The family who cared for eggs laid by a duck on their boat that was docked off Lake Wylie this summer continues to raise one of the ducklings - letting it live in a washtub in their laundry room.
One of the ducklings that hatched around Labor Day inside the Nichols' family boat has stuck around, despite an attempt to launch her into the water when other ducks are in the cove near the family's Fort Mill lakefront home. Barbara Nichols said they named it "Hope" because they hope to reunite her with other ducks.
"This has been a learning experience for us," Barbara Nichols said. "And lots of fun. We take Hope swimming in the lake and she stays very close to us, preferring to ride on us at times."
Hope was born after three of her sibling eggs hatched on Labor Day. Barbara Nichols helped the baby ducklings off the boat and into the lake. Barbara and her husband, Tom, have taken in the remaining duckling, letting her swim in the laundry sink and feeding her crickets.
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Barbara Nichols said the whole experience reminds her of the classic Dr. Seuss book, "Are you My Mother?"
It all began earlier this summer, when Barbara Nichols said she noticed that a duck had laid seven eggs in the family boat, which is kept out of the water on her Lake Wylie property in a cove near Tega Cay.
The mother duckling didn't return for the remaining eggs, so Tom Nichols removed the nest from the boat and placed the eggs under the dock. They had not hatched.
The family tiptoed around the eggs, careful not to disturb them during family and friends' boating trips. When they returned from trips, the mother duck would jump back on the nest on top of the eggs, they said.
Hope now spends most of the time in a washtub, and Barbara Nichols said they often take her out on the lake with them.
"Hope goes into the water. She dives in, but quickly turns around and comes back," she said. "I think it's innate like a baby duck coming back to its mother."
Barbara Nichols said she and her family have been researching how to raise the duckling, to learn what and how much to feed her and when they should release her into the wild. Even her daughter Lisa, a Winthrop University freshman, has been reading up on the subject.
On Sunday, a friend who rescues animals came to see Hope. The family's goal is to transition Hope from inside their home to an outdoor habitat until the duckling is ready to go out on her own.
"Right now, she can't get out of the washtub in my laundry room," Barbara Nichols said. "From her size, she won't be able to stay in the washtub much longer.
"We want to release her back in to the wild, but we want to protect her as she's growing. We're told to keep her until she can fly."
To help Hope get used to seeing ducks, Barbara Nichols said she holds the duckling up to the mirror. She also plays a video of Hope chirping on her cell phone so Hope can get used to the sound.
"She communicates with it," Barbara Nichols said. "It's like a blessing to us for this to happen. It's been fun. And so far, it's been successful."