In Spring of 2013 we bought 4 ducklings. My husband had wanted ducks ever since we moved to Ohio. He had them growing up as a kid and could remember them hanging around the house. They were there for spring and summer and then they would fly away in the fall. I knew this would become another chore for me, even though my family all promised to help…yeah right. One weekend the kids and I went to get a few things at Rural King and there they were, the cutest little fuzz balls I had ever seen. All it took was one look and I was sold. I had to have these little ducks! They told us we had to order then and you were supposed to order them in quantities of 6 or more. What? I was not going to have 6 ducks pooping in my house. I was thinking…maybe 2. So after some debate she told us we could get 4. Of course this is where my kids pulled out there best puppy dog faces and started begging. Again, my husband was not there but I was pretty sure he would be on board. So I ordered them, $5 each. Before we left I wanted to see how much these were really going to cost me; heat lamp, light bulb, feeder, water bowl, food, straw, ect… I was surprised to see it wasn’t to expensive, cheaper than my sons fish tank stuff. My husband was easy to convince when I told it how affordable they were to take care of. I mean it was only going to be for a few months and then they would fly away, right?
It was the week after Easter when we got the call that they were ready for pick up. They were only 3 days old and their little webbed feet were smaller than a dime.
My son took a liking to the smallest one and named it “Runt”.
They had to be kept inside and under a heat lamp for the first month of their life. We set them up in our basement in a little swimming pool with their food and water. The kids would take them out every day for a little play time. They would play a game my kids called “Duck Duck”. The ducks thought we were their mommies and would follow us every where we went, when we said “duck duck”. I can still hear the sound of their little feet running across our wood floors.
I think every week they doubled in size. They grew so fast! The kids would taking the outside to play or let them swim around in our bathtub.
They were starting to get pretty stinky in the basement and kept trying to escape so we let them go outside during the day. This was their favorite spot in the yard. It was just a low spot in the grass, under a tree. We would fill it with water and they would play for hours.
It took about 6 months for them to get there grown up feather and start changing colors. We thought for a while we had 4 girls. But there was 1 boy in the bunch. His name was “Chip”, he was the leader of the pack. We named him Chip because he took a fall on the concrete when he was little and chipped his beak. He was a pretty big duck.
We built them a small house out of pallet wood to keep them in at night. They still wouldn’t fly so we were afraid of animals like coyotes and raccoon at night. I was told that it only took 3 days for ducks to create a habit. So every night for 3 days we would go out at sunset and walk them to their cage. Sure enough on the 4th day we went out to get them and they were already in their cage waiting for us to close it up. Smart ducks!
Every morning the ducks would hang out and watch the kids get on the bus and then would make their way to the creek in our back yard. The would wonder through the neighborhood going from house to house, bird feeder to bird feeder and then back to the water again.
During the fall the ducks started to fly, a little. By Halloween 2 of the females had flown away. At first we were worried something happened but there were no signs or evidence that an animal got to them. That left Chip & Runt. By November it was getting pretty cold and had even snowed a few times. We decided since they weren’t going anywhere we would move their cage inside the garage. We even gave them their swimming pool.
When the temperatures were above freezing we would let them out to explore and go for a swim.
One night I was cooking dinner and I heard Runt in the garage. I was surprised she wanted to come in so soon but I went to close the garage door and noticed she was by herself. Her and Chip were inseparable and she was making a lot of noise, I knew something was wrong. So I bundled up and went looking for him with my husband. There was snow on the ground so we followed the duck tracks. We could see exactly where they had been. The 2 sets of track stopped in the middle of my neighbor’s yard and changed to 1 set. No feather, blood, or other animal tracks. He just vanished. It was hard for us to imagine him flying away but there was no other explanation.
So that left 1…Runt.
We were a little worried about her because we were told they can get very lonely by themselves. She started a nest and laid eggs all winter.
When spring came we moved her cage back outside and before no time she had every male duck following her around. She still wouldn’t fly! She did not like the boy ducks following her and would charge at them. There was one duck though that grew on her. They started hanging out during the day and would explore the neighborhood together. We were just so happy she wasn’t alone anymore.
She started several nests but none of them would ever hatch. It was still pretty cold outside and she would leave during the day to go hang out with her boyfriend. In June she started sitting on the nest all day. She would only leave it for a few minutes to go get water, meet with her boyfriend and then back to the nest she went. She laid 25 eggs!! I think she was trying to increase her odds 🙂
We were keeping a close eye on the eggs because we didn’t know when they were going to hatch. One morning I went out to check on them and half of them were gone and there were shells everywhere. I was so excited! I ran to find Runt but there were no babies? I was so confused we looked everywhere and no babies. That night I was sitting by the fire pit and I heard her in the front yard making a lot of noise. I went to check on her and found a cat in her nest, eating her eggs. A cat? I scared it off and started watching her nest for her when she would leave it. I didn’t know what else I could do. There were 15 eggs left.
