Coraline’s babies will be six weeks old tomorrow, and they sure look different from the yellow and brown puffballs they were not so long ago. Their color has changed significantly: now, they’re predominantly brown, and a few have white chests. They’re about half Coraline’s size (a couple are larger), and very curious about the world outside their run.
Coraline’s been ready to leave the duckling run for a couple of weeks. We wanted the ducklings to gain more size before we unleashed them, hopefully making them less of a target for predators. When we did this morning’s chores, she was standing at the gate to the run, clearly wanting to go out, so we decided today would be the day.
The adult ducks had always been able to see the ducklings in the run adjoining theirs. The ducklings had also recently socialized with the adults when we allowed the adults into their run (supervised). During that encounter, the adults were curious about the little ones, but more interested in eating their food. When we let Coraline’s group out today, they explored the barn area and the ducks’ pool, and eventually returned to their run on their own. Later, when we dug up worms for the ducks and chickens, a couple of the babies were reprimanded by the other ducks for jumping in front, but the integration was smooth, overall.
We also let the group of incubator ducklings out for supervised exploration, and they ran right into grumpy Pru, who pulled a couple of the ducklings’ feathers before they could get away. These guys don’t have a mama duck to teach them how to behave around the adults, so it’s going to be a steep learning curve. It was amusing to see one little guy – a drake, we’re guessing – try to stand up to Pru, only to run away, distress peeping, when she grabbed at him. They were happy to go back into their run, where there were no grumpy adults trying to nip at them. Stay away from Pru, guys…she’s even crabby with the other adults!
The two groups of ducklings have met a couple of times, too. The older ones are fairly friendly, but the younger ones become defensive, probably because Coraline’s are larger. When the two groups of ducklings are together, the differences are apparent: in addition to size, there are differences in coloration. The younger ducklings are still mostly yellow, though their color is beginning to darken, too. In another couple of weeks, they should look very much like Coraline’s ducklings. Soon after, they’ll begin free ranging, and, eventually, their duckling days will be a distant memory. We’ll look back and think it was fun while it lasted, though.