DOWN ON THE FARM by Cathi Gerhard & Greg Susa
Greg and I are now the proud “parents” of 15 little Welsh Harlequin ducklings! If you remember last month’s article, we tried hatching a set of eggs in an incubator. However, none of the eggs developed beyond gooey yolks. According to the charts, we either had way too much humidity inside the box, or they were not viable to begin with.
Rather than continue experimenting with “live” subjects, we decided to let the experts handle it and ordered 15 new-born ducklings from a breeder in Missouri, Cackle Hatcheries. They made the trip in two days, but were super thirsty and hungry upon arrival at the Latrobe Post Office!
We set them up in a long, cardboard box with heat lamp and bedding on one end and fresh water/starter crumble on the other, just like one would with baby chicks. Soon we discovered a big difference between ducks and chickens – how they handle water. No matter how often we changed the bedding and news-paper lining, the cardboard box quickly became soaked from all their playful drinking and jumping. So off to the farm supply store we fled to get a metal water trough often used for cows and other livestock. It is perfect! We placed it on casters so we could move them in and out of our workshop for trips to the kiddie pool and protected lawn grazing inside an old tractor tire.
One of the ducks is already a champion diver/underwater swimmer. The rest of the flock paddles and looks at her quizzically, but we know everyone will soon figure it out. In a few more weeks, they will be ready for their permanent duck house. We are now deciding between building a new structure or adapting a corner of our bank barn, but their growth spurts are outpacing us.
In the meantime, we are totally enjoying their antics and helping them learn new things. It is fun to try free treats from the garden: worms, clover, dandelions and other edible weeds/flowers. They are starting to trust us more, learning the sounds of our voices and no longer flee from the tall “predators” they first suspected us to be. Our cattle dog, however, sits patiently beside them as they play, still not sure if it’s a herd to manage or a tub full of chew toys that squeak!