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Bob Tarte
Exotic Pet Expert & Author

Duck Diapers, Boas, and Geckoes

..........April Rousseau

Linda Tarte...............................April Rousseau


Bob invited April Rousseau on What Were You Thinking? to talk about her pet ball pythons and fat-tailed gecko. Instead, Bob and April open the show discussing duck diapers. Yes, such things do exist, and April knows all about intimate apparel for waterfowl. In addition to the lizards that light up her life, she also keeps an indoor white Rouen duck named Kamikaze Duck, or KD duck, for short. In addition to giving us the lowdown on KDís personal habits, April describes the eating predilections of pythons and geckoes and explains why you should never leave crickets in the cage with your gecko for an extended length of time.

Questions or Comments? Email Bob at:


Female Announcer: You're listening to

Announcer: You've had a long day at work, and you can't wait to just get home, take of your shoes, plop yourself down in your favorite chair, and relax. You walk up to your tranquil residential home, and your neatly manicured lawn in your quiet suburban neighborhood. Put the key in the lock, open the door, and... (sounds of crashes and monkey screams) Yes, the pets have gone wild! What were you thinking? Welcome to the show about everything you've always wanted to know about exotic pets! Where to get them, what to feed them, and how to care for them. You'll even find out why some people want to live with a monkey! Now here's your host, exotic pet expert and author, Bob Tarte. Hey Bob, what were you thinking?

Bob Tarte:  Hi. I'm Bob Tarte, author of the books Enslaved by Ducks and Fowl Weather, and this is What Were You Thinking, a show about exotic pets. On What Were You Thinking we talk about anything other than cats and dogs, and I guess anything other than cats and dogs is what is considered exotic pets. Today's guest is the exotic April Rousseau. She lives in northern Indiana, with, I think I got this right, but she will correct me if I'm wrong- Three cats, a lab-chow-basset hound-border collie mix, that sounds like four or five dogs but I guess it's just one. An African bat-tailed gecko, three ball pythons, and two white Pekin ducks. Now we haven't talked to anybody about snakes and geckos on What Were You Thinking, so that's why I invited April on the show. But we're going to talk about something else to start with, which may surprise you a little bit. Hi, April.

April Rousseau: Hi! I'm April, I'm an avid duck enthusiast who loves all things furred and feathered, and I'll be talking to you about my experiences with three ball pythons, and ducks.

Bob Tarte: (laughs) I'm glad you mentioned that. Now who is sitting on your lap right now?

April Rosseau: This is KD. It's short for Kamikaze Duck because the last girl who owned him, he jumped off of her head when he was a baby. He's a pampered indoor duck who wears duck diaper harnesses.

Bob Tarte: OK now, we'll talk about the duck diapers. How did you get- Kamikaze is his full name, what do you call him?

April Rosseau: I just call him KD.

Bob Tarte: OK, Kamikaze Duck. How did you get ahold of KD?

April Rosseau: I'm a member of the Yahoo group that is a bunch of crazy people like me who have pet ducks at home and someone had told me that someone in Blue Springs, Missouri, which is eight hours away, needed a new home for their duck. I volunteered, and so he drove six hours and I drove two.

Bob Tarte: Wow, what kind of a duck is it?

April Rosseau: It's called a rouen. It's spelled R-O-U-E-N, and it basically looks like a big mallard.

Bob Tarte: Yeah, some of them are quite large, aren't they.

April Rosseau: He's actually pretty small.

Bob Tarte: Is he? OK, alright. Now you mentioned the duck diapers. I had heard about that, a couple of years ago somebody told me about that but I didn't really know anybody who used them before. So why don't you talk a little bit about the duck diapers?

April Rosseau: It's an ingenious idea thought of by Nancy Townsends. She has a cool website where you can buy them, and you can also get them on

Bob Tarte: OK, Thanks.

April Rosseau: And her website has a lot of pet duck resources, and she has the only book on raising pet ducks inside and outside, and she has a lot of really neat accessories. You like her website, too?

Bob Tarte: I haven't seen her website, that sounds good. Yeah, give it to me.

April Rosseau: It's called

Bob Tarte: OK, I will have to check that out. So do you have a lot of house ducks? You mentioned you have a couple White Pekins. Are those indoor, outdoor ducks, or what are they?

April Rosseau: They were indoor ducks the first two months of their lives, and now they live outdoors in a big, pretty duck pen. I have one indoor duck right now, I'm just trying to think of wether I'm going to keep him indoors or not.  But he seems to really love being indoors with people, he thinks that he's a person.

