We are officially in the throes of parenthood- and all of the poop and sleeplessness that entails!
I wanted to rewind and share a bit more about our set-up. Before leaving the nest, (aka our house), the ducks will spend about 2 months inside. This gives them enough time to become fully feathered and insulated. Also, the will start to secrete an oil which makes them waterproof. #SCIENCE
Their first humble abode is a 55 gallon tub from home depot. Classy.
Inside the bin there’s a layer of wood shavings over most of the bottom, at least an inch thick. On one side we have some straw and a stuffed cat. The cat’s not only because I’m insane, but also because ducklings like having something to snuggle up with. It’s so damn cute I could cry.
Ducklings are a MESS. They eat in a way I can only describe as Jackson Pollock meets tazmanian devil: utter chaos, things are flying, everything is wet. Since we need to clean out their pen 2x a day, we tried to minimize the mess. We got a feeder and waterer from Tractor Supply. These we put on top of a cooling rack, which is on top of the top of an aluminum lasagna pan! My husband is the McGyver of shop rite. This way all of the wet food bits can just be dumped right out, and isn’t constantly getting mashed back into their food.
On top of the whole shebang we put a wire grate- with a heat lamp on top and a thermometer below. This meant the ducklings would get the heat they need without my burning the house down, which is a huge plus. Ducklings need to be kept at 90 degrees for the first week of their life, then the heat needs to be reduced by 5-10 degrees per week until they’re “room temperature”.
Because ducklings are a cake, apparently?
Meeting the Locals
The wire grate also helped us feel safer with the main predators in the household.. The cats. Now domestic cats are the descendants of fierce predators who prowled the forest in search of prey. Fishstick and Phoebe, on the other hand, are effectively meatballs with tails who are scared if I breathe too hard.
Still, we weren’t sure how they were going to respond. We’ve been letting them sniff about and so far they’ve seemed more interested in the heat lamp than anything! Boomer pecked at Phoebe’s nose once and she was over the whole situation and now denies that the ducks even exist.
Fishstick on the other hand is the Watcher- and was accidentally locked in with the ducks more than once! No instagram-worthy interspecies friendships yet, but a girl can dream!
The New Normal
I didn’t know shit about ducklings before. Now I know at least slightly more than that- thanks to hours of research. I cannot stress enough how important this part is- not only will you be a better duck parent, but you’ll also have great tidbits to share at cocktail parties! “Sharon, it’s lovely to meet you. Did you know that ducks have corkscrew shaped penises? Females have fake vaginas!” GREAT way to make friends!
After the first night, (in which I woke up 3x to obsessively check on the ducklings), we’ve fallen into a pretty good routine. We wake up about a half hour earlier than before, (because nothing says rise and shine like duck shit at 5:00am), to clean out the pen. Garret changes the food and water while I scoop out the shavings. It sounds nuts, but it’s actually nice to have an early morning activity together. Our ducks get non-medicated chick crumbles for now and their water has a niacin supplement you can pick up here. Just one packet of the stuff makes enough for EONS, so you might want to invest in a giant plastic pitcher to keep it in.
It’s been almost 2 weeks of duckling parenthood, and so far the ride has been pretty smooth- but only because we spent so much time preparing beforehand.
Two of our favorite resources are Storeys Guide to Raising Backyard Ducks and the other is a WILD facebook group called Raising Backyard Ducks. Honestly, there is more drama in that group than on Bravo. But the moderators are great and I’ve always gotten an answer in a few hours tops.
Ducklings grow OBSCENELY fast- I leave for work and by the time I get home they’re practically twice the size. They grow faster than my student loan debt, and lemme tell you- that’s impressive.
Our next few hurdles will include duckling baths, first adventures outside, building a coop and our critically acclaimed DUCKLING SHOWER! Because if you don’t throw yourself a baby shower for your ducks, you’re really missing a huge opportunity. Stay tuned for more duckling, homesteading, and general chaos!
Also now sharing on instagram because if there’s anything the world needs more of- its duck twerking- check us out at https://www.instagram.com/thehotmesshomestead/