I made a fool hardy decision about a month ago to buy more ducklings. It was still very much winter in Vermont, Diantha was still very pregnant, and we had just about no infrastructure to support duckings - but I do like ducks. I bought ten, set up a kiddy pool full of shavings in the basement, and life was good.
Pekin ducks get big quickly, and they poop a lot. It only took a few weeks before the smell upstairs from the ducks downstairs became more than we were comfortable entertaining with. I built an insulated brooder in one of our outbuildings and moved the ducklings there, where we couldn't smell them from the dinner table, and life was good again.
Pekin ducks get bigger quickly and poop even more. The conditions within the brooder began to look like something out of a national geographic article on a temporary encampment. The poor ducklings were filthy, the air was stagnant, and I was feeling guilty. Ducks are meant to swim, thats what they do - you can tell by looking at their feet. After a week of feeling pretty guilty about these conditions, I decided to do something about it. There is a pond behind our house that is small enough to fence with a single 164' section of electronet fencing.
I spent the morning getting the fencing into the semi-frozen ground. Satisfied with the fence I went to find the old dog kennel we used as a roof for our last duck house. I could only find half of it and the search was on. After looking through the barn and out buildings I decided it must be in Diantha's parents barn and I was going to need to stop there to pick up the coop's base anyways. On my way there, headed up a steep hill, the truck began to protest the effort and ultimately slowed to less than a crawl. Being a man of science I decided turning around and heading back (with gravity) was the way to go. The broken gas gauge always reads empty, and I was sure there was gas. I didn't have my wallet so I decided to drive past the gas station and up Bonzai Bridge, the long, steep, curving bridge over the highway, just past the gas station on the way to our house. Halfway up and over the bridge the truck again protested. Being a man of science I decided turning around and heading back (with gravity) was the way to go. I managed to coast into the gas station and parked at the first pump. After negotiations with the clerk broke down, Diantha, Lily, and Connor came with a card to fill my very empty tank...
With my tank full I drove to Diantha's parents to get that dog crate only to discover it wasn't there. I found it later in an outbuilding on our farm. I brought the base of the coop back and got it set up in my new fenced pond enclosure. I loaded the ducks up in the kennel, put it in the wheelbarrow, and wheeled them over to the pond. The ducklings were uncertain when I let them out of the dog kennel. I herded them down to the water and watched them hesitantly enter the water. I expected jubilation, but I got a bunch of awkward ducks looking uncertain in the water. Then I watched as they tried and failed to get out on the other side. I moved around the bank and encouraged them to go back to the side they had entered on. They did, but struggled. One duckling appeared to be drowning and unable to swim. I found myself thinking, "am I going to have to jump into an icy pond to save a duckling?" I didn't, but I did get pretty wet hauling them out on the far bank. All 10 duckings who were initially terrified of me were so cold that they submitted to being put, unrestrained, back into the wheelbarrow. It must have been a sight to see as I raced back to their brooder and their heat lamp with 10 ducklings sitting in my wheelbarrow. I got an extra light, mucked the brooder, put down new shavings, and sat for an hour waiting for the birds to stop shaking, and for one of them to be able to stand back up. Eventually they all did, and are much cleaner after their escapade, but I think I will wait until they have a few more feathers and the water is just a bit warmer to try again.