Bich Thuy, 64, has a new morning routine. She sits on a swing, knitting and watching her four ducklings basking in the sun at her house in Hanoi.
She has named the golden ducklings ‘Khong Di’ (Don’t Go), ‘Khau Trang’ (Face Masks), ‘Khoang Cach’ (Social Distancing) and ‘Khai Bao’ (Declare).
Thuy and her ducklings are part of a surprising, but definite trend in Vietnam: buying eggs, incubating them and raising ducklings as pets.
Trong Tan has found happiness raising two ducklings at his house during the pandemic enforced social distancing periods. Photo courtesy of Tan
While the origin of this trend has not been pinpointed, many believe it originated during the Covid-19 lockdown last year, when some families bought eggs to hoard, but forgot to eat them and they hatched.
The cute ducklings soon became pets relatively easy to take care of, and the trend was fuelled by word of mouth and social media, the story goes.
While there are no statistics on the number of families raising ducklings at home, more than a dozen families told VnExpress that they and “many friends are raising ducks as pets.”
The trend seems to have become more pronounce this year with prolonged social distancing periods in many places.
Phuong Thao, Bich Thuy's daughter, said many of her friends have started raising ducklings after Hanoi issued its social distancing order in July .
In an apartment complex on Dien Bien Phu Street in the capital city, four of 12 apartments on just one floor are hatching and raising ducks.
The habit has spawned some interesting side effects as well.
“A friend of mine said her cat kept stalking her newly hatched ducks, while another friend’s dog suddenly became the mother of the new ducklings,” Thao said.
Nguyen Tham, living on Hanoi’s Hai Ba Trung District, said: “At least five families who saw that my family was happy to raise ducks have followed us. Old grandparents and single young people have been encouraging each other to incubate and raise ducks.”
The movement to get unusual pets for psychological balance and comfort during social distancing and lockdowns seems to have flourished in other countries as well.
Even in countries where dogs and cats are very common pets, other domesticated creatures, particularly fowls, seem to have joined the family.
For instance, the renting of hens skyrocketed in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. during the pandemic.
A report on American online media company Insider explained that the rental model works by giving families a couple of chickens, a coop, and feed that they can try out before making a long-term commitment.
It cited National Geographic as reporting that major chicken-rental companies experienced surging demand in 2020 and that this continued this year.
It also quoted Abby Johnson, founder of Henpals, a chicken rental company in the U.K., as saying: “Keeping chickens is such a rewarding hobby, and the benefits are all the more valuable during these difficult times. There’s a wonderful sense of purpose and connection people feel from waking up in the morning and caring for their chickens.
Vietnam's new duck owners seem to agree. Several said they chose this fowl because of the high hatching rate and the simple incubation process after buying raw duck eggs from the market.
Thuy said that she bought five duck eggs, put some rice husk in a carton, placed the eggs and covered them more risk husk and put a thin towel on top. After about ten days, she got four ducklings.
Huong Giang’s family in Thanh Xuan District also found that, raising ducklings as pets was is simpler than finding another animal to raise in the middle of the pandemic season. She even bought some duck eggs home for her 12-year-old daughter, Ngoc Thu, to incubate on her own. After 11 days, the ducklings kicked their shells and stepped out.
While hatching duck eggs is not difficult, raising them poses challenges.
Nguyen Khac Thuc’s daughter plays with a duckling in their home in Quang Binh Province. Photo courtesy of Thuc
Nguyen Khac Thuc in the central province of Quang Binh Province, is the owner of five ducklings. He said that on the first day, he did not know how to feed them. He gave them rice grains and even milk but they rejected everything.
“But it turns out that the newly hatched ducks don’t eat,” he said, adding that his five ducklings began to eat more after three days. They would follow Thuc everywhere making a trail of droppings.
“I've had to prepare tissues so I can wipe the floor clean whenever they poop. They grew up very fast that I now have to raise them in the garage,” he said.
Tung Lam, who lives in an apartment building in HCMC’s Phu Nhuan District, said his family dedicated a toilet as a place to raise eight ducklings. Now that they have grown a bit, they have been moved out to the balcony.
Some annoyances aside, the ducklings have really brought joy during the pandemic, families say.
For Thuy, the ducklings are already official members of the family. She changes two sets of clothes everyday after feeding and letting them swim in a tub of water.
Thao’s balcony is now occupied by ducks. Three days ago, when she returned after getting Covid-19 vaccine, she prepared a plate of perilla leaves to eat to prevent fever. While having it, she suddenly dropped her chopticks, saying: “Let’s save some leaves. I want to blend them and rub the mixture on the ducks’ necks to avoid them shedding feathers.”
Nguyen Tham said that since they began raising ducks, her 4-year-old and 9-year-old children have significantly reduced the time spent on electronic devices. The children are excited to learn about the process of birth and are gladly take on responsibilities in taking care of the ducks.
Her husband spends more free to time make them food and giving them a bath on the terrace. She has made a note to herself to ask market vendors for some shrimp heads to improve the quality of her ducks’ meals.
“After this pandemic season, we will definitely raise some other animals for the family to bond.”
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