On Not Acquiring Ducks
Right outside the front door of our house — well, across a little stretch of lawn, fifteen or twenty feet maybe — we have a pond. It was one of the many things we fell in love with when we first saw the house. We still love it. It’s gorgeous, it’s soothing, it’s a marvelous place to sit in our weathered old Adirondack chairs and enjoy morning coffee or evening cocktails.
Occasionally, wild ducks come and visit our pond. Usually a pair of mallards, but sometimes more exotic fowl: hooded mergansers, wood ducks, and once even a bufflehead. They are very shy, these wild ducks. If we step outside, they QUACK QUACK QUACK in great distress and fly away, wings beating madly, water droplets scattering everywhere.
We had a fellow here the other day to talk about moving our propane tank from the faaaaaar reaches of the back of the house to a much more convenient spot at the front of the house (another story, which perhaps I will tell you someday, it’s not important now). Anyway my husband Mark was out discussing the job with him, and the fellow admired our pond. Mark mentioned the very shy wild ducks that we enjoy so much, and the fellow said, “Why don’t you get some domestic ducks? They’ll stick around, and they’ll even eat some of that duckweed.”
Oh! What an idea! Ducks who would stay! Ducks we could name. Ducks who might produce eggs. Ducks who might produce…
Ahem. Suffice it to say, we got kind of excited about the thought. And when I say “we”, I am pretty much meaning “I”.
I feel like I should clarify at this point Mark’s position toward pets, livestock, any other living creatures that aren’t plants (or invertebrates) with whom we share our home and grounds. And that position is: No. We don’t have a cat, or a dog, or a hamster, or a canary, or even, these days, guppies. The only animals that live here are the ones we don’t have any control over — the deer who patrol the fences, looking to get in and eat the garden. The voles who tunnel underground, and eat the garden. The slugs who — well, you get the idea.
I don’t know many other folks, particularly out here in the country, who don’t have pets or livestock of any kind. A few, yes; but we are definitely in the minority here.
If it were me alone, I would have a cat. I had cats most of my life; I had a beloved cat who was My Cat all seventeen and a half years of her mad, loving, crazy, furry, psychotic life. When she died, I intended to get another cat. Instead, I got a divorce, and moved to an apartment; I then planned to get a cat when I bought a house.
By the time I bought the house, I had met Mark, who told me that of course I should get a cat if I wanted to, he entirely supported that — but that he wouldn’t be able to live in a house where cats lived, because allergies; and he certainly wouldn’t be able to sleep in a bed where a cat slept.
So. Well. I made my choice, and I’m entirely happy with it, though I do tease Mark that he only prevailed over a theoretical cat, not an actual cat.
Anyway, the other day, when Mark came in after talking to the propane tank fellow and told me about the idea of getting domestic ducks — well, I got super excited. I immediately began envisioning my little herd of ducks, which would each have their own personalities and adorable quirks, and the marvelous things I would make with huge delicious duck eggs, and yes of course the adorable DUCKLINGS that would surely come along in the bargain…
But we are grownups, and we do our due diligence, so after I calmed down, I reached out to a local friend who has ducks and asked her what’s involved, what do I need to know, what did she think?
“Well,” she said, diplomatically, “you certainly could get domestic ducks. But, if you don’t put netting over the whole pond, you are going to lose ducks to the birds of prey.”
Hmm, yes, good point. We do also get visited by owls, and great blue herons, and bald eagles…
“Domestic ducks aren’t good flyers, so it’s hard for them to escape. Ducks will also get things pretty muddy and the water will turn the color of whatever the bottom of your pond looks like because they constantly poke and prod at the bottom to eat.”
Hmm. A net over the lovely pond; the lovely pond looking all muddy and churned up…
“They also poop A LOT.”
“Personally, I don’t think you guys would enjoy what they would do to your pond and garden.”
“Yeah, probably not,” I said, with a sigh.
“And that’s before taking into account the raccoons and otters,” she added. “You’ll have to build them a shelter and shut them in every night.”
“What’s great about wild ducks,” she pointed out, “is that they come and go. One or two, and then they’re gone again.”
“You’re right,” I said. “Wild ducks are the BEST.” And so my imaginary flock of charming and personable ducks flew away out of my mind, wings flapping madly, droplets flying, QUACK QUACK QUACK.
“You’re welcome for being a buzzkill,” my friend said, wisely. And then we made plans to get together and make raspberry curd from her duck eggs and fresh raspberries, in a few weeks when she’s fully vaccinated.
So animal-less we remain, except for our tiny aquarium of shrimp and snails. And the wildlife outside, both welcome and invasive.
Oh but there is one small consolation: our lovely pond has a school of goldfish, bright and beautiful, shy and spooky. They love to bask in the sun, so we see a little more of them these days, as the weather improves. They’re a fine ornament to morning coffee-time or evening cocktail hour.
Even if they don’t have names or quirky, entertaining personalities. Or eggs for us.