It has been a crazy few weeks here since I posted about the ducks being afraid of the water. The ducks still abhor the pond, although they cannot remember why. So the Handy Man and I began an intensive duck version of “water therapy,” hoping to lure them back to their once beloved water.
First, we began treat training, as we needed some leverage against the ducks to get them to do our bidding…or to perform the few simple tasks we required of them, like put themselves to bed at night and swim in the pond. This was a fiasco in and of itself. Although Peanut ‘n’ Butter came to love peas quickly, they would not do anything to get them. More so, we were permitted to toss them peas from afar. And that was about the extent of the success of that. The dog on the other hand, loved pea-training.
The second step to water therapy was to get the ducks back into the water. Any water. Placing them in the pond was not an option, as they jumped out before their feet even hit the water. So, back to the bathtub it was. We made daily trips in the house, up the stairs to the tub. They loved this. We fed them peas as they splashed and played boisterously for hours each day, but they would not return to the pond once back outside. Peanut ‘n’ Butter were content to watch us toss handfuls of peas into the pond from across the yard.
Now confident they were comfortable in the bathtub, we introduced the gold fish to the situation in the third phase of water therapy. We allowed Peanut ‘n’ Butter to observe the fish through a clear container before releasing it (and some peas) into the tub. Please, take a moment to picture this in your mind – two grown adults, with full sized ducks in their bathroom, putting a goldfish in the bathtub. What have we come to?
Much to our surprise, Peanut ‘n’ Butter loved the fish. And by loved, I mean ate. They even did a celebratory dance in the tub about it. (Not pictured, as I was too busy shielding the camera from the excessive water splash-age.)
SUCCESS, we thought. Surely we had done it. The ducks (re)discovered that they loved water AND that they liked eating fish.
In the supposed final stage of water therapy, we set a fish, in a clear container, on the edge of the pond. We carried the ducks from the bathtub to the pond, showed them the fish, and set them in the pond, hoping they would make the mental correlation. But no. Before their feet hit the water, they were gone.
In the days that followed our failed attempts, we gave them space. Other than bedtime. Bedtime has also been a situation in and of itself. It has taken them TWO MONTHS to figure out how to get into the coop to go to bed on their own. The Handy Man and I have had to corral Peanut ‘n’ Butter to the ramp and guide them up it to tuck them in each night. Every night. For two months. Last night was only the third night they were able to accomplish the task completely unassisted. For comparison, we only had to show the much younger, smaller chicks how to get into the coop twice before they were completely self-sufficient at the task.
But at least there had been some progress, albeit, painfully slow progress. The other night the Handy Man and I went to bed with some small satisfaction that the ducks were finally starting to “get it.” Maybe they’d never get back in their pond, but at least they would be able to put themselves to bed.
I know now that this was just an attempt to lure us into a false sense of security.
Early the next morning Peanut ‘n’ Butter, two breeds of ducks that supposedly cannot fly, were found in the front yard.
The Handy Man heard them quietly talking amongst themselves when he crouched down to pull some weeds before heading off to work…and there they were, proudly sitting in the front yard; probably plotting our demise. Sometime between sunrise and 6:30am they took flight, making it over the 6’ privacy fence, and decided to hang out in the lawn for all of the neighbors to see on their way to work.
How long had they been planning this escape??? When did they learn to fly???
Handy Man corralled them back through the fence, hoping it was a fluke, as we cannot have our animals escaping in a residential area to face dogs, cats, or the dreaded HOA. However, in the days that followed, we watched Peanut ‘n’ Butter conduct flight training before our very eyes. Peanut would sound “take off” with a single quack, and both would take off into the wind reaching heights of 7 to 8 feet and traveling 20 yards, stopping just before the fence.
We concluded that Peanut ‘n’ Butter weren’t happy here and needed to be re-homed, freed or for their primary feathers to be clipped. I really couldn’t bear the thought of any of those options. Searching for answers, I stumbled upon an ad for 3 week old Blue Swedish ducklings up the road. A last ditch effort to “fix” our ducks. I convinced the Handy Man that the babies would love the water, having never been traumatized by it and that Peanut ‘n’ Butter get back in the pond, seeing that it was safe and that they would be happy and stop trying to escape. Although, I had to agree that if it didn’t work we would re-home the unhappy pair, I was willing to take the gamble.
Impulsively, we brought the babies home and placed them directly in the pond. They had never experienced water before and loved it. They splashed, played, preened and even chased fish while the rest of the farm looked on in aw.
Peanut ‘n’ Butter drew closer and closer, watched tentatively from the bank for nearly an hour before it happened. First Peanut, then Butter returned to the pond.
Today, just two days later, it is how it always should have been. Peanut ‘n’ Butter seem to have forgotten they were ever afraid of their pond. There have been no further escape attempts, and the only flights taking place are short bursts of play in the pond.
There is finally peace on the farm and the whole flock is content…
Thanks to Sifl and Olly.