Healthy Lifestyle Ideas

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Like a Duck to Water?

My Pekin ducks won't get on the pond! They love water of course, but only the large plastic tub that I fill for them in the morning. They splash and wash and preen, usually twice a day but especially in the morning after I've let them out of their cage. They're now 4 1/2 months old and I'm finally seeing some behavior changes that make me think they're feeling more confident and mature.  For instance, they're now foraging at the back of my yard and they never did that before. From the age of 1 to 3 months, they would stay hidden unless I was out with them. So, for those first few months (April, May, June) I spent hours sitting outside with them so they'd go foraging, but they never really left my side. So, I'd walk them around the yard, offering them different varieties of plants and digging worms for them. But in July, when they were just turning 4 mo., it became too hot for me to stay out for long, but luckily they were beginning to come out of hiding and venture further into the yard on their one.  Their food and water bowls are under a shade tree and they would hang out there a lot, but they still wouldn't venture out far, so I started making my dog, who is usually an indoor dog, stay out with the ducks to keep an eye on them for me. She and the ducks have a trusting relationship so I knew she'd keep a good watch on them.  My backyard is fenced but I was worried about cats getting them.  We also have hawks and coyotes in the area. But soon it was even too hot for my dog to stay out. I left more containers (with low sides) of water for the ducks to get into when they got too hot. Now at 4 1/2 mo., the ducks seem more confident and I'm seeing them at the back of the yard foraging for bugs.

They definitely feel more self assured. The other day I was petting Gertrude while she was bathing and she pinched me so hard (bite me) that it bruised my arm. She's normally very tame, but I think she was showing just how mature she now is and I was interfering with her bath time. She and Evie can both flap their wing spans and it's pretty amazing to see how big they are. They can only get a few inches off the ground when they try to fly, but it is impressive to see. They are so beautiful with their all white feathers. A little girl was visiting one day and Gertrude, the more dominate female, made an aggressive move of running up on the girl. The little girl didn't realize what was happening, but I immediately grabbed Gertrude and held her back so she couldn't do it again. Luckily she didn't grab the little girl, or it would have traumatized her for sure. So, I'm thinking they both feel much more capable of taking care of themselves, at least with little kids. The ducks never do that to my kids (age 10 and 7). They allow us to pick them up and pet them all the time. They just didn't know this little girl.

Now, the problem is that I still can't get them to go on the pond. Since they were a month or so old, I'd walk them down to the pond and I'd sit nearby and let them explore around. But they would never go in the water. There are geese on the pond and I'd walk them near the geese to introduce them. At this young age, they wouldn't leave my side, but seemed curious about the geese. The geese seemed equally curious about my two ducklings. I just have a vision of my ducks living in peace with these geese at some point in the future so I wanted to introduce them early on. I've seen the fights these geese get into at nesting time when one pair dominates the pond and all others are chased off until the goslings hatch. I had a fear that the geese wouldn't co-exist with my ducks. But just the other day, I opened my gate so the ducks could go near the pond and they immediately made a bee-line for the group of geese sleeping nearby. I was very nervous as they walked right up to the geese, and then started foraging, not making eye contact. The geese totally accepted them. I was so excited. But still no movement to get on the pond.  I've tried putting them on the water, but they immediately and very frantically jump back out as if the water is electrified.  I assume it's their young age and the fact that I myself don't get into the water with them. I did put on my rubber boots one day and waded out a ways, but they didn't follow.  I'm guessing that they will get on the pond when they feel mature enough to handle it. They have such great instincts and I think they just don't feel ready for all the scary things that might come their way.  So, I'll continue to walk them down to the pond each day but  I'm a little nervous that one day they'll get on the pond and never come back. I want to be there for them if they do swim off, so I'll be sitting and waiting for them to come home by nightfall. I can just see me, sitting by the pond for hours, yelling at my kids to bring me some dinner, cause I'm not leaving until they come home. I really love my ducks.