Bob Tarte: Yeah. And that's in addition to KD, the other duck?

April Rosseau: No, that is KD.

Bob Tarte: Oh, that is KD. Okay. (laughs) I think I hear him. Does he like people a lot?

April Rosseau: He loves people. He's only been at my house for- this is the first day he's been at my house, he got here last night. He's been following around me and my mom this morning.

Bob Tarte:  But where do you keep him?

April Rosseau: Right now, he's living in a 35-gallon container in my room that's turned on its side. He wears a diaper, he can just flop around my room as much as he wants. He was just pretty much hanging around my room last night, running around my room and surprisingly didn't cause much havoc for a duck.

Bob Tarte: Now I get a lot of e-mails from people, and I think I've probably heard from not more than maybe ten people who have house ducks. Do you know how widespread that might be?

April Rosseau: If you go onto the website, the Yahoo group that I am on- You want to join that, because there is a lot of great information about anyone who has ducks.

Bob Tarte: Anytime I try to join a Yahoo group, I have problems with the password and the log-in. It seems like if you don't renew them every couple of months or something, they change them, I don't know what it is. I always get messed up. But you're probably smarter than I am, so-

April Rosseau: I can coach you through it if you need to. We had, I think we have about 900 members on the group, and not all of them are active, but tons of them have outdoor ducks and tons of them have indoor ducks. Some of them, you know, started out having indoor ducks, but one of them got injured so they had to bring them indoors and now they just love it.

Bob Tarte: Yeah, well they're very fun animals. How often do you change the duck diapers?

April Rosseau: Every 1-2 hours, sometimes up to 3. Depends on how much he's been eating, and it also depends on the diet of the duck. If the duck is on a lower-protein diet like they should be, like on grower pellets by Purina, things like that with about 12% protein, they shouldn't need to be changed more than every hour or two. But if they're on a really high-protein diet, like this guy when I got him, he was on GainBird, and that has too high protein. It makes the poo a lot worse, and a lot more.

Bob Tarte: Now for people who don't have experience with ducks, you definitely need diapers if they're going to be in your house because they poop like about every 12 minutes, don't they?

April Rosseau: Yeah, pretty much. Some don't, when they get a little bit older it's not as bad, but yeah- no bird has a sphincter muscle, which is the muscle that lets them control wether or not they go.

Bob Tarte: Yeah.

April Rosseau: So any bird, without diapers, is just going to poop all over your house.

Bob Tarte: So you buy the harness, then what do you use for the actual diaper?

April Rosseau: You can use either a level 3 baby diaper, or maxi pads. And they both work really well.

Bob Tarte: OK. Well, that's a great tip for people who maybe have a duck in their house for short-term or long-term, or whatever. Well, I wish you a lot of luck with Kamikaze Duck, KD. He sounds great. He's a male, right?

April Rosseau: Yeah, he's a sweet little guy. 

Bob Tarte: Yeah, I should know he's a male, I heard that quiet little quack. Let's talk about your pythons for a minute, tell me how you got into them.

April Rosseau: Well my boyfriend and I really like snakes, and he'd always wanted a ball python. So we started looking into it, and we did some research and made sure we knew everything we needed to get for them. And then we got the cage all set up, and there was actually a pet store right down the street from us. We kept looking in there, and looking in there, and we finally found the ball python that we liked. We got him around two years ago, and he is the sweetest thing. He loves to be handled, he's a very nice snake. He's not aggressive, and that's the greatest thing about ball pythons, they're really good beginner snakes because they're not at all aggressive. They ball up, hence the name. Whenever they're scared they put their head underneath themself, and they make themselves into a ball. They're very nice snakes, and that's why we chose them. They only get up to 5'2 when they're full grown, and that takes a really long time.

Bob Tarte: OK, what color are they?

April Rosseau: They are a model color of brown with some tan and black. Our first snake, Sophia, was a male, but we didn't know that.  He's the first one we got, and he has light tan and yellow and light brown and black, and his markings are quite remarkable.

Bob Tarte: Yeah, that sounds very nice.

April Rosseau: The second snake we got, she's a little bit more drab, but she actually had some problems when we got her because we didn't know that she wasn't captive-bred when we bought her. Apparently she was caught in the wild. The problem with those is often times they have huge problems eating when you get them in captivity.

Bob Tarte: You mean they don't want to eat, or they want a certain kind of live food?

