When I'm not helping with Sungiva, I'm trying to keep up with our chicks and ducklings.
I think I may have overreached in ordering the ducklings. I'd like to blame my problems on the week I lost to the flu and my lingering exhaustion, but mostly I don't think I had a clear idea of how much harder it is to brood ducklings than chickens. The main problem is simply water: ducklings use an incredible amount of it, and it ends up making a mess.
We've moved the brooder box downstairs twice, first from an emptyish but very nice room to a tighter room but one whose floors we didn't mind getting wet, and then down into the basement. We've had dropcloths underneath the brooder box the whole way along to protect the floor, and newpaper and cardboard to collect water and droppings, but Tuesday I finally concluded that that wasn't going to work.
I'd been planning on building another brooder box like the one I had made last year for the chickens, but that would have left me with the same mess problem. Instead, I borrowed one of the cages Angelika had built for rabbits, ran out to get a plastic pan to go under it, and moved the ducklings into the cage.
It was a nice day, so I was able to do most of this outside, fortunately. Our neighbor's daughter got to come over and meet the ducklings and the chicks, which was a nice bonus, and Sprocket chased the ducklings around and around in their cage.
The ducklings and the chicks are now in the basement. The ducklings had been able to do without a heat lamp upstairs, hiding in the cooler end of the brooder box, but they definitely like the light in the basement, cuddling together in front of it. The chicks are about the same as they were, still definitely fond of the heat lamp.
The challenge, of course, is emptying the plastic tray under the ducklings. Between the amount of stuff in the basement and some strange slopes in the concrete floor, I have to move the duckling cage - which gets heavier as the ducklings grow - and then lift the tray, pouring it into a five-gallon bucket which then goes to the compost bin.
Yuck. Today I'd let it fill too much, which made it just barely possible to put in the bucket and remove. It's a big tray - 36" x 30" - and it doesn't take much water to make it very heavy. And of course it's slimy.
We'll get through this, and fortunately the ducklings are too cute for me to get mad. However, I have to say that I strongly recommend:
Getting your ducklings as late as you can so they can spend as little time indoors as possible
Brooding your ducklings in a bathtub or someplace with a floor drain, so it's as washable as possible
Being prepared for a mess.
The chickens are much much easier, even now that we have 18 of them, as opposed to last year's six.
The ducklings I got were 'straight run', so I'm hoping that they'll form a happy reproducing flock, and I won't ever need to do this style of brooding again. For genetic variety, maybe I'll be able to buy an occasional Cayuga adult and add it to the flock.
(I did realize in moving the ducklings that McMurray Hatchery sent me 11, not 10. Bonus duck!)