At just over five weeks of age, our flock of Welsh Harlequin ducklings are fairly independent. We still feed them three times a day and shelter them from predators at night, but the rest of the time they're allowed free access to our yard and their swimming pool. They barley fit in the foraging run I used to put them in to protect them from hawks - and I've seen neither hide nor feather of a hawk thus far - so as long as I'm not far from home, the ducks are out and about, foraging, swimming, and napping their days away.
Soon, it'll be time to make duck a l'orange of the drakes. Right now, I still can't tell which are males or females. But in about three more weeks, they'll be fully grown and I should be able to differentiate the sexes by the sound of their voices (only females will produce a true quack). I'm having a hard time accepting that the ducks with darker heads are not males, but my duck rearing sources assure me that I can't judge their sex by color until around 15 weeks of age. I wouldn't consider keeping them that long for a couple reasons: we've already got too many ducks on our hands, and they supposedly become very difficult to pluck after about ten weeks of age.
On a less clinical note, I truly adore dem duckles. Just thinking about them warms the cockles of my heart. I've spent hours and hours watching them, photographing them, talking to them. They know the sound of my voice and come running when they hear me - whether I'm calling them or not. When I'm in the yard, they never stray far from me and often settle down for a nap near me. How could I not love them? They aren't completely tame, but they can be stroked while eating and picked up without much fuss. They used to freak out when handled, but now they take it in stride and instead of running away in terror when put down, they just go back to whatever they were doing before. I purposely haven't put a ton of effort into handling them because the plan has always been to slaughter the males. Once that deed is done, I will tame the heck out of our remaining egg layers. And allow my attachment to them to deepen.