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Easter gift never to be given again

Last year, just before Easter, I saw an ad in the paper that caught my eye. One of the farm supply stores had baby ducks for sale. There is nothing cuter than a baby duck.

I called my wife and asked her opinion on getting the grandsons each a baby duck for Easter. She was not crazy about the idea and suggested I call Damon and Amanda before I made the purchase, which would include their commitment to taking care of the fuzzy little critters.

I called Amanda first. She thought it was a great idea. Damon was not so sure, but I reminded him of all the livestock he raised as a kid and my father never even asked first. When Grandfather shows up with a cute little pink pig for the boys, what is a person to do? All one can do is graciously accept the gift and deal with the consequences as they present themselves later.

I bought three ducks of unknown varieties so they would each have a duck of their own and a spare in case of attrition. The boys were thrilled. Even Amanda was thrilled for a while.

The problem with ducks is they love water. The water in their pen is more for playing in than drinking. A quart water bottle can be emptied all over their pen in a matter of minutes. Three 12-page sections of the newspaper will almost soak up a quart. If a person wants to keep the ducks clean and dry while still providing water for them to drink when necessary, one full pickup load of newspaper per week is required. It does not take long before a person has a very large collection of wet newspaper. A stack of wet newspaper would not be that bad, but is also interspersed with a moderate amount of spilled duck food and an equal amount of duck poop. This is not a good thing to have, store, or try to dispose of.

Before long, the weather got warm enough, the ducklings got to move outside. A nice pen was constructed for them, complete with a swimming pool. They could eat fresh green grass, slop water all over everywhere, and be moved to a fresh spot the next day. The little yellow one grew white feathers. The brown one stayed brown, just got bigger and browner. The smallest of the group that was yellow and white down grew into a fine looking mallard hen.

By late summer, the downy ducklings had turned into mature ducks. The discussion began on what to do with them. Peking duck was voted out almost immediately. Amanda said a definite "No!" to having three ducks spend the winter in the garage. We all finally decided to take them to the lake and turn them loose. They could join the other ducks and geese when they migrated south for the winter.

Each day, we went to the farm to check on the newly released waterfowl and give them some feed, just in case. By the third day, the brown duck had disappeared. The next day, we saw white feathers on the beach. I explained to the boys how bird molt. They lose their feathers so they can grow new ones. That was a possible explanation. As fall drew closer, more ducks and geese started moving into the area. The little mallard hen would swim with the wild ducks and would only occasionally come to food. One day, even she was gone.

We prefer to think all three of them joined up with the wild ducks and flew south for the winter. There is a real possibility the little mallard hen actually did migrate. We did our part in restocking the wild duck population if only one duck at a time.

The Easter ducks were fun but we all know better than to do it again.

Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Bloomfield, Iowa.