April Rosseau: No, they do not wanna eat. We had her for 11 months before she finally decided to eat.

Bob Tarte: Oh, that's a long time. How long do snakes usually go without eating, these pythons?

April Rosseau: Well, ball pythons are notorious for not eating on a regular schedule or just not eating at all. Normally you feed them once every week or every two weeks, but the longest record of a ball python not eating is 22 months.

Bob Tarte: Wow.

April Rosseau: Yeah, normally they can go up to about 12 months without any detriment to their health, and we were just happy to get her to eat. The way we finally got her to eat was we tried force-feeding. You really need specialized reptile- someone who knows a lot about reptiles, a good herpetologist can help you out with that. We had been taught how to do it with one of our other snakes before, and we knew how to do it with her. So even though the force-feeding failed, what did happen is it ended up getting her through some of her digestive juices. So it got her hungry again.

Bob Tarte: Oh, that's great. Now I have another friend named April, and she has a couple of boa constrictors. I forget what kind she said they are, but they are very gentle. I think they had red in the name somewhere, I'm not sure.

April Rosseau: Oh yeah,  a red-tailed boa probably.

Bob Tarte: Yeah, I think so. Now how are pythons different from boa constrictors, do you know?

April Rosseau: There really isn't, it's just I really think that it's just a size system but I'm not really positive. They're all constrictors, they all constrict their prey, and there really isn't a difference. Pretty much the only difference I've seen with most pythons and most boas is that pythons are a bit smaller. I think there is one kind of python that is actually bigger than boas too.

Bob Tarte: OK, now I'm really obsessed with birds. There's just something about them, I see a bird and some light goes on in my head or something and I'm just crazy about them. You know, and some people are that way about snakes. I'm wondering really what the attraction of a snake is for you, or maybe you could tell me something about their personalities.

April Rosseau: You know, one of the attractions of the snakes is, you know how you say that it's impossible for me to leave because of all the animals?

Bob Tarte: Right.

April Rosseau: All we have to do is have the light on an on/off cycle, on a timer plugged in, and that's pretty much it. We can leave for probably up to a month without having to do anything for those snakes. You get someone to go in and put some water in their cage, and they're fine.

Bob Tarte: Yeah, that's a  lot different than birds, I can tell you that.

April Rosseau: They're extremely low-maintenance, one of the big perks.

Bob Tarte: Do you notice a lot of difference in personality from python to python? 'Cause you've got three of these guys. Did you say one's a female?

April Rosseau: Yes, the one female we have is extremely timid. She was even afraid of her food when we first got her. If anything walked up to her face she'd recoil, and just seem mortified. Ayami is the little one, and when the snake is young they're not too used to being handled, they're a lot more skittish. Once they warm up they'll be a lot more active and trying to get away all the time. And they other two are older, they'll just sit around your shoulders and sit on your arm and they'll just hang out with you. They just enjoy being on people because they're warm.

Bob Tarte: There's something I want to ask you. Birds love people. At least our birds love us, and you know that about your ducks too, is that they enjoy your company. Do you get that feeling with the pythons?

April Rosseau: Sort of. They have a choice of whether or not they can stay on us and they choose to. I do know that there are a lot meaner snakes and a lot of snakes that don't want anything to do with people, and these don't seem to be that way. They really do seem to enjoy being around people, and I'd even venture to say that some of them really are cuddly. Crazy as that sounds.

Bob Tarte: Well, I met a boa constrictor once, I think his name was Vigo, that was April's boa constrictor. And he would actually lay his head down in my hand, and she said that's something snakes do when they're feeling affectionate. I thought he was very nice. So that made me feel a little bit differently about snakes. I thought well you know, maybe there's something really to them that I hadn't thought of before.

April Rosseau: Yeah, they're interesting animals to observe. They're very easy to take care of, there isn't a lot that you need to be able to do for them. You just need to keep the temperature around, I think it's 80 degrees during the day, 85. And you need to keep it between 75 and 80 at night. They're really easy to take care of, and they can be really really nice animals. One thing you really want to make sure that you don't do though, is feed them in their cage. You have to take them out into a different cage to feed them, otherwise they can get a little bit aggressive, and so they think that every time you put your hand in the cage that you're trying to feed them and they might get aggressive and start trying to bite.

Bob Tarte: Oh, OK. So then they would associate your hand coming in the cage with food, and then they might bite you or something. Alright, we're gonna take a quick break. You're listening to "What Were You Thinking", and we will be right back with April Rosseau.

