It is a perfect afternoon on campus; students are enjoying their walk to classes, the sun is beaming and the pond is alive with the chirping of birds and the movement of many ducks that inhabit the area. While other students simply walk past or observe the wildlife from afar, senior biology major Kristin Ost sits on the grass feeding a small nine week-old mallard duck named Eggy. While Eggy has the typical blue colored feathering, her beak and the webbed areas of her feet appear darker than other nearby ducks.
“She loves her food,” Ost says, as she holds open a plastic bag containing yellow feed called Chick Starter which has been mixed with some water. Ost tries to hold the bag open, but is constantly fighting against the hungry pecks of Eggy, who misses the food she was given up until a couple weeks ago. Ost named the duck Eggy after discovering her still in her shell this past summer near her in ground pool. Upon finding the egg, Ost knew she wanted to raise it.
“I was really excited, and I thought it would be a cool experience. Ever since I was little, I have loved animals. When people were playing with Barbies, I was playing with toy horses. I once saved a vole from a cat,” she says.
Taking care of the egg required careful methods. The egg was placed in an incubator heated to precisely 99.5 degrees, where it was turned onto a different side every couple of days to make sure it was receiving warmth that equaled that of a mother’s care. On the 28th day, Eggy pecked open her egg and hatched, immediately becoming attached to Ost and identifying her as a mother figure.
“She followed me everywhere,” Ost recalls. “ If I was wearing a sweatshirt, she would nuzzle up near my hood and nap there. Eventually, we had to take her outside because she would waddle out to my living room and plop down to watch TV.”
As the end of summer came and the first day of classes started, Ost and her boyfriend carried Eggy in a box to the pond to start her new life.
Although Ost thought the pond would be an idyllic place for Eggy, she was worried about the assimilation process. Eggy would have to learn to eat on her own and get along with the other ducks. As Ost held Eggy in her hands that afternoon, Eggy suddenly flew away and into the water, seeming to fit right in with the duck community. Although it was a sad day for Ost, she was happy that Eggy had happily flown to her new home.
A week later, Ost decided to visit Eggy.
“I was scared I wouldn’t recognize her, but she recognized me first,” she says, remembering how Eggy had become excited and started peeping the moment she saw Ost. It was on this day that Millersville President Anderson was walking to his house that he spotted Ost with the duck and took a picture, later having it uploaded to the Millersville Facebook page, where it also became a hit on the internet site Reddit. Many students have seen the picture; one girl even stopping by while Ost is holding Eggy to ask if she is in fact the “duck girl.”
Although a couple weeks have passed and Ost has ended her job as caregiver to Eggy, she still plans to visit the pond whenever she gets the chance. Before she raised a duck, Ost enjoyed the pond, but now she feels an attachment. Ost has come here several times to eat lunch, where Eggy has greeted her and even come hopped up to take a nap on her lap.
Originally planning to be a veterinarian when she was younger, Ost later switched to pursuing a career with people and plans to attend medical school after her graduation. When asked if she would ever raise a duck again, Ost answers, “I don’t know if I could go through with it. It is so much responsibility. But, if there is an egg in need, why not?”