If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it may be a pet

Lu Feiran
Call ducks are not the only unusual pets of increasing in popularity around China. Hedgehogs, blue-tongued skinks and even jellyfish are found in homes.
Lu Feiran
SSI ļʱ

To most Chinese, duck is a delicious roasted dish. So it came as something of a surprise when actress Wang Luodan took up the cause of a stolen pet duck.

Last week, she told her 43 million followers on Weibo that a woman in central China’s Henan Province pinched the pet duck of a colleague. The duck was named Jiji.

Wang attached footage from a surveillance camera showing a short-haired woman in a black T-shirt grabbing Jiji by the wings and making off with it. Wang asked if anyone could spot the woman, pledging to exchange Jiji for 10 Peking ducks.

The thief was later found, but Jiji had already landed on a dinner table.

“I hope that we meet Jiji again in another incarnation,” Wang wrote. “People should not covet, hurt or eat other people’s pets.”

While many netizens felt sorry about Jiji’s fate, others asked: Why would the woman snatch a duck worth at least 6,000 yuan (US$845)?

Obviously, the duck thief didn’t know that before she ate her booty, but it’s true.

On the e-commerce platform Taobao, a grown pet duck is selling for around 6,000 yuan. Fledglings cost 2,800 yuan, and a fertilized duck egg goes for between 800 yuan and 1,180 yuan.

These ducks are not bred for meat. They are smaller versions known as call ducks and are bred as pets. They have cream-colored feathers and yellow beaks and feet.

The history of the call duck can be traced back to the 17th century Netherlands, when they were used as decoys in duck-hunting because of their high-pitched calls.

A blogger with the screen name “Runaway Egg” went online to share her experience of raising a call duck from egg to adulthood.

She bought three eggs at 750 yuan apiece from an online vendor and hatched them in an incubator, controlling the temperature and humidity twice a day.

“Usually on the 25th day, the duckling will start to peck on the shell,” she said. “And if there is no sign of activity by the 26th day, you have to crack the shell for the duckling or it will die inside.”

Even with great care, Runaway Egg managed to hatch only one duckling.

Hatching was the only first step. The new duckling needed to stay in the incubator for several weeks. Feeding the bird was easy but dealing with its excrement was more difficult.

“You can’t potty-train a duck like you can a cat or dog,” the blogger said. “They just poop anytime, anywhere. My mom once used an entire roll of toilet paper cleaning up after my duckling in just one morning.”

Believe it or not, but there are now “poultry diapers” available on the market. The cloths come in different sizes and colors. They are tied under a duck to catch poop.

Call ducks are not the only unusual pets of increasing in popularity around China. Hedgehogs, blue-tongued skinks and even jellyfish are found in homes.

Graphic designer Peggy Zhang is a poikilotherm enthusiastic — which means she likes cold-blooded animals whose internal temperature varies over 24 hours. After raising an iguana and a white snake, fairly common cold-blooded pets, a blue-tongued skink became her new favorite.

The somewhat shy, nonlethal lizard does indeed have a bright blue tongue. And like ducks, lizards are garden-friendly, eating snails and other pests.

“Blue-tongued skinks are actually more gentle than other lizards,” Zhang said. “And they eat almost anything, even dog and cat food, so they are easy to raise.”

Exotic pets are a buyer-beware business. Fraud has been reported in the sale of call duck, for example. Since most trades are done online, most consumers can’t distinguish call duck eggs from more common varieties. By the time the eggs hatch into something unwanted, the sellers are nowhere to be found online.

“A seller promised me call duck eggs, but when the incubation period was over, I had two brownish ducklings instead of creamy white ones,” said Zhou Ziqiang, a buyer in southwest China’s Guizhou Province. “They were apparently common domestic ducks.”

Zhou reported the case to the police but has heard nothing back.

In some cases, pet owners get tired of the pets and abandon there. There have been several cases of abandoned snakes slithering around neighborhood complexes and hybrid call ducks roaming greenery areas. Currently, there is no law to protect pets.

A new animal protection law is being drafted and public feedback is being solicited. If enacted, abandoning or abusing animals would be a punishable offense.

If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it may be a pet

A call duck cafe in south China’s Guangdong Province provides snowy-white pets. The popularity of ducks has sent their prices rising. 

Tips on raising pet ducks

• Ducks have definite, often humorous personalities. Kept in a garden area, they eat insects, snails and weed seeds, but they shouldn’t be allowed out unless plants are well-established or they may eat the greenery, too.

• Quacking can disturb neighbors.

• Ducks like buddies, so it’s best to keep at least a pair of them.

• The natural diet of ducks consists of about 90 percent vegetable matter. Provide plenty of greens and vegie scraps.

• Provide drinking water. It’s not necessary to provide swimming water for ducks, but if they get the chance to swim, they’ll take it and make a splashing mess.

• Ducks like to be outdoors and require minimal shelter. If you are raising them on a patio, provide a wind break and shade cover.

• Ducks must be handled with care because their legs and wings are quite thin and easily injured. Never grab ducks by their legs or wings. Instead, grasp them securely but gently by the neck and then place one hand over each wing to calm them down.

• Ducks can live up to 20 years.

SSI ļʱ
Special Reports