grass bush in the front yard, I inadvertently frightened off a mallard hen who had, unbeknownst to us, nested under the bush. She took off into a nearby field, and watched us from there.

My husband and I decided to remove and incubate 5 of the eggs, leaving the others in the nest for the mother duck in case she returned. She evidently decided to abandon them, as we saw her no more. Sadly, the remaining eggs did not make it through the cold nights. We had to dispose of them a few days later.

The good news:  several weeks later, five fluffy, adorable and healthy little mallard ducklings made a noisy entry into the world (and into our hearts). It was Mother’s Day, May 10, 2015.

1 day old mallards

Our 1-day-old mallard ducklings. Having their first bath in a paint tray.

Being completely clueless about ducks I read everything I could on the internet about hatching, feeding and raising them. Unfortunately most of the information I could find pertained to domestic breeds to be used as food sources or pets, not wild species. I had lots of questions I could not find answers to, for example how one could raise mallards in such a way they can return to the wild eventually. I had no desire to force them to become house pets wearing diapers, nor fatten them up to eat (as one friend suggested, not entirely jokingly!).

Our mallards, one month old with the same paint tray.

Our mallards, one month old with the same paint tray.

I didn’t have to worry. Our ducks retained all their wild instincts and needed very little help from us. In fact they taught us what we needed to know about them – we just had to watch and learn. They also entertained us, moved us, taught us about ourselves and gave us new eyes for the world around us and the creatures in it. You could say they changed our lives.

The five ducklings matured quickly into young mallards, and within 3 months, they had flown the “nest” and left us for the wider world, although they would still visit us almost every day till late autumn. It remains to be seen if they will put in an appearance in the spring, when female ducks are supposed to return to nest on their old breeding grounds.

I am still no expert on mallards or ducks. All I know is based on personal experience with these five very special individuals we had the privilege to spend time with. Often I have even had to revise my own ideas and beliefs about them whenever new information was discovered or observations made.

Thus I offer no advice to others who have an interest in duck keeping or breeding; I merely share these fond memories and musings, in the hope someone else will enjoy them!

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