Late April into May we had the kind of weather that makes men (and women)( and possibly ducks) sick. Cold then really cold then wet then windy and now, out of the blue again, summer. We’ve been worried about keeping the girls warm enough at night but this evening when I come into the garage thinking about getting them set for bed, they’re clearly feeling the heat. Ok, May 5th’s the night, then. Time to get wet. (Under supervision, of course.)
Gladys will have to sit this one out. I’m not sure when she’ll be steady enough to get into the water and I’m certainly not going to put her in today. Puff, the big Buff, is first up but when I place her into the little tub, she freaks and tries to get out. Then, I realize, there’s a better way. Pain in the neck as it will be to clean up the wet bedding, I place the filled bowl directly into the pen. Again, one of the Cayugas, clearly the most intrepid of the group, ventures closer. Fannie-or-Bonnie starts by drinking the water then in a blur…plop! Very quickly, each of them takes their turn. Except for Gladys. She just watches, patiently.
The next morning, my daughter, Pamela, begs to let them try again. All right, duckies, ready for round two? We let them plosh around a bit longer this time now that they’ve got the hang of it. I remember last minute to move the brooder lamp out the way—don’t want the hot bulb to shatter if the water hits the glass! We make sure they have fresh water and food waiting in case they’re peckish post-workout. The dipped ducks get pretty wet but also pleasantly cooled off. Gladys, standing on the sidelines, looks like Carrie Bradshaw after she’d been splashed by a New York bus.
It wasn’t particularly chilly this morning but I wanted to get that heat lamp back over the bedding as soon as possible. (Drafts can be deadly! still haunting me.) I pulled out the water bowl-pool, got them sorted and waited to see how long it might take them to feel cold. I figured I would know this by how quickly they went to the lamp. If that metric is correct, they didn’t feel cold at all. They gobbled the crumble chased down with yet more water and only then did they start their grooming under the light.
As they shook off the water, the ducklings looked just like tiny Golden Retrievers– only quieter and with feathers. They each nudged their preening gland (on their backs near the tail) and poked themselves in various places. I watched Gladys attempt to do the same and wondered if she would fall over in the process. Ah ha! (This is what they call an “ah ha” moment, by the way.) With her impaired motor skills and slower development, I’d been worried about Gladys’ ability to keep her feathers in prime condition. After watching her struggle to pull off the same contortions as her peers, I wondered if she would ever be able to keep herself fully weather-resistant. On previous days, I had noticed her leaning up against the others and nudging them…sometimes at the tail end. This time–and here’s the ah ha– instead of just attempting to use her own gland, it looked like she was using whoever else’s was, er, handy. In a kind of puppyish way, she appeared to be sniffing her sister’s bottom but instead could she be borrowing oil to preen her feathers?
I mean, what else are sisters for?
Copyright 2012, Lori Fontanes