Thursday 30 May 2013


"Little Duck" tickling Danny under his chin.
I'm not sure pets really belong in my blog of cheap and simple ideas for entertaining kids, but our random and changing selection of pets have been a big source of entertainment for the boys so I'm going to take the liberty!
When I was a child we had cats, dogs, tropical fish, a couple of budgies, terrapins, gerbils and a succession of hamsters. Not all at the same time I hasten to add, but there were always at least 3 pets in the house. I loved them, especially the dogs-who at times really did feel like my best friend. I always thought that as an adult I'd want dogs, and that I'd let my children have caged pets like we did.

Nope! I would have a dog if it didn't pooh. I can't get to grips with the concept of picking up after your dog- although I am totally enraged when I see someone leaving the stuff on the pavement.
For now, I'm happy that the boys' grandparents on both sides have dogs so they do get plenty of canine company, albeit on a part-time basis. They love playing with them and taking them for walks, and at the end of the day, they go home!

In fact, we currently don't have any pets in the house. We have lots of fish in our pond and two cats who live outdoors- a tortoiseshell called Ripley, after the character in Alien, who last year had three kittens, one of which, Ash, we still have. It was a great experience for the boys watching the kittens grow from little blind bundles of fur to fully fiesty creatures who ran up the curtains and generally caused even more mayhem than the kids. The boys learned to handle them really gently, although Zac took longer to learn this lesson than Danny and was more inclined to tease them. I was surprised and a bit sad that he didn't automatically treat them carefully, but the kittens were pretty robust and in the end I was glad that Zac had had the message about looking after living things thoroughly drummed into him!
Just too cute!

Our other pet of choice has been ducks. They are pretty easy to look after, have bucketloads of character, and duck eggs are delicious! We'd kept ducks before the kids were born and when I was a week overdue with Zac we got a "White Duck" as a temporary baby substitute! As he ended up being born three weeks after my official due date she had this role longer than we expected! Zac and White Duck developed a special relationship! He really loved her and she was extremely tolerant of him and let him carry her around the garden.
Playing peek-a-boo

She splashed me!

Do you really want to drink that?

The Christmas before last we hatched out two chocolate runner ducklings in a very basic homemade incubator. The process was trickier than we thought and quite a few eggs came to nothing, but the boys learned loads from watching the embryos develop inside the eggs (you could put a torch to them in the dark and see what was going on inside) and the two that successfully hatched bonded really well with the kids and were again a source of great entertainment.
We had rather rushed into what seemed like a great idea and hadn't realised that hatching them in midwinter would mean they'd have to live indoors for quite some time before it was warm enough to put them out. Our spare room was taken over by a large cage, the bath became their pond, and the ducks grew to believe they were part of the family and were more than a little disgruntled to be eventually moved outside! Once out though, they obligingly lived up to their name and were happy to run races with the boys, as well as getting up to other duck-related mischief!
Somewhat frustratingly they were both drakes- no eggs, so after a while we added to our flock by buying three lovely ladies. It was hilarious! The drakes were still under the illusion they were humans like us and were extremely nervous of the three feathered creatures we'd introduced, whilst the ducks, being naturally drawn to flock, desperately pursued them around the garden. Eventually they reached an uneasy truce, but it literally took several months!
The boys were happy to help feed and water the ducks, they could shut them up at night and let them out in the morning, and they loved to collect the eggs once the girls were laying, so they also learned a bit about the responsiblity of looking after animals, tho we were all less keen on the mucking out aspect!
Run boys- here come the girls!
Sadly, a couple of months ago we woke up to discover the remains of one duck on the lawn and the other four completely vanished, despite having been secured in their run the evening before. We initially suspected a fox, but the lack of any sign or sound of struggle made us wonder if the four missing ducks had been stolen. Either way we felt pretty bereft as they were part of the family. I think we adults miss them more, tho the boys do talk about them quite a bit. I guess pets are a pretty obvious way to explore the stages of life and the reality of death.

I can see you!
We've never owned a caged pet- I'm afraid my memory of hamsters has changed from one of lovely pet to one of a somewhat sad and smelly creature who racketed around a lot in the night. We did temporarily look after a little mouse that Ripley brought in for the kittens to play with! It lived quite happily in a tub in the kitchen being fed on tasty but probably inappropriate treats until we decided it was time to release it into the sack of straw for the ducks that lived in our end shed.

Despite the cost and the hassle of pets there's no doubt they bring benefits for kids- seeing the cycle of life and death; learning to care for something living and understanding that it is a permanent responsibility- you can't just forget to feed them; having a friend who doesn't judge you or fall out with you; getting outside and active with them; I definitely think it's worth it. If you can't face having pets of your own you can always spend time with friends or relatives who do, or if you only want something free and temporary, you can always have tadpoles or a very furry caterpillar!


  1. wow i am loving the white duck and the pictures, we dont have any pets and i am so glad that my mum has a dog that joshua adores.

    Thanks for linking up with #magicmoments x

    1. Thanks Jaime, the animals have definitely given us lots of #magicmoments, tho there have been quite a few occasions when I've wished we didn't have pets too! I definitely think a dog-in-law is the way to go!!

  2. Aww! The chocolate duckling in the bath is just the cutest! Popping over from #Countrykids

  3. What lovely memories and cute photos of the boys and the pets. They are a lot of work but I think provide an invaluable lesson to children, however, I do like the sound of the dog-in-laws! Thanks for linking up and sharing with Country Kids.

  4. Aww, I love the photo of the duckling in the bath! I agree that pets are really important for kids - it teaches them to treat animals properly and with kindness, and as you say, about the "circle of life."

    We have a dog and will hopefully soon have a cat too. The dog pooh thing doesn't really bother me as I never touch it - just pick it up with a bag whilst out, or a long handled pooh picking up tool thing at home. Changing nappies is more unpleasant most the times!

    When our girls are a little older we will definitely be getting some pets they can care for themselves :-)