An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure
. . .
If ducks are visiting your backyard pool in the early spring, it is a
sure sign that nesting is soon to follow. Since it is
against state and federal law to harm
native birds, or disturb relocate or destroy nests or eggs, now is the
time to take action to prevent unwanted nesting. Since the birds are
seeking a peaceful, safe place to nest, the best way to discourage them
is by making your pool and yard seem to be just the opposite. Try these
Float a number of beach balls in the
Use Mylar Balloons filled with
helium. Attach a weight to the bottom of the string and place the
balloons either around the outside of the pool or dancing just above the
water level inside your pool.
"Scare Eye Balloons" at a
wild bird store to float in your pool (see photo).
Use a pool cover until swim season
begins and /or when you are away on vacation.
SO……I’ve missed the window of opportunity to discourage nesting.
WHAT DO I DO NOW?
If you discover that a duck is nesting in your yard, leave it alone.
It is against state and federal law to harm
nesting ducks or ducklings or to move or destroy the nest or eggs.
A mother duck will lay an egg or two every day until all 7 to 15 eggs
have been laid. She wants all the eggs to hatch at the same time so the
mother duck does not start sitting on the nest and incubating the eggs
until all are laid. Eggs hatch about 28 days after incubation (sitting
on the eggs) begins. The male will stay near until he is sure the nest
is secure and then he will probably disappear and leave the care of the
ducklings to the mother duck.
The best course of action for you to take at this point is to:
· Keep pets
inside or on a leash when they are in the yard.
· Explain to
children that the mother duck must not be disturbed because she has a
special surprise they must wait to see. If you as an adult role model
show respect for wildlife, your example will build an attitude of
tolerance and respect in children. With small children, help them
understand what an exciting event is about to happen. Go to the library
or bookstore and read age-appropriate duck stories with your children.
One of the best is Make Way for Ducklings by McCloskey, but there
are many others available. Ask your librarian for help. What is about
to happen is a priceless learning opportunity for your family!
· Prepare for
the ducklings by building a brick stairway on your pool steps.
ducks have no oils in their “down” when they hatch and they may become
water-logged and drown if they cannot escape to dry land. They will
enter the pool and not be able to get out unless you give them a ramp (a
board covered with a towel or other cloth to provide traction) or
provide a stairway. Be sure to tell the person who cleans the pool to
leave the escape ramp or stairway in the pool.
· Keep the water
level in your pool a little lower than usual. If you leave it low
enough so that water just barely enters the skimmer, the float will not
block the babies from escaping the skimmer should they enter it. The
danger to baby ducks does not come from the pump circulation, but from
the flapper that traps debris (and baby ducks) in the skimmer. With the
correct water level, you should be able to run your pump as usual
without harming or trapping the ducklings. Always leave the brick steps
or ramp in place when you lower the water level or the ducklings will
not be able to leave the pool. Be sure to check the level often so that
the water level does not drop below the bottom of the skimmer opening.
Tell the person who cleans your pool to leave the water at the
appropriate level when hatching day approaches.
Hooray! The ducklings
We at DFW Wildlife Coalition understand that having a family of ducks in
your swimming pool is a mixed blessing. Ducks can be messy and you and
your family might need --or want to refrain from swimming until the
family is old enough to leave. It is our firm belief, however, that
most home owners want to do what they can to assure that the baby ducks
have the best chance possible to grow up in safety. It is with this
goal in mind that we recommend the following:
Q. Now that the ducklings have hatched, how long will they stay?
A. If there is a way to escape the fence and/or your backyard habitat
does not provide sufficient food for the family, the mother duck might
march the babies out to a nearby stream or pond. Unfortunately, there
are many hazards facing the little family during their trip. Many
ducklings will fall prey to traffic accidents and to predators both
along the road and at the pond or stream if they are lucky enough to
make it there.
Q. Is there a way I can help the ducklings?
A. If you are willing and able to allow the ducklings to stay in your
yard for at least a few weeks, that scenario would be ideal. Baby ducks
grow very quickly and every day of growth will make them safer from
predators once they reach the pond. If you reach the point that the
ducklings must leave, simply map out the safest route to a nearby pond
or stream. Take bed sheets or large sheets of cardboard and “herd” the
family to the pond. Be sure you have enough people to keep the duck
family together if they scatter. Mom must stay with the babies. DO NOT
put the ducklings in a box and drive them to the water. Mom will not
know where the ducklings are and they will not survive without her care.
Q. I am willing to let the ducks stay for awhile, but what kind of help
will they need from me?
A. Ducks are omnivorous, meaning that they eat both plants and
animals. In the wild, they eat grasses, bugs, pond plants and aquatic
invertebrates. Your backyard might not have the variety of foods baby
ducks need to support their rapid growth. Even if you do have a pond
and sufficient vegetation, additional nutrition will hasten the day when
the ducklings will be large enough to relocate in safety.
Q. So what do I feed
A. Mazuri Waterfowl Starter by Purina is the best food available for
baby ducks. Go to
www.mazuri.com to find a dealer near you. Improper nutrition can cause deformity in
ducks, so to be sure your ducks are receiving all the nutrients they
need to grow strong, please feed only the recommended Mazuri Waterfowl
Starter. Foods such as crumbles designed to meet the needs of other
species like chickens are harmful to baby ducks.