Our eleven Welsh Harlequin ducklings are just over three weeks old. They're more duck than duckling now. Still primarily yellow in color, they've grown thick coats of ultra soft down, which is rapidly being interspersed with what look like porcupine quills - the hollow shafts that form the stems of each exterior feather. They're already the size of an adult bantam duck and have taken on the body shape of adults. A number of them appear to have darker heads than the rest - the same number of dark beaks I counted when they were a couple days old (their beaks are all similar in color now). I have no idea if those with darker heads are the same ducks that had dark beaks, but I'm wondering if they'll turn out to be drakes. They still sound like babies, and peep loudly when they're hungry or see me approaching, but I've detected the hint of a quack developing in the brood. Not sure who made the sound, but it won't be too long before there's little reminder of the teensy peeping yellow fuzzballs the ducks were only three weeks ago. I mean, other than the bazillion photos I've taken.
The ducks have been living outside for a week now. The house and run in which they spend nights is covered, secure from predators, and warmed with a heat lamp. Once the ducklings have grown their exterior feathers or it stays above sixty degrees at night, we'll dispense with the heat lamp. I've taken to feeding them a combination of game bird crumbles, oatmeal and granite grit only three times a day. They peep loudly when they're hungry, but if it's between mealtimes I give them greens to eat. They don't peep with the despair of starvation if they're on grass in their foraging run - so I try to put them in it for as many hours a day as possible. They seem so content on grass with access to their kiddie pool. They cycle through swimming, preening, sleeping, foraging…repeat. As I'd hoped, they are starting to become very excited at the sight of their pool. This morning, they all ran towards it when I let them out of their nighttime run. Even cuter, I hadn't filled it yet.
Running towards the kiddie pool.
Hey! Something's missing here.
Fillin' up the poo.
My husband build a great no slip ramp out of plywood and roofing shingles.
They'll outgrow this pool in about five minutes.
Preening after a swim.
Gathering oil from a preen gland.
Schnoozling after swimming and preening.
The next best thing to the pool - the hose.
This might even be better than the pool in terms of foraging.
Oatmeal is part of their regular diet. I feed them from my hand to keep them tame.
Uh oh, someone else discovered the oatmeal.