Compassion in World Farming

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Introducing the ducklings!




video


When the ducklings came home with us they were 3 weeks old & just the sweetest little bundles of yellow & grey fluff. They were old enough not to need a heat lamp, but we were told they needed to be kept inside to keep them dry & cosy until they feathered. The best place to put them seemed to be inside a large, empty rabbit hutch that we had luckily kept as a spare, which I made nice & cosy with a layer of wood shavings topped with chopped straw. My youngest son Jake named them Chalk & Cheese & that was it - they were officially part of the family! It has to be said that being a very maternal kind of a person I was completely head over heels in love with them from day one, but who could resist the little fuzzy chaps?!


We initially had no idea of the sex of the ducklings & didn't know that much about rearing ducklings (although we keep poultry, ducks & geese & have previously reared geese from day old goslings) so it was a case of reading up & getting wise in a hurry. Having decided they were probably too old for starter crumbs I decided to buy organic Duck & Goose grower pellets for their main diet & having read that you could supplement their food with greens we soon discovered they absolutely love lettuce, as you can see from the video! They also needed fresh water in a suitable drinker, enough that they could dabble their beaks in but not soak themselves & get chilled, and fine grit to help them grind & digest their food.


Right from the outset, because I'm the one who feeds, cleans & holds them they soon got to know me & they soon began to respond with excitement when they heard my voice. I'm hoping that because they have got each other as well as me 'imprinting' won't be a problem later as they grow up. It's such a wonderful feeling when I hold them & they become calm & cuddle in to me. I find them so engaging that I can sit & watch them & 'talk' to them for ages & they happily cheep back at me. It really does fill my heart with gladness - yes, I know I'm soppy!


Aren't they beautiful!

The ducklings have grown at such a fast pace that I believe I can almost see them grow! Very quickly they have developed quite different personalities - Cheese being the cheekier & more boisterous of the two. At 4 weeks old I began to let them have time on grass safely secured in a guinea pig run in our back garden. Straight away they began happily eating the grass & instinctively snapping at midges. Clever little chaps!


Just starting to get 'feather stubble'.

(Cheese is the duckling in the foreground of this photo)

This grass is yummy stuff!



They also started to show the first 'stubble' of feathers coming through & differences became apparent between them visually, Cheese becoming longer in the body with bigger feet & beak than Chalk. It was at this point we started to suspect they may be duck & drake.


Now at 5 weeks old they are eating & developing at a rate of knots. I have tried them with grated carrot & seedling thinnings from the garden & they have polished them off with gusto. Chalk is feathering much quicker than Cheese, which is another reason why we believe they may be drake & duck. Apart from vent sexing, which can hurt the ducklings if you don't know what you're doing (which I don't!), I've read the way you can usually tell Muscovy duckling & drakeling apart is by the drakeling becoming larger & developing the red caruncling earlier, but feathering later than a duckling.


So here begins the tale of Chalk & Cheese.... more news & pictures to follow shortly.

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