Let’s face it, having a pet duck is not common. And I get asked A LOT about how messy ducks are. Consequently I spend quite a bit of time talking about diapering a duck. Yes, there is such a thing as duck (and chicken) diapers.
One of my favourite and the most amazingly helpful websites is Backyard Chickens. This has been my go to site for any questions about chickens or ducks. And on the flip side, I try to help those who have, or more importantly are thinking of having, a Pet Duck.
Of Time and Diapering
Recently I was asked how much time I spend with Maggie, our pet duck, as well as whether I diaper her. My short answer turned long, as it varies greatly, and so I thought it worth adding as a post here.
Maggie is an imprinted duck. That is she thinks I am her mother and doesn’t quite know that she is a duck. She grew up in our cottage, so is quite at home there, and it is where she sleeps at night. (Yes, in the house with us.) She wanders at will, even flying up on to the sofa. She has a real passion for soft cushions, particularly if in her favourite colour red.
Messy is as Messy does
Now, ducks are messy creatures. They are like dogs when it comes to eating their food. They eat with great gusto. They slurp up their water, and then (and here is where the dog comparison veers off a little) they might bathe in it.
There’s lots of wing flapping, feather fluffing and the odd moult. (Something we are going through right now and I am finding feathers everywhere!)
Let’s Talk Sh$t
They also can’t control their bowels. They have no sphincter, so when they have to go, they have to go. And consequently, and what really makes them different from dogs (or cats) is that you can’t toilet train them. This is what puts most people off having a duck, or chicken, as a pet.
Enter the Duck Diaper. Some lovely soul came up with a way of diapering a duck using a harness system. It holds a piece of sanitary pad, in just the right place, thus saving the furniture and lots of washing up.
We have a diaper for our Maggie. However, she HATES to wear it. She spends the whole time it’s on trying to get it off. She is normally such a vivacious character, but diapering her changes her character completely. And we find this difficult to bear.
We generally only put it on her when she is inside and we have company. That is, when we feel there is a real need. Because it does quiet her (as she is too focused on trying to get it off). This is actually useful when we have visitors, as otherwise she does enjoy being the centre of attention.
Otherwise, when it is just us in the house, she goes ‘naked’. It’s our preference, so Maggie stays as, well, Maggie. But then how do we deal with the mess?
Luckily, she, like all birds, is quite routine orientated so we know where she likes to hang out when she is inside. I put down towels (preferably red or pink) where she normally likes to stand or sit, e.g. on the sofa, as these are easily washed. We have used, and still occasionally do use, incontinent pads (affiliate*), but as Maggie likes colour, and is more willing to sit on red or pink, more often we use towels.
A Girly Girl
She very obviously prefers softness underfoot, rather than our stone floor, to hang out on. From early on, as soon as she could, she’s been hopping up on the sofa to sit. She loves the arm of the sofa (where we strategically place a towel) as she can survey her ‘Queendom’ and keep an eye on where I am.
She also has a cushion that she has claimed as her own. In fact two, one in our living room, and one upstairs which she sleeps on. Both washable. Funny enough both are red, so we know she must obviously prefers this colour.
Feeding and Mess
We have learned to feed Maggie only outside. Like most pets (and humans), what you put in has a definite time frame to when it comes out. So feeding times, and location, are planned. And we particularly don’t let her in the house after she has eaten lettuce – that is an ewwwww in the making.
She doesn’t eat once she comes in at night, just water bowls dotted about. It makes night time messes easy to manage (the little there is ends up on a (red) cloth on her bed that gets washed daily). And stone floors are a wonder, along with wet wipes,for the odd accidents. Easy.
Diapers need changing
When diapering a duck remember, like a child’s nappy, you have to change it. So having a think about when and how long you wish the diaper to be on is worth planning. Normally you will have to change after about an hour, though like children, it depends when and what they have eaten. And, like babies, the smell may also tell you when it is time.
As Maggie spends a good portion of her day outside, we let her go au natural and do what nature intended. If she wanders in during the day, we have towels in strategic places we know she likes to hang out. This gives us more freedom. We don’t have to interrupt our work or tasks to diaper her. Come evening, when the the cottage door is closed, the diaper may go on (depending on our mood and what we are doing). Bedtime and it comes off and Maggie heads for her cushion and sleep.
Creating a Routine
Understanding and/or creating a routine with your pet duck, like a dog, is very useful. Ducks prefer routine, they are even rather OCD about placement of things like their food or water bowl. Understanding your ducks routine helps you plan when/if you wish to diaper.
We have learned Maggie’s routines more or less now and life is much simpler because of this. Like most animals, she eats, washes, sleeps and plays. When dusk settles she comes in the house, washes up, fluffs her feathers and settles in for a nap on the sofa, recovering, thank you very much, from her exhaustive forays of the day.
Later in the evening it is play time. Ideally she enjoys when Gigi, our cat, is about as they can play tug and pounce or they can roll balls to each other.
When we are ready to go to bed, Maggie is taken upstairs, has a wash and settles herself on her bed. She sleeps through the night (more or less) if she has been running about all day. If she has been inside napping during the day, she sleeps less in the nights.
Then, come dawn, Gigi comes up to play with her sibling and the two run around trying to make as much noise as possible and the day begins anew. Who needs an alarm clock when you have a duck and cat as pets.
Diapering a Duck
And Dean Crowley and Marv Duck, over on Instagram, have the best show and tell video on diapering a duck…