Monday, July 12, 2010

Her First Week & The Next Weeks

Her First Week
Every day we could see her grow.

June 6, 1995
Click on the pictures to enlarge.

It was really amazing how fast she gained weight, she was very keen at her food and when we presented it to her we had to hurry because she became so impatient.
When we were having our little stroll in the garden with her – she was full of life. Then she began to run over the lawn in all direction really fast – almost like “Speedy Gonzalez” we said. It was even almost impossible to take pictures of this because it was difficult to follow her with the camera.

Our little Speedy Conzalez
I know the quality of this picture is very poor but nevertheless I want to show it to you because I still find it so funny to see her run so fast.

While we were having breakfast in the morning we placed her in her container – nearby – so she could see us. We had our breakfast – and she also ate – and in between she kept an eye on us. We were talking to her the whole time, we called her name and she answered by making soft funny peeping noises.

(Sorry that I can only show you this small piece of film, but the man who assembled these images long time ago (we had not the good equipment to do it at that time) unfortunately pasted other images on top of it. It was a film of more than 5 minutes. Luckily this tiny part survived! The funny noise you hear is my granddaughter singing).

We had placed a small plastic box (an ice-cream container with a hole in its side - so it looked like a little house) upside down in her large container to serve as a shelter for her. Sometimes she jumped on top of the little house and fell down from it – upside down – with her tiny feet in the air! Oh, she was so helpless then – we had to help her – because she couldn't get up on her little paws by herself.

It was a very busy time for us, and the whole day we stayed home to look after her, but we did it with so much pleasure. We really enjoyed it to pamper her, we even looked forward to it.
One week later, we took Pipke to the pond on the other side of the street and there we tried to introduce her to her family – but that didn't work out!
They chased her away, but she wasn't interested in them either.
She stayed close to us – you could almost read her thoughts – how she kept an eye on them: “these ducks were strange creatures to her”, she saw them definitely not as her kind!
Of course that was “imprinted” – I was the first she saw!
A few days later, most of her little brothers and sisters were no longer there and so: Pipke became the only survivor out of a 14-ducklings nest.
If I hadn't found her in the first moment of her life, she would no longer be alive either!
Now we still feel a little guilty.
In fact, we had given that last closed egg in the deserted nest no chance. Although, sometimes we also think that there was no longer life in it – probably the cold rain had been the evildoer because the egg was still closed the next day when my husband buried it.
We still wonder, “had we committed a murder”? I hope not!
We will never know.
Because we wanted her to get to know the outside world (our garden) step by step we installed a large plastic container filled with water into the ground (to serve as a pond) so she could take a bath. Only a few days later she already knew where that container was situated. When we came outside with her, she immediately ran towards it to take a bath. (See filmpictures here below.)
The first thing she did after she got into the water was: to poo in it, and to take earth to make mud, she was so keen to make mud. When she could find a little puddle of water she dabbled in it, and then she became a “real muddy chicken”, whole covered with mud.
We then called her a: “dirty chicken”!

See how resolute she enters the laundry room!

She knew then already she could get a good wash there.

The Next Weeks

While we were gardening we let her work together with us, and when I was pulling weeds she also did. She did everything I did for as far she didn't need any tool of course.
Sometimes she almost sat on top of my hands during the weed pulling, and in the future she would become a real weeds "connoisseur". She was keen on the small green leafs of Buttercups and on the roots of Dandelions. It was so funny to see - when she teared them, out with much force -- how she sometimes fell backwards with her tiny paws in the air.
She also discovered earthworms. That became her special treat.

From the moment she saw us with a shovel she followed us everywhere. We had to be careful not to injure her while we were working because she came so close to the shovel with her beak.
Therefore, from then on my husband took a fork to search for earthworms.

He planted the fork in the soil and knocked on it to force the earthworms to come up to the surface – and although we couldn't see them – she saw them immediately between the grass. Only with the tip of their head on the surface, she pulled them out of the soil, and then they stretched like a rubber band: Flop!!!
That often made us laugh.
During the day she still slept inside the house in her container, but we let her outside more and more when the weather was good.
First she didn't want to stay alone outside, she always wanted to come inside.
She always stayed next to our backdoor under the canopy – waiting for us – and therefore we bought her a plastic dog bed/nest. We chose this bed because it was easy to keep clean and it gave her some protection against the wind.
While she was lying there, she looked up to the kitchen window every now and then to make sure that we were still there. When she then saw our faces at the window, she made some small shaking movements with her head – to the left and to the right – she put her beak between her feathers, and not long after she fell asleep.
From that moment on that dog nest became HER FAVORITE SPOT.
We had a lot of work keeping the place clean, because she always stayed at that same spot and as you know a duck can poo a lot.
Therefore, a few months later we installed a water hose against the wall (one that rolls up automatically) nicely hidden in a wooden cupboard, and when necessary we hosed down her place.
In her dog nest we placed a synthetic grass mat (we had several to replace them, they were easy to hose down). Sometimes she refused to sleep in her nest because it was too dirty and then she waited on the doormat until we had replaced her mat or we had cleaned her nest.
As soon as it was clean (sometimes even while we were still busy cleaning it), she jumped already back in, she was eager to sleep in her clean nest.
We also built a safe pen, with a small wooden cubby-hole for her inside.
Thereafter we installed a small pond.

