We had a mini crisis. I had managed to safely hatch a couple of ducks and one chick, but the rest of the eggs had died (I suspect this was due to being placed over a rather shaky washing-machine—I will rethink the position next time.) Anyway, the hatchlings were safely in a plastic crate under the red heat-lamp, and we were walking the dog when Husband happened to glance through our hedge. There on the pond was a tiny yellow duckling.
Now, I knew that one of the ducks was sitting on a nest in a hutch, and I had in fact been barricading her in with balanced paving stones and old bricks because there were signs of the fox trying to dig her out at night. But I had decided that if she managed to hatch any, I would leave them to take their chances on the pond. I decide this every year. I never do.
We rushed back into the garden, with the dog trailing behind us looking confused and wondering if we had forgotten we were going on a walk.
On the pond, the mother duck was swimming around, followed by four ducklings. All very cute. But I wasn’t sure whether she would protect them when the crows heard and swooped in for a snack. We stood, watching.
Mother duck went up onto the island. The ducklings swam round, wanting to join her but not understanding about the ramp. One found it and struggled up, the others cheeped in alarm, all the while getting more tired and water-logged. A duckling has the oils from the mother’s feathers to waterproof it for a while, but as that wears off they get soaked and cold and sink. We decided to intervene and Husband went inside for his waders while I stood guard. As soon as he entered the pond, mother duck jumped off, and he managed to grab the duckling on the island. He also spotted another one, lying on a ramp, cold and still. We thought it was dead, but it managed to lift its head when it heard the mother, so we grabbed that one too and I rushed it to the incubator, which was luckily still warm.
When I returned, mother duck had found a spot on the bank, and two ducklings were underneath her. I realised that she would probably stay there for the night, making easy-pickings for the fox. The only safe place is the island, and the ducklings couldn’t get up there. Ducks never return to the nest once the last egg has hatched (it usually has at least one dead egg in it and a lot of smelly egg shell). I approached the mother, and she jumped into the pond, leaving the ducklings on the bank. I put them in my pocket, and watched to see how she would react. She went on the island, and started to clean her feathers, apparently unperturbed. I took the ducklings inside.
I checked a few times, but the mother seemed happy without her ducklings, and was busy swimming or resting—she certainly wasn’t looking for them. I decided to keep them (well of course I did!)
The nearly-dead duckling continued to look nearly dead for a couple of hours, but then perked up, so I added him to the plastic crate in the garage. Ducks are lovely birds, when you introduce a new one they come to investigate, but I have never known them to be anything other than accepting.
The mother duck was white. I’m not sure if that is the reason, but the new ducklings adopted the chick as their mother, and tried to sit under her. She was rather bemused—especially as they were bigger than her. After a day, she seemed to accept her role, and continues to sit on top of the ducklings. I suppose that when you were curled up in an egg a few hours ago, the whole world seems strange; having fluffy ducklings climbing under you is probably no more strange than everything else. The chick (am really hoping it’s not a cockerel) mainly looks perturbed when the ducklings splash in the water. I have noticed it always drinks after the others have finished.
Hope your world is not too weird today. Take care.
Thanks for reading.
Love, Anne x