The second group of incubator ducklings (the “gang of five”) has been spending time among the juveniles and adult ducks. It’s entertaining to watch their interactions with the older ducks and drakes. The ducklings are quick to defend their territory against intruders (the curious adults and teens), “biting” back at exploring bills poked through the exercise pen. Good thing wire separates them.
Seeing ducklings splash around in a pan of water is being witness to pure joy.
They swim, they dive, they jump out then back in, they flap their tiny wings (well, someday, they’ll be wings) and chirp, they nibble each other, then they preen. It’s unadulterated happiness, the epitome of “living in the moment”. They’re so enthralled, they probably aren’t even looking for aerial predators…fortunately, the hawks that decimated the chicken flock last year are nowhere to be seen these days. We hang around to keep an eye on them when they’re outside, too.
The duckling stage doesn’t last long, so these moments are particularly precious because of their fleeting nature. The older ducklings look like grown ducks now – just slightly smaller, but more adult than duckling. The down is gone, replaced by the unique patterns of their feathers. Who knows what these ducklings will look like as adults…that’s part of the fun.
In case you’re wondering, yep, that’s a shallow cat litter pan they’re frolicking in. And a paint roller tray. Neither is deep enough for them to get into trouble, and we’ve found cat litter pans lend themselves to many uses – among them: the already-mentioned duckling pools; receptacles to catch chicken poop scraped off the poop board; nest boxes; and undoubtedly many more we’ll discover in the future.
We’ll watch this group of littles grow into self-sufficient adults too big and strong to be an easy meal for a hawk, but we’ll remember the goofy, carefree duckling days fondly.