Spring has sprung. That means love is in the air for waterfowl. The drakes are seeking out their favorite (or really, any) females to mate with. Flirting becomes an all day affair. Birds are pairing up with their new love match. Heck, even our old, injured bachelor rescue goose Henry has made a love connection!
Spring also means baby season. All these amorous advances are leading to new ducklings and goslings being born. This means it’s time for “Chick Days” at local pet and feed stores. Step into just about any pet or feed store in March or April and you’ll find tons of baby chicks, ducks, and sometimes even goslings for sale.
Little fluffy peeping baby ducklings and goslings are adorable. Many people are instantly won over by their cuteness and chirping noises. Especially at Easter time, dozens of these little fluffballs find their way to new homes. But what most folks don’t realize is that waterfowl are MESSY. And the grow at an astounding rate. So that cute little fuzzy baby you brought home one day quickly becomes a messy, smelly little creature in about two weeks. That little one now needs more care than you originally thought. It needs constant water bowl changes, lots of feed, daily (if not hourly) poop pick up, a heat source to keep it warm, and even constant attention.
What happens to all these new babies? Sadly, many get dumped as they get to be bigger birds.
Shortly after we formed our rescue, many folks in the waterfowl community warned us about Springtime. They all cautioned to be prepared for an influx of rescues come May and June. They all spoke of being super busy a few weeks after Easter. They all instructed us to make room for new arrivals in the Spring.
So it’s mid-April now. How are things going, you might ask?
Let us show you with this photo:
Meet baby Melody! Or Melvin. We aren’t sure of sex yet. For now, we’re calling them Pickles.
This is our first rescue baby of the season. I’m sure we’ll get more. We’re heeding the advice and making more room. We’re barely into baby season now, so we expect to be busier in the coming weeks and months into summer.
This little pumpkin was dumped at a park in LA county. Luckily, a nice family saw them being abandoned and quickly intervened to save them. At 3-4 weeks old, this duckling could not survive on its own in the “wild”. And they’re just about that age to become messy and more needy, so we weren’t at all surprised to hear they were dumped.
Here’s the really sad part. Pickles was most definitely someone’s beloved pet. They are the first duck we’ve had that LOVES to snuggle. And I mean, LOVES it. This baby would spend all day and night curled up on your lap if you let them. Pickles is calm and sweet. They don’t react to other animals, such as dogs or cats. They enjoy being held and petted. Not all ducklings are like this. In fact, most are not. So we truly believe someone held, loved, and interacted with Pickles previously. Someone loved them. And they likely bonded to that person.
Think about that for a moment. A three week old baby like Pickles. Their whole world is you. You provide their shelter, their food, their water. You are their source of comfort and safety. You are their playmate, their entertainment. You are their mama.
Now picture this: You put that baby into a box. Drive it to a park. Get out of your car with the box. Pour the baby out onto the grass. And you walk away, get in your car, and drive away.
What happens to that baby? Well, first of all, because it’s whole world is you, it scampers after you. That’s right. This little baby runs after you as you are leaving. Too many times, in fact, we’ve heard stories of such animals being struck by cars as they are desperately trying to catch up with their human.
I won’t go into how I feel about these people. They aren’t worth my time or attention. But I will tell you how I feel about the animals they’ve left behind. They are the reason we do what we do. Pickles. Lucky. Henry. Don and Gerry. And all the others that were left alone at a strange new place. If we could save them all, we sure would. Fortunately for us, there are other wonderful humans who feel the same. If you’ve read this far, you are probably one of them! And for that, we sincerely thank you. It does take a village to raise a child. Or a duckling. It takes good people with good hearts to act when they see a baby being dumped. It takes determined people to take that baby home with them, and then start calling around to find a place to take it in. And it takes special people to continue to care about abandoned animals. Our village grows with every single animal we take in. We now have people who save ducks they’ve seen dumped, fellow rescuers, possible fosters, people who will look in on domestic waterfowl at local parks, people who will donate their time or money to the cause, and many, many new friends.
Spring is most certainly a time for love. Love between the animals that are mating and reproducing, but also love for life itself. This Spring, we are choosing not to dwell on the negative consequences of this love, but on the positive. Yes, our rescue is getting full. And we are getting busy. But we are also getting our fill of love!
One last thing…
Speaking of babies. Please be prepared and responsible if you are hatching eggs. Be ready for some to be males. If you’re not prepared to take on the males, make sure you have a backup plan arranged for them. Don’t just dump them. And don’t just assume a local rescue can or will take them. Most rescues have limited space. We all tend to prioritize the most needy animals. That usually means the ones who are ill or injured, particularly those who have been left at a public park or pond where their condition would prevent them from escaping predators or finding food and water.
A rescue is not your backup plan. Most of us bird lovers also have our own flocks. We’ve all hatched our share of eggs also. But we are prepared for the outcome, whatever it is. These are living beings. They’re not something to be discarded simply because they were born the wrong gender for your needs.
Case in point. We have a veritable nursery in our house at the moment. Pickles is in one brooder, two baby chicks we hatched from Harry Potter and Bellatrix’s eggs are in another brooder. Then we have two incubators going, both with Sebastapol goose eggs hopefully hatching. But we are 100% prepared if all those geese turn out to be males. We’ve thought about it and discussed it. We are prepared to keep them all. Jason will just have to build another coop!
In the meantime, we’re enjoying all the duckling snuggles we can get.
Happy Easter everyone. Adopt, don’t shop. Please!
P.S. We talked to our local Tractor Supply Company about their Chick Days. Fortunately, our local store is staffed by animal enthusiasts and farmers. They already have a plan in place for any unsold birds, including any babies who appear to be unhealthy. Their staff takes those home to raise. Just in case, we are on standby.