Our Dirty Chicken!

At first we had been thinking about a “natural” pond, but that wasn't easy to keep clean. The people of the pet store advised us a pond in synthetic material – of course not so beautiful – but it was the best for her because ducks must always have clean water. 
From now on we took her to her pond every evening so she could sleep there.

At first it didn't go that well, she always wanted to come back with us, but after a few times she was even keen to go to her pond in the late evening.
Now she was almost six weeks old. She had her first molt, it was so funny to see, she looked like a plucked chicken.

Our plucked chicken:-)

She had lost all her “fluffy” feathers, all the fluff was replaced by real firm feathers.
At that same moment also Pipke's crest grew new. It was funny to see her – with only a few little wisps of fluff on her head – and it took some time before it became a beautiful full crest.

She could groom herself with much devotion – she then picked each feather separately. She started at the bottom of the feather, there where it comes through the skin, she then removed the white waxy keratin sheaths that remained after her feathers were replaced. You could hear her tearing off the little sheaths, it made a special noise, (I can describe it as a soft cracking noise) she had a full-time job with it.

Waxing was also a tough job. At the base of their tails ducks have an oil gland (the uropygial gland), so also Pipke waxed herself.

She already did this from the beginning, when se was only a few days old, we didn't have to learn her how to do it.
She turned her head to her tail, (It was really amazing how mobile her neck was) and there she took the oil with the top of her beak, then she rubbed her beak on every part she could reach! The result was shining – the oil had covered her whole “feather gown” – now she was waterproof. You could see that she had done her job well, and you could also smell it. The oil of her gland – it had a very particular smell – I can't compare it to anything else.
It was a joy to see her grow up, she was almost like a naughty teenager – naughty in the good sense – playful and full of joy.
She made my days worth living.

I want to close this post and fourth chapter.

- Hopefully you will be here next time when we continue with: Husband's Plans A and B !
(They certainly weren't mine!!!!)

See you!

PS: Because I've so many images it's not easy to put them in the right place in the story. I will add – so now and then – a slideshow or a photo gallery later, so you can see her grow up. As I said already before: I've tried to be correct with the dates, but it's possible that they vary a little because in the first five years, I didn't keep a “real” diary, so I couldn't verify all the dates.


  1. oh fran--what a great post/chapter! it's amazing how much personality pipke she really did cool stuff with you that you shared gardening chores :)
    there is nothing so fun as watching ducks play in the water
    and i actually did not realize ducks were waxing themselves...a good lesson for the day...i thought they were just "cleaning" up

    there is a saying here...well not a saying...but more of a name i suppose...if someone is messy you might call them a "dirty duck"
    after having ducks i realized where that came from--they are MESSY and i can only imagine how much cleaning there was to do....

  2. What personality Pipke had at such an early age! What a character. :) Your little granddaughter seemed to really like Pipke too.

  3. To Tabitha and Jeannie

    Actually a duck needs to wax herself otherwise she can't float on the water surface Tabitha, it makes the feathers waterproof. It also acts as an insulator, it prevents that they get cold. After Pipke had her bath in the sink (and later in her pond) we could see a thin layer of the oil of her waxing gland on the surface. You see me drying her with a towel, but actually that was really “not so good” because I took away some of the wax by doing that, but at that time I didn't know that. Actually Pipke could be very MESSY but she was always very busy with cleaning her feathers. She couldn't bear dirt on her feathers. She loved to wash herself.

    Yes Jeannie, at this age my granddaughter really loved Pipke, she saw her as her play toy or her playmate, although she often teased her, but that's a normal behavior for a child.
    The bond she had with Pipke changed completely during the time she grew up. She was less and less interested in her. In this area we were (and are still both) actually very disappointed in her. Later when it fits in the story, I will write a "post in a comment" about it. I will write it in a comment because it was a little an unpleasant experience in our life.
    But nevertheless she enjoyed playing with Pipke at that time, she had a playfull time when she was at our place.

    Thank you both for your comments!:)

  4. I would like to add: You both speak about the character Pipke had already at this young age. She didn't behave as a duckling in the wild, she learned then already the human manners.
    It cheers me up to see these images again! Now that they are standing at the right place in the story it's almost if I relive the time! I see it all happening again.:):)
    My sweet dear Pipke!:) I wished that I could turn back the clock!

  5. finally back from being away with my family.

    This is lovely to read, and I think I can feel a bit of your love and admiration for this amazing creature who came into your lives!

    Pipke did seem to imprint on you quite completely, becoming very human in many ways.

    Thank you for taking the time to post this!!


  6. I assumed that you were away -t-
    I hope you had a great time together with your family. Good to see you back here.:):)