I want a dog. D-O-G.
Everyone knows that.
But everyone also knows I’m gone too much to have a dog. Not fair to the dog.
So, when I came home from teaching at the Dow Jones News Fund Center for Teaching Excellence and found duck, D-U-C-K, nesting in my backyard, I labeled her as “the dumbest Mallard I have ever met.”
Then I began doing my research. Apparently this isn’t the dumbest mallard ever. Apparently mallards love to nest in out-of-the-way places.
- Help! There’s a mallard laying eggs in my backyard
- Ducks Nesting in Your Backyard
- HELP! Mallard Nest in our BACKYARD!?! No water, no safety, no ideas
- DUCKS Courting in My Swimming Pool
- Mallards start to pair up in October and November, and begin nesting in March.
My mallard nested in a backyard with no pool, although the neighbors have a temporary, above-ground pool. There’s no way to get between yards. The wooden fence is set into concrete that is taller than the ducklings. And the closest lake is several major streets away, a lot farther away than the neighborhood cats that like to catch doves in my backyard. They leave feathers everywhere. The cats also caught a squirrel at some point and left pieces-o-squirrel in the front yard.
I didn’t have high hopes for the ducklings.
So I went down to the Wild Bird Rescue. They are only about a mile from my house.
The folks there were very polite, but not much help. Turns out it is illegal to mess with the eggs. Moving them would have been a death sentence.
So, I left them alone.
When I come back from my next trip, I have ducklings. All but one egg hatched.
I realized the ducks needed some water to help in the Texas heat. So I bought a $5 plastic pool, made a tiny ramp and found that mommy and the hatchlings love it. And boy can they jump. While the ramp was a convenience, it took about one try for them to figure out how to jump over the edges. Still trying to get video of that.
I’ve turned on the hose and sprinkler to provide them with water and to fill some low spots in the yard with water. The hatchlings love that.
But I didn’t know what the ducks were going to eat. What do hatchling ducks eat?
I ventured out to the local feed store on Friday afternoon — The Feed & Garden Store on Old Jacksboro Highway. We were initially stumped. They had medicated feed for captive birds, I guess. They knew this was not what I needed. They had 50-pound bags of feed. Um. No.
But the staff agreed I needed something. So they went in the back and came back with a quart-sized bag full of feed.
These guys were awesome.
And boy do the ducks — mom and babies — love it. I put some out twice a day as I make the little marsh and the ducks find their way to the pool marching around the yard in formation.
Now, it’s become a little ritual. Two or three times a day, the babies get their exercise. Mommy flies off to get her food at the nearby lake, leaving the babies under the tiny little bush next to the house.
I leave again tomorrow for a few days. I trust mommy will be able to take care of the babies on her own for a few days. After all, I hear it’s TWO MONTHS before the babies will be old enough to fly away on their own. And getting to the nearby lake probably won’t work out well. We’ll just have to let nature work its course.
After all, until then, as the guy at the feed store said, the mommy duck was smart enough to nest in my backyard, where someone gives her water and food.