Raising Mallard Ducklings

In March, Courtney and I decided that we would try our hand at raising Mallard ducklings. We have a large pond with plenty of land, and it seemed like it would be fun to have some quacking around.

About a week ago out little ducklings arrived from the hatchery in Texas. Both are female, and were only three days old when these pictures were taken. We have them in a kiddie pool with some cardboard to make the walls higher. The bottom is covered with hay, and they have a heat lamp to keep them warm. They have both grown a lot, and seem to need the heat from the light less and less each day. You would be amazed at how fast these little ducks can run!

Every day they get to follow us around the yard, and go for a swim. They eat game bird starter as a staple, but really seem to enjoy chives, blackberries, clover and dandelion greens as a treat. The larger one even ate a slug.

Tame Ducklings

Tame Ducklings

Animals in the Wake of Katrina

Today I received an e-mail informing me that a colleague has volunteered with the Best Friends Animal Society, and will be leaving this weekend for Mississippi to join the massive animal rescue effort in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Best Friends is helping animals hurt in the devastated areas by sending teams of volunteers to search out stranded or lost animals, rescuing them, nursing them back to health, and ensuring that they are cared for and comfortable in their emergency animal sanctuaries.

They are also coordinating efforts with humane societies and local rescue groups, collecting funds through The Best Friends Hurricane Relief Fund, and acting as a clearinghouse for news stories from local animal groups and individuals.

Since I have a soft spot for animals, I was thrilled to hear that people were volunteering to rescue them and I pulled up the Best Friends website to learn more about the rescue effort in the Gulf Coast.

I found that they have a blog set up called “Best Friends on the Frontlines“, where they give day-by-day accounts of their activities. It was there that I found this story entitled “Dog in Boat“. Here is the story text from the Best Friends website:

From Cathy Scott at St. Francis:
Three days ago when Best Friends rescue workers were on the Interstate heading back to the Best Friends/St. Francis Animal Sanctuary, they noticed a small boat on the side of the expressway.

But that isn’t what caught their eye. It was the red spray-painted writing on the side of the vessel, which read, “DOG IN BOAT.”

They pulled over in their van. Sure enough, hiding inside the boat near the outboard motor was a dog, a young white pit bull. Besides the writing on the boat, the person had left the dog a bag of dry food. Unfortunately, diesel fuel from the motor had spilled into the hull and saturated not only the food, but the dog.

”She was sunburned with blisters and covered in diesel,” said Best Friends staff member Kit Boggio. “I talked quietly to her and just picked her up in my arms.”

The rescue team took her to the St. Francis sanctuary, along with 40 other animals. In four days, her condition has dramatically improved.

”After 72 hours, she’s had a bath, a lot of her sun blisters are healing. She had her first chewy tonight. She looks and feels great.”

Tomorrow, the dog, who is now named Diesel, is being moved from the triage area she’s been staying at to a kennel area “where she’ll have her own ‘apartment,’ “ Boggio said. “We’re going to tuck her in.”

Maybe it’s the look of exhausted gratitude in Diesel’s eyes, or the look of total defeat, but this story really got to me. Diesel is OK. She has been rescued and is in good hands, but I started thinking about all the other animals in the Gulf Coast that may not be rescued, and it’s really quite sad. I wish there was some way I could join the volunteer effort to save these pets. I know they need support in many ways and I’m sure they can use all the donations they receive.

Duck Invasion

Earlier this Spring, we decided that since we have a pond, and a big yard, we would head on down to the hardware store and get three Mallard ducklings. We thought it would be nice to have some quacking around and the thought of them eating slugs and pests out of our garden would be a welcome treat. Little did we realize, ducks can become very friendly…

Over the weekend I made the monumental mistake of showing our web-footed friends how to get up on our back deck. For the next few days they followed me up there, and wandered around begging for food until they grew impatient and waddled down to the pond. This was more or less harmless, and we didn’t really mind… Harmless, that is, until yesterday.

Since we allow our cats to come and go as they please, we always leave the sliding screen door slightly opened for them while we are around. Keep in mind, this is just a slit. Our cats are very thin and the screen door was only open about five inches. None the less, the three stealthy ducks managed to slip through this gap yesterday afternoon, and infiltrate our living room where they proceeded to carry our their nefarious black op mission of pooping on our floor!

I have no idea how these fat ducks were able to get through this tiny gap, but they had no intention of leaving after having worked so hard to get inside. They ran, quacked, flapped their wings and generally resisted ejection to the best of their duckly abilities until finally being ushered back outside where they belong. Even then, the quacks of protest could be heard for some time and they re-adjusted to outside life.

Cleaning up the mess was a fairly easy prospect, and the trouble of it was well worth the hilarious story. It would seem that I now must focus my attention onto the development of an elaborate duck security system capable of thwarting the invasion efforts of these winged masterminds… Most likely a small bit of mesh.