One of the most fun (and naïve) things I ever did was to order 10 little ducklings (eight Pekin and two white crested) from an online bird catalogue store.
The little peepers arrived at the small post office branch five minutes from our home, and five of my little girls and I, already having stocked up on duck care supplies, went to retrieve them. I had studied the topic of raising ducks for months, poured over every article online I could find, and bought several books to get me up to speed. I had purchased all the necessary supplies — heat lamp, sturdy large containers for temporary baby housing, feeders, food, lots of fluffy terry cloth towels for keeping them dry … I even had a nice spot picked out in our attached garage, not the pole barn, for the garage is insulated and I wanted to be near my little adopted babies. We were ready … I thought.
When I opened the door to the small post office, excited girls trailing behind me, I could hear the tiny, baby ducks. Their cries sounded like they were baby squeeze toys — chirpy and squeaky. The post office worker opened the box holding them, and there they were, each situated it a little indented area, much like eggs in an egg carton. They were the cutest little things I have ever seen, fuzzy and yellow and their teeny little orange beaks were perfectly shaped. “Awwwwwwww!” the girls all said at once. “Can I hold them?” “No, I want to hold them!” and so on.
We gleefully climbed back into the car to a chorus of chirping little fluff balls.
“Mommy, there’s 11 of them!” one daughter squealed, “We got an extra one!” Sure enough, there were 11, the store’s ‘good practice’ in case all the little guys didn’t make it through the mail to their destination.
The next days were a blur. Everything was about the ducks. Feed the ducks. Clean the cages of the ducks. Let the ducks run around. Make sure the hawks don’t get the ducks. Gather the ducks. Count the ducks. The ducks were sloppy little guys — knocking over their water, defecating everywhere, then splat, splat, stepping over each other and everything. They got filthy. So daily I bathed 11 little ducks, all assembly-line like, and then my daughters towel dried them. Since it was cool outside and we wanted to avoid them getting chilled, we also blow-dried them. I cleaned out their cages and patted them dry. Then I washed all the towels, which soon became rags. We did this every day, for weeks.
The night of my son’s prom, we had pictures at our house. At one point I saw six or seven dressed up boys out back. They were ready to be photographed but couldn’t find their dates. I found their dates. They were in the garage, surrounding the boxes, cradling baby ducks in their arms.
My daughters named the ducks that we were going to keep: Lily, Cubby, Phineas, Perry, Bartholomew Cubbins and Rainbow Sparkle Shine.
Bartholomew Cubbins grew quite hefty. He was Grace’s duck, and she had intentions of showing him at the 4 H fair. There would be a parade at the fair before the showing, she was told by the 4H leader, and the duck had to be on a leash. A leash? Have you ever heard of a duck on a leash? Neither had we. Nevertheless, I bought a leash for the duck, who as we quickly found out, would have none of it. I can still see Gracie chasing BC around the field with the leash, and him waddling speedily away from her…
As the ducks got bigger, (actually, huge) they had free reign of the backyard during the day when we were home. When they heard a plane pass overhead, they would stop and tilt their heads, first one side then the other, listening. When they were hungry, they would come up to the windows near our sunroom and quack in chorus until one of the girls went outside to feed them. If someone looked at the ducks and asked, “Do you want to go swimming?” the ducks would bob side-to-side, waddle hastily to the large children’s plastic pool and wait for someone to fill it up. Over time, the ducks learned to come when called. They were actually pretty smart, for poultry.
Some of the ducks went to live on a farm away from us, others to a golf course. (Don’t ask). Unfortunately, the ducks we had reserved for our personal pets did not make it to a ripe old age. I won’t go into detail but there was a loose gate and some wandering Siberian huskies. Suffice it to say one summer day there was great wailing and gnashing of teeth in the Thomas household over the loss of our beloved pets. The most mourned of course was Bartholomew, whom Grace was sure would have taken home first prize at the fair had he lived.
So now I get to the last part of my story. I had been naïve in bringing home 11 ducks. I didn’t expect to be washing and blow drying ducks. I didn’t expect to be trying to leash one. I didn’t imagine how hard it would be when the ducks died, or that I’d actually become attached to them, so in a way you could say I was naïve, maybe dumb, in getting them.
But then again, maybe not. You see, I also didn’t imagine the sweetness in watching my girls care for almost a dozen of God’s creation. I didn’t anticipate the hearty laughter that occurred daily on account of those silly little ducklings just doing duck things. I learned a lot about my daughters and myself through this experience. And during all the commotion of duck tending, I know it might sound silly but I feel like I became closer to God who is Creator of these animals. This hands-on experience with nature refreshed my soul and brought me closer to my girls.
And so, I recommend enjoying nature and embarking on some sort of little adventure with your children. For us, it was getting ducks. Just a word of fair warning, however — if you decide to get ducks, make sure your washing machine is in working order and that you have plenty of towels and a sense of humor. While the experience is worth it, it never hurts to be prepared.