The Personality Series: Iliya Doodle

Iliya (Illy) was born on July 8th, 2009, the only boy member of the Quack Squad--seven day old ducklings shipped from Nature's Hatchery, arriving at the post office in the wee hours of July 9th, which was a Wednesday. When they arrived and I opened the box, I was still fairly new to raising waterfowl, having imprinted Augie since March 1st and then Ming, Clyde, and Lucy shortly after. It had been difficult to determine the Augie's gender, in particular, so I wasn't sure how difficult it would be to pick out the only male member of the Quack Squad (they were sexed at the hatchery: six females, one male). The box they arrived in was so tiny and when I removed the top seven little fuzzies peeped and looked up at me, four three yellow, which would turn out to be fawn and white Indian runners, and four black, which would grow into two black Indian runners and two Cayugas. Iliya was one of the fawn and white runners.

     I noticed there was one little one with a slender head who stood erect from the box and peered at me with his head cocked, examining me with one eye. He did this all the time. He was also inquisitive and he answered when I called out to him and the other ducklings. He had a curiosity that was unmatched by any of the others and he stood out from the group because of this.
     As with all of my ducklings, and my goose, I began forming pet names for them. This always occurred naturally and was never forced. With Iliya and the rest of The Quack Squad it became "Doot-doot, doot-doot-doot doot-doot!" because this is the sound they made. Shortly I could tell that one of the ducklings, Iliya, had a hoarse voice and he was not so much a "doot-dooter". It wasn't long before I began to suspect he was the boy--within days due to his venturesome personality and hoarse little voice. And, it turned out, I was right. My friend M. visited and verified that Iliya was, in fact, a little drake. (It was always easy to tell which duckling Iliya was due to his light yellow coloring and the discoloration around the top of his bill--where it connects to his face.)

     A short time after the ducklings arrived my friend D. from Tucson arrived for a vacation. Iliya became his favorite duckling. D. would sit outside with me in the shade of the golden plum tree and watch the ducklings play, observing that the girls were following Iliya's lead and that he wouldn't let them out of his sight. D. also said something like, "Iliya's going to grow up thinking those girls are all his. What then?" I knew that, perhaps, that would become a bridge we'd have to cross when we got to it. Luckily, though, it never became an issue as Iliya has always minded his own business, wooing the ladies from the background, and he has remained non-confrontational with the other three drakes, Augie, Clyde, and Ming.

     As Iliya and The Quack Squad grew, they played together like siblings, splashing and running around the yard, napping together, dabbling in mud, and munching on grass. I would let the big boys and Lucy into the yard with them, but I had to keep an eye out, because the drakes would chase them if left unattended. But at about four to six weeks I began to allow them to co-mingle more and more. Eventually, The Quack Squad had the half of the duck yard that's closest to the coop. In this way they could get used to the drakes and Lucy who had the other half of the yard. When they were big enough I let them out together more and more until they were able to go together as one flock. It was a fairly easy process. It just had to be done right and not too soon.

     Iliya hasn't gotten into fights with the other boys. They seem to ignore each other for the most part. When Iliya is interested in a girl, he goes up to her, sometimes flirting, sometimes simply trying to climb on and, if she allows it, he mates with her. I've seen him with all of the girls, but Bella and Beetle appear most attached to Iliya. I've watched Olga and Noi, who are the two female fawn and white runners, flirt with Iliya and he does mate with them, but not as often as he does with the others. (For some reason the fawn and white girls are ignored by the males a lot.)
     About a month ago I moved one of the duck houses--the fancy one--into the duck yard. Last week I placed a rubber mat at the bottom and Iliya was the first to venture in and check out the interior. Once inside he began calling to the girls and, sure enough, Bella went inside with him. This morning, when the ducks were first let out of the coop, Iliya went inside the duck house, sat on the nest (made from a tire filled with straw), and began calling to the girls.
     I think he was saying, "I'm not a player, I'm a family man! Welcome to my crib!"

Above Photo: Iliya is center.

Above: The awkward stage.

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