• Jenny Dupre

Make way for ducklings: week one

Man... it has been a long time since I posted! It hasn't been a long time since I've written a post necessarily, but I haven't been able to get my head on straight enough to finish one in months. Many, many months. I have about 20 draft posts, all on various ways I've been coping with the last few months, but apparently I haven't been coping well enough to complete any.

But here we are. It's warm. It's spring. And I have ducklings. Yep! The pretend homestead is now a real pretend homestead, complete with farm animals! A few months ago I picked out four ducklings from Metzer Farms and put in my order. The earliest that I could get the two breeds that I was interested in (Welsh Harlequin and Cayuga) was for an April 23rd hatch date. Seeing as they would be delivered to me one day before my birthday, I figured it was perfect timing! Of course, it was absolutely NOT perfect timing, what with the Opening Night for our last show of the season that night, and a surprise business trip to California the following week, but we all know that when I want something, I am not easily deterred.

The Sunday before the ducklings were to arrive I gathered all the supplies I figured I'd need. As we had arrived home from Texas that very morning, I was so thankful that my Auntie had purchased me a bag of duckling starter feed off Amazon which would save my very tired self a trip to Tractor Supply. Instead, we hit Ocean State Job Lot (aka my favorite store ever) and picked up a kiddie pool, several bowls and dishes, and a hanging lamp. Then off to Petco for wood shavings and a heat lamp bulb! I set everything up so that the brooder would be nice and warm and comfy for when the babies arrived.

The nicest this room has looked since ducklings arrived...

On Tuesday, I stopped into the post office to let them know I would be receiving a shipment of live ducklings so they could call me as soon as the package arrived. Metzer Farms gives plenty of excellent advice to first time duckling owners, including how to best prepare for your shipment. I turned on the heat lamp to get the room nice a toasty and went to bed early.

Wednesday morning I was up with the sun, and so were the guys at the post office because I received a call at 6:30 a.m. letting me know I could come by and pick up my ducklings! I rushed over there and picked up my peeping little box. I was so excited to get them into their brooder, I didn't take any photos of the "unboxing" which is probably for the best as sadly, one of my Cayuga's didn't make it. I got the three surviving ducklings into their brooder, dipped their bills into the water to make sure they knew where to drink, and then showed them their food. I disposed of the dead duckling by tossing it over the fence. My sister was horrified that I didn't have a matchbox funeral, but I figure I was giving the little thing back to the land. Also I was pretty upset and it seemed like the best, quickest, least sentimental way to deal with the situation.

Clockwise from left: Jemima Puddleduck, Sonia Duckstoyevsky and Rebeccah Puddleduck

Although it was Opening Night my boss, knowing how badly I wanted these ducklings, said I could take the morning off and bond with the babies. I spent most of the day watching them eat, drink, snooze, try to preen but fall over, get the zoomies and run all around like lunatics and then do it all over again. I reluctantly left around 3 p.m., hoping nothing bad would happen while I was away.

When I got home around 9, I found Marcel in the duckling room playing his guitar and singing songs to the babies while they peeped along happily. Nothing bad had happened in the interim and I was able to put my mind at rest.

L-R: Marcel playing for the duckies who are "punk as duck!"; Post opening night with Jemima;

Jemima meets Henry and my heart friggin' melts.

The rest of the week passed pretty uneventfully until I got home Friday night and realized something was wrong with Sonia. She kept acting like she was trying to poop (ruffling her tail feathers and pushing her butt out) but nothing was happening. Figuring she may be constipated, I wiped around her vent area with a warm washcloth which produced the tiniest clear liquid movement. Now in full on panic, I took to the internet! The bastion of lunatics and neurotics. If you don't know... there is a message board for every topic. Fortunately, the folks in the duck forum of backyardchickens.com were so kind and helped me try to relax enough to get through the night. While constipation could be life threatening, it wasn't an emergency yet.

The following morning I was up early and Sonia was still constipated. I dragged Marcel out of bed and to the nearest Tractor Supply. It opened at 8 a.m. We were there at 8:05. The ladies at the counter were very helpful and knowledgeable and gave me plenty more advice. There were several things I could try... I tried them all at once:

1) Water down the food and add olive oil

2) add chick probiotics to the water

3) add chick grit to their brooder

4) give her a dose of nutri-drench (a nutrient rich formula for use in case a duck goes off food)

Fortunately, by Saturday afternoon, everything was working perfectly well again. I would know because I spent HOURS watching Sonia poop.

Stop staring at my butt, mom!

The first week of life for these little ladies was plenty eventful. They hatched and were immediately stuck in a box, shipped across the country and unfortunately at least a portion of that trip was spent stepping on a deceased sibling, were introduced to their new home and one got herself stopped up. The good news is that things seem to be moving much more smoothly now. Tune in next time for an update on week two!

How quick they grow! L-R: Sonia, Jemima and Rebecca; Jemima stares me down; snoozing under their heat lamp;

the three amiga's at the end of week one doubled in size!

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