9 June 2012

28 days later

This isn't a post about the movie (though I could probably write one, given the nightmares it gave me). This is the story of how we came to be parents - to a little duck! 

Back in April we found a couple of duck eggs had been laid in our garden, they weren't in a nest, just plonked on the lawn, not together, but seemingly randomly dropped. We live near a river, it runs right through our neighbours garden, so we occasionally see a duck or two, our garden has no boundaries as such, no fence, or wall, so they merrily breeze in and out as they wish. Thus it wasn't a great shock to find a couple of eggs. We picked them up and bought them indoors, we thought about eating them for breakfast, but instead we Googled how to make a homemade incubator (see here) and read up on how to hatch and raise ducklings. 

Over the next few days we collected the materials we'd need. A large polystyrene box (from an aquarium supplier), wire mesh, various light bulbs, a piece of glass to make a window, and a digital thermometer with humidity readings, a bowl with sponge and some duct tape. We followed the instructions and made ourselves an incubator. 

On the 8th May we placed the eggs inside, the box sat in the corner of our bedroom emitting a constant glow, we did our best to keep the temperature constant, and turned the eggs 3 times a day (just as the mother duck would had she been sitting on them). After about 10 days we shone a torch to see if there was any sign of life. It was very hard to see, we really had no idea. We continued to turn the eggs and monitor the temperature. I held very little hope of any hatch, the temperature was hard to control, the weather changed dramatically from one week to the next. We gradually stopped turning the eggs (partly following instructions, partly as we'd kind of lost hope). Then on Monday night as we slunk into bed we heard a cheap-cheap sound. We looked in the box - nothing. Probably coming from outside we thought and fell asleep. Tuesday morning we could still hear cheap-cheap, it was coming from an egg, though no sign of a duckling or even a crack in an egg. We headed off to the shops to buy a feeder and water container as well as some crumb, should we need it. We worried about the humidity, it wasn't really high enough, we feared the duckling wouldn't be able to get out and we'd have to intervene. We worried too much, we returned home to find a little duckling waiting for us. 

We spent the day peering through that little window watching our little baby. Is it a he or a she? We've no idea. It's name is Tit, it's adorable. As day one passed Tit's downey coat began to dry and Tit started to look cute and fluffy. That evening we moved Tit to a cardboard box with lamp for heat (see here). Tit is part of our little family now, we worry about Mr Mouse and are keeping them well apart, at least until Tit is fully grown, though possibly forever - I don't trust Mr Mouse when it comes to smaller living things.  Tit eats lots, duckling crumb, lettuce, and tomato so far. Tit also make a lot of mess and we've had to invest in more towels as bedding. Tit is learning to swim in a paint tray, though spends most of swimming lessons cleaning and preening - not a bad thing! So that's the story of Tit. 28 days from a tasty egg to a perfectly formed little duck with perfectly formed features, a little bill with tiny nostrils, big webbed feet with tiny toenails and beady little eyes. It's simply amazing, I'm astonished and totally in awe of nature. 

P.S. Nothing came of the other egg.