Skip to main content

Your Tewksbury Today

Animal 'Tails' From The Farm: So, You See, There Were These Ducks, And ...

Oct 04, 2017 01:43PM ● By Jenny Nagle
(Editor's Note: The following is the first in a series of columns we will be sharing, written by Jen Nagle and posted on her "Animal Tails From The Farm" Facebook Page.)

So, back in mid-July I inherited 9 baby ducklings. See photo below. These things were CUTE! I believed them to be Mallard ducks, but upon speaking with a friend who farms up North and raises ducks, she thought they may have at some point had domestic ducks in their lineage - two of the 9 have these funky little poofs on their heads. Anyway, these things were just adorable. I, in my infinite wisdom, decided I would care for these wee little baby ducks until they were old enough to fly, and then bring them to a lovely pond and let them be .... well, ducks. 
Please be aware, when I suggest that I have infinite wisdom, it ALWAYS means - "that was the dumbest thing I've ever decided to do". Please take serious note each time I mention that phrase.
I quickly decided to learn all I could about ducks - natural habitats, natural food sources, etc. I learned to pull water plants and such to feed them from the pond they would someday be released into so they would acclimate to their new home easier. Although I cared for them several times a day every day they always kept that wee bit of "wild animal" in them and never let me get too close. In my infinite wisdom (yup, I've said it again now), I decided that these ducks were truly brilliant and understood that I was just a mere caretaker for them until they could be true wild ducks. 
I cleaned their pool out 2x a day, everyday. They got bigger, so I cleaned TWO pools out 2x day. I fed them "grow and show" duck feed and mucked around in a pond each morning pulling nasty disgusting things out of a pond in my backyard. Mind you - this has been going on for MONTHS - every day. During this whole time I was also able to "conceal" the fact that I had taken in 9 ducklings without a mom from my significant other (to keep his anonymity, we will not use his real name.... we will call him Geohn), as he had taken "issue" with me bringing home more animals - I don't understand it either, but don't worry, now I've just learned to say "ok, honey. No problem" and somehow still end up doing it. About 2 weeks ago he noticed that I had actual real ducks - a fact that I may have slightly misrepresented to him when I showed him a photo of 9 rubber ducks in a water trough when he informed me that he was told that there was a photo of said ducks on facebook. Anyway, when "Geohn" noticed actual quacking, feather covered, bill laden, web footed animals swimming in two pools he didn't know we had he just rolled his eyes. ;)
Now, in these last few weeks I started to become so very excited. The ducks - all 9 of them - were exercising their wings! I could tell they wanted to fly!! They were eating more of the food that I walked through gross sinking mucky water through to collect for them and less of expensive duck pellets that I was purchasing at the stores. They even started eating some of the feeder fish I got for them at the pet store! In my infinite knowledge (see, there it is again), I knew the time was coming to set them free in their new wild home (albeit that it was in my backyard, with a doghouse for a covering and being fed their pellets still every day). So, I set the big day - moving day - forthwith referred to as Operation Duck Drop - for this past Thursday! 
I bet you are all on the edge of your seat now, right? How did it go? Did they like their new home? Did they enjoy having a big pond? Did they all stick together? It went fabulously! They enjoyed their great big pond (their feet were touching the bottom of the two pools at this point), and they did all stick together! I checked on them about 10x during the day and early evening on Thursday. I was SO excited! They were sticking together throughout the day, exploring their new world, going back to their dog house for breaks from swimming, practicing flying, eating some pellets still (I figured I would wean them off instead of making them go cold duck - in this instance a better phrase then cold turkey I think). 
Friday morning, all was doing wonderfully! I had successfully moved 9 ducks through about a mile of woods from the barn to my backyard. In my infinite wisdom, I had decided Operation Duck Drop was dreamed a huge success!!! 
Saturday morning I was rushing around like a madman. You see it was the first official opening of our fall festivities here on the farm, so there wasn't a second to waste. I hopped into my little side by side and drove the mile through the woods to the farm bright and early this morning. Ambition was oozing from me - I had a lot to get accomplished in a little bit of time, but I'm pretty good under pressure.
I buzzed right out of the woods into the clearing of the barns and there, waddling in front of me, was a duck. Now, not just any duck, but one of the 9 ducks I had raised from infancy. I thought to myself "this is crazy! How did that duck walk OVER a mile through the woods right back to were he was raised?". Let's also bring to light the fact that after I had moved said ducks during the "successful" operation duck drop, I had taken apart their pen - made up of 6 sheets of cow panels and one gate. The pen was piled together with approximately 2' of space in the center of the pile. Didn't that dumb duck jump right into that 2' of space. With no food, no water, just wanted to be back. 
OK, no biggie. I did morning feeding, morning watering and morning milking. Took care of all the necessities of the morning and tucked a duck (yup, I just said that - I tucked a duck! Lol) under my arm, climbed back into the side by side and drove the mile back through the woods and gently put him back with the rest of his raft - that's what you call a group of ducks, by the way. So, yes - he put me a bit behind schedule, but it wasn't the end of the world and I now knew he was safe with his buddies. In my infinite knowledge, I was done with ducks for the majority of the day.
Well, until a couple hours later when he was found walking the woods headed back to the barns... again.
Now, I will admit, I was getting a bit cranky. I caught him (after getting assaulted by stinging nettle while trying to catch him) after a brief chase. I, once again, tucked a duck and drove him back to his raft. 
