You might think it strange that I have created a web page for a duck but Mr. Duddles isn't just any duck. He is a miracle duck. This is our story..............
While haying our field, we scared a Mallard duck off of her nest. We didn't damage her nest but she lost the cover that was surrounding it and she flew away and did not return. The date was June 5th, 2004. I kept a vigil, watching for her to return and when it got dark and she hadn't come back I made a decision to bring the eggs in. I did not know if it was possible to hatch the eggs but I couldn't just leave them outside to be eaten by predators. So starts our vigil.
I went in search of websites that could help me hatch these 8 eggs. The internet is wonderful and I found a site that was very helpful. I read that the temperature needs to be between 100 - 102 degrees, you must have a high humidity, you must turn the eggs every 6 - 8 hours and it made me realize that this might be impossible - especially since the incubation period was 28 days. We had no idea how long ago she had layed them so we were going to go for at least 28 days. They stressed the use of an incubator but that was not an option for us. All of my friends that have an incubator were using them so I dug out the heat lamp we use for whelping our puppies in the winter, a cardboard box, a towel, a spray bottle and set up my own incubator.
My husband, bless his heart, was as committed as I was in our little project. He turned the eggs in the morning and I turned them at night. He confessed that he used to hatch chicken eggs in 4H as a kid (and I thought I knew everything about him)! The weeks wore on and we began to wear out. After 3 weeks we had a terrible storm and our electric was out for about 2 hours. I fretted over the eggs getting cold but there wasn't a thing I could do. My husband confessed that the eggs "weren't going to hatch" anyway so Diane stop worrying about it. "Enough is enough" he said, but I wouldn't give up. Not yet. I had another 10 days to go and by gosh these little ones were going to have that chance.
We have two geriatric Jack Russells in the house (that doesn't mean they are slow or can't kill a mouse or a duck) plus a cat that is over 10 years old that comes in and goes out whenever she feels like it. It wasn't a very safe place to hatch a brood of ducks and I knew that I needed to make some changes. The box with the eggs was in a corner of our living room on the floor and if these guys were going to live once they hatched, I had to separate them. I was going to do that tomorrow.................not smart putting it off.
The Miracle! On July 1st, 21 days after I retrieved the eggs from the pasture, I casually walked past the box and looked down and saw a broken egg. OH MY GOSH! I thought our dog Darla had gotten into the box and broken the egg. She is a very talented terrier and can get in the trash and extract whatever she wants to without tipping it over. Why didn't I put them up like I had planned? Why do I procrastinate? But she hadn't gotten into the box with the eggs.......we had a baby duck that had hatched and was laying stretched out exhausted from his ordeal. I immediately picked him up and put him under my chin and cooed to him and he started peeping and peeping his "hello mommy" peeps. It was so sweet and truely a miracle but where in the world was I going to keep a baby duck? What do I do now? Where can I put him? All these things just kept running thru my mind and then I realized I didn't know what baby ducks eat. I was NOT prepared . That being said he imprinted on me and now I am his mommy. He's a wonderful little duck and so affectionate. He loves being held and snuggles under my chin and is content to sit there while I type this story. I don't know what his future holds but I do know that he is a "loved little duck" and we want the best for him.
I drove down to the local feedmill and asked them to sell me baby duck food. The man looked at me like I had just hatched from an egg. I told him, I don't know what you call it and I don't know what they eat but I'm sure people buy baby duck food from you don't they. He said NO! I couldn't believe it. He said we only sell cracked corn and "I think" ducks eat cracked corn. That wasn't good enough for my baby. I kept looking. I finally ended up at another feedstore called Copley Feed. They new what they were doing and the man sold me "crumbles". He said my baby duck would do just fine. He even told me that my duck needed water to wash the food down with so be sure and keep plenty of water handy. Great Advice!
At one week old, Mr. Duddles enjoys a swim. He perched on my hand to adjust his down before plopping off into the water again and splashing like mad!
Little Ducky Duddle when swimming in a puddle, went swimming in a puddle quite small.
He said it doesn't matter how much I splash and splatter, I'm only a ducky after all.
MR. DUDDLES IS A MRS. DUDDLES!
Our beautiful little duck is now 4 weeks old and starting to get her feathers. We have discovered that she is not a he! What beautiful brown and black feathers she is getting. Following are several pictures taken on her 4 week birthday.
Scroll down for the latest pictures..........
After checking with a wildlife expert on the right age to release our little duck it was determined that 8 - 10 weeks was optimum. So on Saturday morning, 8-14, our beautiful little duck was released at the Portage Lakes State Park. It was quite traumatic for me as I had no way of knowing what she would do when I put her down among strange creatures (other ducks). I had stopped picking her up and loving on her trying to maker her wary of humans. I had also started buying her 5 dozen minnows every other day and putting them in her pool and teaching her how to fish for them. What fun it was to see her dive and scoop them up. She is a great swimmer and splashed everywhere. She was ready for her new life. Her adult feathers were in and it was time. After much driving around and debating about the perfect location with my husband we decided upon a huge area lake that had a few ducks swimming around and seemed right for her.
My heart was pounding but I didn't want my husband to see my reluctance. I had promised him that this day would come and we would release her. I had transported her in a dog crate that we use when we are showing our dogs. I pulled her from her crate, held her to my chest one last time, gave her a long love, a snuggle and kiss and I put her at the lakes edge and gave her a shove into the water. Surprise.....she swam right back around to me so fast and just waddled up to my shoes. Wow! That was not expected. I tried it again and this time I tried to walk down and away from her and she followed me as if an obedient dog. That got me worried. This little girl was much more tame and attached to me than I had thought. My husband and I decided that we needed to place her where there were alot more ducks. I bent down, picked her up and we drove around until we found another area lake with about 60 ducks just hanging out in a lovely cove. This time, I put her down and walked away fast. She was so busy looking at the other ducks she didn't notice my absence and she seemed to settle down and just watch everyone. That made me happy and sad all at the same time.
I watched her from a distance for about 20 minutes and my husband started getting ancy and said c'mon we have to go. Diane you've done your part! I knew this. I knew we needed to go. I knew at that moment that I had accomplished all that I had meant to do when I tried to save all of the eggs for a certain Mallard mother. I knew my job was done but I tell you that I believe it was one of the harder things I've done in my life to let that duck go and be on her own. We left.
Now, I thought of Ms. Duddles the rest of the afternoon. We went back that evening and I found her sitting at the feet of a lady who was fishing for blue gills. NO kidding! I walked up to the lady and explained to her why this duck thought it so natural to hang out with her, her husband, and daughter while they fished. She was so understanding. I personally think the lady thought that I had a screw loose but she humored me. Perhaps she could sense that I loved this duck and that my story was true. I wasn't just some wierdo talking about hatching ducks from eggs and all but I'll never really know will I?
I've been back to the lake every day for the last 4 days and Ms. Duddles has been predictable. She's been swimming in the same area and seems as happy as she can be. She sits on a log and preens her feathers. I've called to her and she doesn't recognize that call or seem to even hear me. I've seen her hunting for food and she seems successful so that should be fine. I do realize it will be more of a challenge for her to catch her food in a lake vs. a swimming pool but she was good at it.
Today I went to the lake and she was no where to be found. I stood and looked for her. I prayed that she has taken up with a Mallard family or other ducks and was exploring her new lake. I pray that she's a happy duck. She'll never know how she has touched this humans heart. She was a good duck and I will always love her..
Ms. Duddles eats her crumbles out of a "dog food" dish (what else ;) and has plenty of water to wash it down with. She's growing like a weed!