I had just arrived home, and my roommate, Raina, looked down at me from the top of the stairs.
“I’m so glad you’re home!” she said, walking down the stairs towards me. She extended her hands and opened them to reveal a small black duckling, covered in downy feathers. Apparently too little to quack, he squeaked a greeting.
Raina had purchased him at an agricultural show in Wetaskiwin, along with five fertilized eggs and an incubator. They are due to hatch in a month. In the meantime, the duckling is more than enough to keep us occupied.
It turns out that ducks and geese imprint very strongly on their caretakers and think they are the same as them, whether the caretakers are humans or birds. Even though our duckling seems to think he is human, he is still very much a duck, and behaves as one. He follows us around the house the same way ducklings follow their mother. When he gets lost, he squeaks for us to find him.
He also likes to swim in a bowl of water. The first time he did this, he dove underwater, splashing it everywhere, including over us. When he’s done, he struggles at the side of the bowl to get out, squeaking for help. He is too little to climb out himself, and he can’t fly because his wings haven’t developed their flight feathers yet. When we take him out, he stands up high on his webbed feet and flaps his wings and wiggles his tail.
We have been experimenting with different foods for him. In addition to his regular millet, we’ve been feeding him fruits, vegetables, and cooked egg with varying degrees of success. He loves the egg, and most of the vegetables, but doesn’t seem to like any of the fruit. He takes it from us and then lets it fall onto the floor. He always needs lots of water when he’s eating, and seems to like stirring it with his food to make a “soup”, as Raina calls it.
It’s all very cute. Raina likes to take care of animals, and a few days before she got the duckling she brought home 14 chicks. After a week, she gave them back to the woman from whom she’d borrowed them, but for a time the duckling slept in the same box with them. She set up a heat lamp, and they all huddled together underneath it.
Most of the chicks were grey, or yellow with black speckles, but my favourite chick was completely yellow. I christened him Peep, after the Easter candies. Raina and I took Peep and the duckling out of their box and put them together on the floor, where Peep promptly began chasing the duckling, who ran up onto Raina’s lap for safety.
I would never have known that ducks make good pets, but I am really enjoying the opportunity to have one around now. When we first got him, he was less calm when we held him, but the more time we spend with him, the more trusting he has become of us. It’s a very rewarding thing to see, and whenever I hear that little duckling squeaking for us it makes my mood that much better.