Thursday, November 5, 2015

Daddy's Duckies

This post is looooong overdue. But if I'd posted more promptly, I probably would have had a dozen or so smaller posts all about our eggs, ducklings, and the activity in the following months. So yes, that means this is a BIG post, because the duckies were a huge part of our lives last Spring, Summer and Fall. 

It all started with the great egg experiment ...
Grayson ordered duck eggs and an incubator off the internet. The small incubator held seven eggs. Eight were shipped, an extra in case of breakage, but they all made it. We felt bad just leaving that one little egg out in the cold. After a couple weeks, we "candled" the eggs. In a dark room, you place an egg on top of a flashlight, and it gives you a peek inside. An "egg ultrasound" if you will. Duckies are social little creatures, so we needed at least two to hatch, to keep each other company! We could tell that three of the eggs were developing well. Two had something going on, but weren't the same as the other three, and two ... nothing. 

As we neared the month mark, we started watching the eggs closer. One day, I noticed a little crack in one. There was a lot of "egg"citement that evening! A second egg started to crack too. They would rock back and forth a bit. The second egg soon passed up the first, we could see the little duckling inside, and with just a bit more waiting, we had a moist little duckling. It's recommended that you leave them in the incubator for up to 24 hours, before bringing them out into the big, wide world. We watched the second egg, but after the initial cracking, it just wasn't making any progress, even hours afterward. We were very worried, but when I woke and checked on things in the night, there was a second little duckling! 

Then began ducky days ...
We had a setup in the basement. A big box, with a light warmer, food and water. Grayson originally put the box in our utility room, but with it's sliding door that was a bit tricky to close all the way, it only took one close call, finding our kitty Oreo in the box with the ducklings (he hadn't hurt them, but it was a heartstopping moment!), and I moved them to another room where we could keep the kitty out easier.

This began the duckie days ... every morning we'd take them out of the box to clean up the poop and spilled water. We'd fill up the bathtub so they could practice their swimming, and when the weather warmed up a bit, we'd take them for "outside time" in the morning and evening. 

A video posted by JenB (@jenblackham) on Those little buggers were hard to catch  to move from box to bath to play and back to box!
Those little buggers were hard to catch to move from box to bath to play and back to box! The boys named them Joe and Andy ... although we had a hard time telling them apart. Almost every time we took them outside or put them in the bath, it would become a family affair as everyone gathered round.
Then tragedy ... 
Joe died. We'd been worried about him for a day or so. He just seemed lethargic. Not really eating, not really running away. We weren't sure what to do, then it was too late. He was gone. Poor Andy. Ducklings aren't meant to be alone. She would just peep, peep, peep missing her brother so much. There were human tears shed too. We tried putting a mirror in the box with her, and she would snuggle right up to it. We gave her a lot of extra attention while we obtained a couple more ducklings so keep her company.

Here is Andy chasing Mommy around the front yard ... 
A video posted by JenB (@jenbsjourney) on

It was well past Easter, when Cal-Ranch and other stores have ducklings in stock, but Grayson was able to pick up a couple from a local contact online. Two more feathered babies, quite a bit smaller than Andi (and quite a bit more skittish), but it did help! The new ducklings were named Alex and Pedro (that was Landon's suggestion from the mission field).

Duckies on Daddy

 Daddy digging worms ... yummy!
Our flowerbeds and gardens were actually weed free.

It didn't take long for the new babies to catch up in size, and we moved all three ducks outdoors. At first, we'd just leave them out in a pen during the day, still bringing them in at night or when the weather turned, but eventually they moved outdoors for good.  Of course they outgrew the bathtub too ...

So we got them a pool ...
A video posted by JenB (@jenblackham) on

The duckies liked it, and we liked watching the duckies. Every morning, I'd prepare them a "big salad" of lettuce, grapes and tomatoes. Change their water and give them time to play. In the evening, we'd bring out a plate of peas and corn, or if they were really "lucky ducks" they would get crickets, goldfish or mealworms. Oh ... they LOVED mealworms and would eat them right out of Daddy's hands.

He could even get them to jump!

A video posted by JenB (@jenblackham) on

Ah worms! Gray would pick them up from Petsmart, but found them cheaper online ... we did have some struggles with them being shipped (opening up a box of dead worms! Ewww. A box of live worms isn't much better ... but it does smell better). I was SO happy (that is sarcastic) when a box came while Grayson was at work and I had to empty out the box and of wiggling mealworms! These would actually end up in a container in the fridge. OUR FRIDGE. Ewwwww. I deal better with earthworms, which the duckies definitely loved eating up too! I think we dug up most of the worms in our yard, so Gray ordered earthworms to restock.

While the ducks were quite tame, and would eat out of our hands, they sure didn't like being touched or picked up! Gray would try to catch them sometimes, just to see if he could. I've seen videos of ducks that acted more like dogs ... but our ducks were just ducks.

As the summer ended, the ducks would sometimes fly out of the pen as we brought them out for the evening duckie time. They would fly across the yard and we knew at some point they would probably fly away ...

I remember the first time, Alex, our big boy (Andi and Pedro were girls) flew up and over the fence into our neighbor's yard. We could see him there, looking confused. We went and knocked on our neighbor's door, and they let us into their backyard (luckily their dog wasn't out) and we walked Alex back to our house. Whew! A few days later, Alex flew again, he made a big circle up in the sky and then landed (crash landed) back into our yard. A few days after that, Alex and Pedro flew up over the fence ... and away. Poor Andi didn't get the memo, and was left all alone again. We really hoped our two duckies would come back home, but they never did.

Again, left with a lone ducky ... Grayson made arrangements for a new home for Andy. She went to live with a bunch of other ducks, from the place where Grayson had picked up the two baby ducklings. Hopefully she's enjoying the company of many other ducks, and maybe she'll find a man. It was a bit of an emotional goodbye. The end of ducky days ... we missed them.

Then, some neighbors just to the South of us reported a pair of ducks that was getting in and out of people's backyards, leaving a mess and making a bit of a nuisance of themselves. We were asked if they were our ducks, but these two weren't mallards, as ours had been. Gray investigated, and we think they had been raised as pets and released. They couldn't quite seem to make it over to the canal, where many wild ducks lived, so Grayson grabbed them and brought them home. We had ducks again. These two big boys were too fat to fly! We never bothered penning them up, but just let them have the run of the backyard. They liked the pool, and the worms ... they were not a fan of the big salad, as our ducks had been. We kept them for a couple of months, it wasn't quite the same as with OUR duckies, but we still enjoyed them. When the weather turned cold. Grayson found a place down south, kind of a "humane society" for fowl, and he dropped off these two ducks there, and I think they were quickly adopted into new families.

And that is the end of our ducky days for 2015. 
What will 2016 bring?

We had SO many more pictures and video clips ... I made a muvee.
It's probably a little long for anyone else to enjoy,
but I think our family will always look back on 2015 with fond memories!

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