Stories of life on our farm in Northwest Georgia where every day is an adventure in this beautiful spot that God has entrusted to our stewardship.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Be Kind to Your Web-Footed Friends

On Tuesday the ducklings will be 5 weeks old.  They have gotten SO big and SO messy.  We tried changing their shavings every other day, and today it became clear that wasn't enough.  Their 4' x 12' half of the brooder house is just not big enough for them.

I did some research on line and discovered that at four weeks they are old enough to be outside as long as they have a heat lamp on cold nights and they can stay dry if it rains.  Surprisingly enough, Muscovy ducks won't produce their own waterproof oils until eight weeks of age, and if they get wet they will get chilled.
So I suggested that we move them into the chicken tractor in the barnyard.  There's a handy outlet for the heat lamp and a roof over their heads to keep them dry.  The other animals are out in the pasture now so the ducklings will just have the barn cats for company.
I also read that they can begin to eat scratch and fresh greens now, so I gave them a dish of chicken scratch.  They enjoyed tasting it, but it was not the hit of the day.
That honor belonged to the fresh grass and weeds I pulled up and threw in.  As soon as one duck would grab a piece of grass and begin eating it, another would latch on to the opposite end and start eating its way toward the middle.  They reminded me of Lady and The Tramp eating spaghetti!
Pretty much everything was on the menu, including dried oak leaves.  I love this duckling's tongue which I caught on camera as it shot in and out.  In fact, their bills "gobble" so fast, I couldn't see their tongues with my naked eye.  Only the camera was fast enough to catch it!
Gulp!  There goes another oak leaf.
Even dirt and dried manure were on the menu!
You can see from this duckling's tummy how wet and dirty they had gotten in the brooder house.
Besides tasting pretty much everything around them, one of the first things they did after their move was to start preening their feathers.  This funny guy turned its head completely backwards, twitched its tail sideways and fanned it out like a peacock while he cleaned it.
Several of them folded right in half so they could clean their tummies.  You can actually see this one pulling its feathers to comb them.
Both Zephyr and Hero were very interested in the ducklings.  Hero laid down and watched them from  outside the chicken tractor (which I think should now be called the duck mobile!).  Zephyr accepted my invitation to come in.  Here she is meeting the one duckling who didn't run away from her.

In a couple days when they're used to the Duck Mobile as their home, we'll try letting them out during the day into the barnyard.  There's plenty of dried manure (yum!) and some green grass coming back, lots of room to roam, and a place to set a shallow pan of water on sunny days so they can play in the water.

Every time I take care of the ducklings, I've been singing these silly words to "Stars and Stripes Forever":

"Be kind to your web-footed friends,
For a duck may be somebody's mother.
They live in the brook by the swamp
Where the weather is always damp (domp).
If you think that this is the end,
Well, it is!"

I think our web-footed friends are happier now, don't you?


  1. She really is great with the animals. More and more we see herding instinct coming out in her. I think being around animals helps her natural talents to "épanouir".


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