Many children will be given cute baby ducklings for Easter, but as spring turns into summer ducklings shed their down for duck feathers the cuteness wears off and the daily chores begin.
That is when many domesticated ducks end up in the local pond or lake.
Lucky for the duck, Bill Volkart and his wife Gigi have no problem stepping in and saving the ducks from illegal dumping.
"In 2005 I had a stroke and I was legally dead for two minutes," Volkart said. "God sent me back and when you're up there in heaven with all the angels and everything and get kicked back down here you have to ask God for what purpose he sent you back."
Volkart said he was doing just that while looking out his front window in a wheelchair when seven ducks came waddling up the driveway.
"I said ducks Lord? Not world peace, not curing cancer? Ducks? OK," Volkart said.
The Volkarts already had a nice pond and plenty of open space so they went to work building a duck sanctuary as soon as Bill Volkart got back on his feet.
Almost five years later the Volkarts have more than 50 ducks in their yard eating 100 pounds of feed a week. They also take lame ducks into their home where they are carefully looked after and treated as one of the family.
Volkart said ducks' feet are very fragile and very easily broken and he discourages everyone from chasing ducks because running could cause them to damage their legs.
The Mt. Holly Duck Sanctuary motto is "Where ducks can be ducks." Volkart said the only reason a duck might die from anything but old age is if it escapes his fence and meets a car or wild animal on the road. He has carefully constructed the sanctuary to keep predators out and captures any that make it onto his property.
The ducks have two homes at night, "fort duck," an olive drab home Volkart built himself after his stroke in 2005 complete with lights, a heater, and nesting boxes. The second is "duck palace," a red and white home designed and built by a friend and fellow duck lover last fall. Volkart said the floor of fort duck is protected with hardware cloth and nothing but the most clever weasel can get in.
Volkart has several domestic breeds of ducks on his property, including pekin and South American muscovy. Last year he was even given a gosling. A woman in Loveland called Volkart to say she had found a baby duck under a truck at a gas station in Loveland. When he met her and the little black "duckling" he said "that's a goose."
Volkart said Canadian Geese are raised by both parents, unlike ducks, so he knew "Harold" had a tragic story. He raised the goose in his home until he was strong enough to live outside and now the goose is one of Volkart's closest companions. Harold follows him around the yard like a dog, he breaks up fights between the ducks, and generally keeps everyone in line.
The Volkarts support themselves through their window cleaning business and receive some donations to support the ducks. Bill Volkart also wrote a children's book about a duckling a friend from Texas saved. Sales from the book go toward the care of the ducks.
Volkart said he is always happy to receive visitors at their Berry Road home as long as they call ahead first and obey the rules, the most important of which is do not chase the ducks. He said they are more than happy to take in more unwanted ducks as well.
"It's mostly a labor of love," Volkart said. "I'm lucky to be here and God gave me a job to do."
Visit the Mt. Holly Duck Sanctuary on the web at www.mthollyducksanctuary.com or by calling (513) 734-7791.