BY MAGGIE BEAMGUARD
This is not a story of the ugly duckling, so much as the odd duck out.
Seven Lakes North Resident Erin King noticed something amiss when scrolling her social media last month.
A neighbor’s post on a page for Seven Lakes North and South Families stopped her short. A picture showed a group of unusual black and white ducks hanging out at the playground near the Northside pool.
“Oh gosh, those are Swedish ducks,” King thought when she saw them.
Swedish ducks are domestic. They don’t usually survive in the wild.
“They were bred specifically to be meat birds. They get so big that they can’t fly,” King said. This breed of waterfowl does not fly so much as it hops.
“Somebody got them as ducklings, thinking they were cute. They dumped them when they got too big and didn’t know what to do with them, thinking they’d be fine because there’s a lake,” she said.
Since Swedish ducks are bred in captivity, they depend on people for food.
“They’ll forage a little bit, but they won’t survive very long out in the wild,” she said, “because they just don’t have these instincts anymore.”
King has extensive experience raising her own farm animals, including chickens, ducks, horses and goats that she keeps at a friend’s farm just outside of Cameron.
Concerned for the safety of these odd ducks out in the wild, King went to investigate.
“I went out there and saw them. They appeared to be fine, but I knew they didn’t have long before they wouldn’t be.”
She consulted her friend of 30 years, Brianna Williams, who owns the farm where King keeps her animals to see if they could rescue the ducks. They decided there was plenty of room for them.
“They were not hard to catch, because that breed is so friendly,” she said. “They came right up to us.”
The birds were driven to their new home, where they made fast feathered friends with 16 chickens, a toulouse goose, a couple of mallards, a muscovy duck and six or seven peking ducks. They also earned new names: Rose, Blanche, Dorothy and Sophia.
“They were hysterical,” said King. “They all came up together and they have different personalities, and they’re just like the Golden Girls.”
And like all true golden girls, they love their new kiddie pool.
“They are happy,” said King. “One of the things ducks do when they’re happy is a head bobbing thing, and every time I fill that pool up they’re bobbing their heads.”
King hopes neighbors recognize how important it was to give the domestic ducks a safe and happy home. They aren’t like Canadian geese, which thrive in the wild, but more like stray dogs.
“They were pretty skinny under those feathers, so I was glad I got them when we did,” she said. “They wouldn’t have lasted much longer between not being able to fly away from a predator or not having the right kind of food.”
Now Rose, Blanch, Dorothy and Sophia get a steady diet of an all-flock feed and occasional treats of mealworms or crack corn.
They are happy as ducks in water.
Contact Maggie Beamguard at firstname.lastname@example.org.