The festival we have at the farm ended at 5pm. By 6 I was working on evening feeding, evening watering and evening milkings. I intended to be home no later than 9pm tonight and I was on a roll and moving at a good clip. The best part - there was no rogue duck in the vicinity of the barns!!
At 6:30 "Geohn" calls me to tell me ducks are running around our neighborhood, stopping traffic on our quiet street, and trespassing on our dear neighbors' yards.
This is where the story kind of takes a turn for the worse - well, unless you are not me. I drive the mile through the woods, pass the pond that has FOUR ducks in it, pull through our back yard, into our front yard, go to the end of the driveway and there were ducks EVERYWHERE! I know I had counted 4 at the pond, so I figured they must have called in duck reinforcements. They actually didn't - it was just that they kept running around in circles, so 5 looked more like 45. Now, here they are, running in circles, preventing my neighbors from going in their own driveways, or coming out of their driveways. Some poor mom was walking with her two little boys and I swear one of the ducks became a suicide bomber when he saw the little blue tricycle. I was running in circles behind the ducks trying to catch them. I knew they couldn't fly, because why would that "one" walk to the farm 2 times today if he could fly? 
I ended up chasing 2 of them back to the pond and they stayed with the other 4. 3 of them laughed at the face of danger as I returned to corral them. Those 3 played demolition derby, made figure eights and played twister, all with me following right along. Remember I said they couldn't fly? Well, they LIED! As soon as I got one cornered between my neighbors bush and front patio, he jumped up on the patio and took a giant duck poop and as I was wondering what I was going to use to clean it up, he flew at me like a bomber pilot! Yes, he FLEW AT ME. He no longer looked like a cute little duckling. When flying at you.... straight. At. Your. Eyeball., he looked like a pterodactyl! In my fear, I swung my arms up to protect my eyeball and realized I had somehow caught him in mid-flight. I put him in the dog kennel in the back of the side by side. Now he is quacking like crazy - probably duck speak for "kill her, kill her now" to his 2 buddy ducks. The little toddler on the tricycle is now scarred for life from all forms of ducks, I'm sure. The mother was equally horrified and the older boy (maybe about 5 years old) thought this was the coolest thing he had ever seen and decided his bike, with training wheels, would be a great way to chase the two remaining ducks. 
The mother is now glaring at me, neighbors are coming out to their front porches to watch this fiasco - one of which has now stepped in duck poop. The tricycle kid is hiding behind a trash bin that someone didn't bring in from trash pick up day and the training wheel kid is riding after the ducks like his butt is on fire. The ducks look like a combination of amused and still set in their plan of my ultimate demise. If there is not a video on YouTube yet, just wait, I'm sure someone is uploading it as you read this. 
So, here I am running in figure 8s and circles trying to catch 2 ducks that I really don't want and also currently thinking of ways to prepare them in the oven. The mother is running after training wheel kid telling him she will loosen the lug nuts of his training wheels if he doesn't stop trying to run over ducks, while dragging horrified tricycle boy in her left hand and tricycle in her right. 
I caught duck number 2 when his attention was drawn to either po'd mom or crazy training wheel kid (she was gaining on her kid at this point, so I couldn't quite figure out who duck number two was more focused on). He proceeded to flap me violently with his left wing, as I grabbed and tucked the duck. I'm fairly certain that if he had a knife he would have cut me at this point.
Duck 3 watched quietly and still as I put duck 2 into the dog crate. I walked about 8 steps towards duck 3 and he didn't move. I was only about 2 feet away from him at this point and he still wasn't moving! Now, I don't know why I did this, but I froze too. So, there we both stood. In the middle of our street. With angry mom, scarred for life tricycle kid, duck corralling training wheel kid, about 7 neighbors standing on their front porches or front lawns and not .one .single .person .moved. Yup, we all stood there like statues. Finally I jumped into action! I dove for him! And he quite literally teleported about 6 feet to his left. He then RAN down the street. So, I ran after him. (I'm fairly sure he ran with far more grace than I did - and if you have ever seen a duck run.... well... ). 
At some point, my dear sweet "Geohn" had watch the movie with Kevin Costner called Field of Dreams, where a farmer mows down a corn field and builds a baseball field on it. Yeah, my honey did that too. That's another story for another day, but anyway, duck 3 ran INTO the ball field!!! This was actually wonderful news, as he even built a batters box with posts connected by hardware cloth! This batters box is in a semi circle shape. I chased that duck so darn hard right into the the semi circle and had him cornered!!! Of course all of this brilliant duck corralling did not come about while in front of the neighbors, but behind the field and tree line where no one could see me! I did catch him - and he did not make another noise until he got in the dog crate with his buddies.
Because I was tired at this point - or defeated - I'm not sure, the line between the two is a little blurred at this point, I reset up their pen. I filled only one pool (because, yeah, I'm mad at them!) and gave them a make-due house for the night (cat crate) and a bowl of food. Yeah, I'm sure they are learning their lesson being back in the lap of luxury. 
I will re-release them to the pond with the rest of their raft, again, tomorrow. The other 6 are still at the pond at the time of writing this novel.
In my infinite wisdom I know they will all stay contently together at the pond until it is time for them to fly south for the winter.
PS... any grammar issues are caused by I-Just-Chased-Ducks-For-Two-Hours-And-They-Lied-To-Me-They-Actually-Can-Fly-itis. 
Photos (hopefully) have fitting descriptions.

Follow us on Facebook at Follow us on Twitter at @TewksburyToday Follow us on Instagram at YourTewksburyToday