Daddy Guard Duck held his head high as he drove away in style, soon to guard his new home.
|Daddy Guard Duck and the Rest of the Gang
by Marilyn Mackenzie
One spring, in our little town of Lake Wales, Florida, a town of about 6,000 if you count the surrounding areas, an arts and crafts show beckoned us. We, of course, answered the call, for there wasn't much to do in our sleepy little town.
A petting zoo fascinated my son, and every time I missed him, I knew that’s where I would find him once more. He struck up an instant friendship with the owner of the petting zoo, and got quite an education about ducks. Soon, Derek was asking if we could purchase a few ducks to take home to raise. Since our move to Lake Wales was, in part, so we could experience the joys of country living and raising animals, I agreed. But, I scratched my head in puzzlement, as the purchase of two $3 ducks turned into an expenditure of almost $20. They had to have "special food."
We brought two ducks home that day, and Derek insisted on putting those precious ducklings in a box in his room. They occupied the top bunk, and he the bottom. Soon, we discovered that baby ducks are even messier than baby chicks. And Derek couldn't wait until they were a little bigger and more able to fend for themselves, so they could be placed in the backyard. It didn't take too long.
Once we placed the ducks in the backyard, we decided they should start learning to swim. We purchased a small wading pool for them, and soon discovered that our two ducks were totally different. The slightly smaller one loved the pool. That duck would swim and splash and have a grand time. The other one, if captured and placed in the water, would merely splash for a short while, as if taking a quick bath, then jump to freedom. What a difference there was in our two ducks. We discovered why.
As the ducks continued to grow, I noticed a difference in their attitudes as well. The larger duck was more aggressive. I noticed that the larger duck was developing more beautiful colors as well. In the back of my mind, I realized that we had probably purchased a male and female duck.
My suspicions were soon confirmed. The female was soon laying eggs all over the yard. The male had decided that he was a dog, and helped our mixed terriers guard the property. Perhaps that’s why he hated the water so much. When he was in the pool, he did remind me of our dogs as they tried to get away from a bath. Someone suggested we start putting the duck food in the water, and that did keep him in the pool longer. Still, he jumped to safety as soon as the food was gone.
One day, the female was not in evidence, and the male was acting strangely. We discovered mamma duck sitting on a nest of eggs, and daddy duck was acting like an expectant father, pacing all over the place. He guarded the nest well, especially when he allowed the wife to leave just long enough to get some nourishment and have a quick splash in the pool. In no time at all, we had 18 baby ducks running around our yard.
Unfortunately, we weren't immediately aware when the ducklings hatched, and our over anxious dogs chased the babies unmercifully. Two died from mere exhaustion. The others survived, and we had ducks and duck poop everywhere!
Mamma and Daddy duck had grown quite large by this time. They were also very intelligent. When they were hungry, they appeared on our back porch and peered into the sliding glass door. If none of us were in sight or didn't seem to notice them, they started quacking loudly and tapping on the door with their beaks. We'd open the door, and our terriers would fly through the open door, barking and chasing Daddy and Mamma duck. Daddy duck just loved it! He'd run with the dogs, quacking in a different voice and sounding more like a combination of "woof-quack" than just a "quack-quack."
My how Daddy duck and the dogs would play. Sometimes Daddy duck initiated the play by lunging at the dogs and chasing them. Sometimes they'd begin by chasing him. Mamma never got much pleasure in this activity, and while the baby ducks were young, they stayed out of the way as best they could. The babies loved the water and stayed in the pool for long periods.
Over time, though, the babies grew, and soon a few males were trying to join Daddy duck in chasing the dogs as well. Daddy duck let it be known, though, that he and Spike the Wonder Dog were in charge. They shared the position of Alpha Males. The other male ducks could act superior to the females, even to their mother to the extent that both Daddy and Mamma duck allowed such behavior, but they learned to understand that Daddy duck was bigger and "badder" than they were.
When the sound of the garbage truck reached the dogs and the ducks, though, they were in one accord. Daddy duck and Spike the Wonder Dog led the pack to the gate. All of our dogs, then numbering 5 (one Shih tzu - Pebbles, one Yorkshire Terrier/Poodle mix - Spike, two children of Pebbles and Spike, and one golden retriever), and all the male ducks would line up at the gate and bark and quack loudly, letting the world know that the garbage truck was coming. They also announced the arrival of UPS, the US mail, and strangers in the driveway.
Mamma duck had another batch of ducklings and only 8 survived that time. (We had been adopted by two wild cats that ended up having their kittens on the roof within days of each other. There’s another story! I'm sure the cats had something to do with so few survivors the second time Mamma duck had babies.)
Once the second batch of babies started to grow, we realized our one acre piece of ground and barn was just not big enough for endless ducks. In my dreams I imagined each of the females starting to lay eggs and hatching some.
There is disagreement amongst the locals as to whether our ducks were Mallards or Canadian ducks. Either kind can fly, but our ducks never tried to take wing. Rather, they darted around the yard, twisting and turning and copying the dogs, trying to run just as they did. (It was quite comical, since they really do waddle!)
We contacted a nice gentleman with a small farm and a pond to come and take our ducks. He paid us only $20 for the whole lot of them, with the agreement that he had to round them up himself. My son did offer his assistance, though.
I explained to the nice man what a great guard duck Daddy duck had become and how very special he and Mamma duck were to us. After rounding up all the babies into crates which he loaded into the back of his pick-up truck, the nice man put Mamma and Daddy duck in the front seat with him.
Daddy duck looked just like any of our dogs, watching out the window of that truck as they left. Spike the Wonder Dog had taught Daddy duck well, and now Daddy duck was off to guard his own larger property. His head was held high as he drove away in style.