Spring is a time or replenishment. A time to plant the garden, a time of rebirth amongst the animal kingdom, and a time – thank goodness – when we can move some of the off-spring out.
Now I can’t claim to understand, possibly sympathise, but not truly understand what it is to raise children. But I can tell you about ducklings, that is about ducklings that live in your house. Having raised Maggie from her hatching to the hatching of her own brood – of 13! – I can debate with myself that I am starting to get the hang of it. And then I think…. nah.
And the internet has let me down for once. I mean, really, why doesn’t someone have the answers to what should you do if your pet duck turns out to be a bad mother?
Or maybe it isn’t that she is a bad mother. Maybe it is just a nature type of thing. A nature vs nurture thing. I think normally in nature a mother duck stays with and looks after her ducklings until they fledge, e.g. get their feathers and fly the nest. Hence the saying. But our Maggie gave it a week. Just one week, and then she decided she had had enough.
I can’t personally blame her. I mean raising 13 very demanding little fluff balls would be hard on anyone, let alone if doing it on your own. With the demise of our other ducks, Maggie is truly on her own. But isn’t that what we grandparents are for, ‘built in’ babysitters?
We had them all, yes all, inside our (rather small) cottage for the first week. When they’re tiny this is not so much a hardship, but since they grow amazingly, every day, it is not long before they (and their, um, residue to put it politely) gain in size.
Pumpjack came up with the idea of creating ‘Duck World’ an area just outside our front door where the little ducklings could be during the day, fairly well protected from predators with various duck houses and access to the cottage if needs be. We incentivised their desire to stay outside by putting all the food out there and slowly adding features, like a paddling pool as they got bigger, working on keeping them outside longer and longer as they go bigger and bigger. It was all part of a master plan to introduce them to great outdoors. Honest.
We reached a point 2 weeks in of having them in only at night, and then cleaning up the mayhem and mess each morning. And in the meantime, Maggie lost interest. She would fly down to the other areas of the garden and visit with the rabbits, or to the workshop to visit with Pumpjack. We were building a path and some new raised beds (to be another blog post) and she would come to assist, along with Chewie (dog). And by assist, we mean search for worms amongst our feet as we shoveled dirt.
Worried about the ducklings being alone, we opted to let them out of Duck World and follow Maggie about. (You can probably see by now how much of this is about flying by the seat of our pants.) Hoping also that she would teach them a few tricks of surviving as a duck, or at least keep an eye on them. In reality, she would be no deterrent, a lone duck, but she generally keeps them around the cottage, with an occasional foray to the garden to visit, and help us. Nothing like having a duck and 13 ducklings looking for worms underfoot.
We hit our limit by the 3rd week, when neither of us wanted to go downstairs to make the coffee and face the status of the floor. This was just not on! No one gets in the way of our morning coffee time! Time for the ducks to go. Luckily Maggie, maybe in foresight, maybe because, honestly she does not share well with others, started taking them herself down to the duck house in the lower garden. And then she started leaving them there, going back later in the day to visit. We took this as a hint.
So now the ducklings live in the duck house, next to the chickens. Maggie unabashedly stays up in the cottage overnight. There was no question of any other choice from her. She comes down with me to let them out in the morning, and will happily visit them from time to time and bring them up for a visit to the cottage, if so inclined. The ducklings are loving having the run of the garden and we can hear their happy peeps as we work. There is every real chance we could lose a duckling to a predator, though now that they are bigger, the number of predators has dwindled, but we hope for the best, as we always have.
Life is slightly less chaotic now as our growing family now dwindles. We’ve gone from 22 little ones in our little home down to a more manageable 9. And just in time, as the kittens have found their feet and are exploring every place they can get into. In 3 weeks time we will be down to 3, as the kittens go to their new homes, but in the meantime, I have and am enjoying and savoring every minute of my time with all our little menagerie.
Addendum: Maggie is once again laying eggs. Thank goodness we do not have an adult male around at the moment.