We were on vacation 4th of July weekend and we had a neighbor house sitting. On our last day of vacation we got this picture. Babies, we had babies!! 13 out of 15 hatched.
The kids very excited to meet the newest members to our family 🙂
She would watch them very closely 🙂
I couldn’t believe it had only been a little more than a year since Runt was that little.
She was such a good mommy. She would take them on little field trips to the water and then would come back to the house and hang out with us in the yard. We went out of town again and while we were gone the neighbor said that she was sleeping with them down by the water every night. Each day our neighbors would count them and 1 would be missing. Every night this happened while we were gone. When we got back, she only had 6 babies left 😦 I felt so bad I couldn’t protect them. We decided to start caging them again at night, since that’s when they were getting snatched up by something. They just weren’t big enough to defend themselves yet.
Well it worked, no more missing ducks! They grew up just as fast as Runt did when she was little. She had 1 boy baby left and 4 girls.
These babies were half domestic and half-wild. They knew how to fly well. They would fly off for a few hours and then come right back to their Mom. In November one of the girls flew off and didn’t come back. So we were down to 5.
I wasn’t sure how long it would be before the rest flew off. Temperatures were starting to cool off so we figured we better build something big enough for all 5 for the winter. Their old cage was small and cramped. So we built them an extenssion on their house out of pallets. If you know me, you are not surprised by this 🙂 We built it just in time!
The week after was Thanksgiving and we got cold temps and snow. We decided we would only cage them if it was below 20 degrees or if the creek froze over. They were warmer in the water than in the snow. They didn’t seem to mind their new house at all. Warm and dry, that’s all they needed this time of the year.
What a winter!! Ohio broke records for the coldest February EVER and the longest amount of days with snow on the ground. So they were in their cage A LOT. I would go out a couples time a day to fill their food and water. It just became part of my rutine.
On March 3rd I got up to get the kids ready for school and my dog started to going nuts. My son yelled “Kens here”! I knew something was wrong because it was very early. I ran down stairs and saw my neighbor, out of breath, at my front door. He said “the duck house is on fire…”
“BUT I got the ducks out”.
OMG!! My heart was racing. He said he had gone out to get his newspaper, like he does at the same time everyday. He said he smelt smoke and heard a crackling sound. When he looked over his garbage cans he could see flames. He ran as fast as he could to the duck house and ripped the door off. The ducks were alive but were not making any noise. Once the door was off all 5 flew out and away.
I was so relived that they all made it out but couldn’t believe they survived. Especially when I saw the burnt duck house. I put the fire out right away and just stood there, staring in aww at what had just happened. The flames were so close to them!
Runt had built a nest under the heat lamp. We believe the fire was started from the heat lamp coming unclipped and landing on the dry straw in her nest.
The water and food feeder were in the front of the cage where the ducks were when Ken got to them and were half melted. How? How could they survive? Was all I could think about. I was very worried that 1 or more could be hurt after looking at the rubble, so I decided to go for a walk and look for them.
I found a spot on the ice that was covered in black. It was surrounded by duck tracks. I know this sounds crazy but we believe this is where they had landed after they took off out of the cage and their HOT bodies melted through the ice. There was soot from their feathers everywhere but no sign of the ducks. I followed the tracks for about 50 yards and then it changed to 1 set of track, Runt. Her babies did teach her to fly but she was pretty fat and didn’t fly unless she had too. I continued to follow her tracks through the neighbors yards and through the woods. She had walked a half a mile on the snow covered ice! That’s where her tracks ended. She must of finally flew off. I was a little relieved to see they were flying ok, so I had hope that they were ok.
I knew they were flying around looking for water but everything was frozen over still. I decided to try to break a hole in the ice of the creek for them. It was about 5″ thick but the water underneath was almost a foot below the ice. I was able to break up an area about 3′ x 3′ in size. The rest of the day I just hoped they weren’t injured or that they didn’t get sick from all the smoke they breathed in.
At sun set I went to go check my on my hole in the ice and see if they found it.
Sure enough, there they were, all 5 ducks 🙂
My neighbor helped me walk them to the garage. I wanted to check them all out and make sure they were ok before leaving them alone over night.
They all looked great and made it through the night just fine.
I opened up the garage in the morning and they just went about their day like they used too, playing in the puddles and mud. They will be staying in the garage at night until it warms up but we are just over joyed that they are ok.
We are especially thankful for our neighbor and hero Ken, for reacting so quickly.
We love our ducks very much and couldn’t imagine what our lives would be like without them 🙂
We have 4 girls now going into this spring. If this spring is anything like last spring, I think we might be giving away free ducklings. Haha!
Thank you for reading and hope you have a blessed day.
Needles and Nails