Announcer: What Were You Thinking will be right back, after Bob gets the ducks out of his living room. Don't go away!


Announcer: Okay, ducks are in the pond, rabbits in the hutch, and monkeys... Ohh, in my car? (laughing) Okay, while i go check my insurance policy I'll bring you back over to Bob.

Bob Tarte: Hi, welcome back to What Were You Thinking. We're talking to April Rosseau about her ball pythons. You were telling me that you have three of them, and that they make pretty darn good pets. Do you have them in something like a terrarium, or you know, what is their cage or their container like?

April Rosseau: What you wanna do for young snakes is you wanna keep them in a cage usually no bigger than a ten-gallon. And that's good even up to two snakes, as long as they're both small, because when they're in a cage that's too big- and it is this normal glass terrarium, but you have to have the locking clips on the top because they're escape artists.

Bob Tarte: Oh, I bet they are. Have your snakes gotten out?

April Rosseau: One of them, once. My boyfriend's brother has a cornsnake that got out and we never saw that again. The only snake that has gotten out is our female Big Mama, she crawled out of the top one time while we were feeding the other snakes that live with her, Sophia. She crawled out and somehow managed to walk around three wine glasses and a lamp without knocking anything over, and I'm like "Oh no," I look on the night stand and there's this huge snake trying to blend in.

Bob Tarte: (laughing) So that was quite an outing for her.

April Rosseau: Oh, yes. (also laughing)

Bob Tarte: And you also have- now this is an odd name, I've never heard of a fat-tailed gecko.

April Rosseau: Yeah, she's an African fat-tailed gecko. They're a very docile kind of gecko. It's a very nice kind of lizard to have because they're very docile, they do enjoy companionship. You can actually tell with them because they'll crawl on you and they'll just perch on your shoulder and things like that. They really like companionship, especially the more you hold them.

Bob Tarte: No kidding? Now do they like being petted, or...

April Rosseau: Yeah, they actually arch their back kind of like a cat, it's really funny.

Bob Tarte: Wow, yeah. How big do these get?

April Rosseau: They only get to be about 8 inches long as adults. So that's not very big, it's not something you need a huge tank for. A 10 or 20 gallon will do, when they're adults.

Bob Tarte: What do they eat?

April Rosseau: They eat crickets.

Bob Tarte: Oh, OK.

April Rosseau: Mainly crickets, you can get them some kinds of mealworms and waxworms and things like that. But pretty much they just want crickets.

Bob Tarte: Do you keep the food in the cage constantly, or are there just certain feeding days?

April Rosseau: No. You can feed them every day, every other day, or once a week, it depends on how old they are. If they're an adult, you usually feed them about once a week. If they're juvenile you feed them a little more often. And if you leave the crickets in the cage constantly, crickets can actually kill a lizard.

Bob Tarte: Yeah, you actually sent me an e-mail about that. You did have a lizard that was killed. Was that another gecko?

April Rosseau: Yeah, that was a little Tokay gecko. Those ones can get huge, and they're very vicious geckos, so I was really really surprised about it. He was usually the one who stuck around the top of the cage because he had more gripping hands. African fat-tails don't have the same kind of hands, they can't walk up glass. But the Tokay did, he stuck near the top, but for some reason he might've fallen or something and the crickets mauled him and overtook him.

Bob Tarte:How many crickets were in the cage, in the container?

April Rosseau: About two dozen, which is usually enough for the two of them. That never happened before.

Bob Tarte: You were telling me, you can go away for a while with the pythons, but it doesn't sound like you can do that with the geckos. You can't just leave them, that you-

April Rosseau:  You can, because the reptiles, they'll go a couple weeks without eating and they're still fine.

Bob Tarte: Oh, OK.

April Rosseau: They really don't need it.

Bob Tarte: I was wondering what kind of reaction your dog has, is the dog interested in the snakes or the gecko?

April Rosseau: We've never let her near the gecko because the gecko is way too small, and the snakes actually live at my boyfriend's house.

Bob Tarte: Oh, OK. Alright, I just wondered if the dog had gotten into the room where the gecko is and you know, tried to check it out.

April Rosseau: The little dog that lives at my boyfriend's house is a rat terrier, and she was actually a little bit interested in the snakes. And we're going yeah, it's a good thing our snakes aren't a little bit bigger and not trying to eat the dog.

Bob Tarte: (laughing) Yeah, I guess so. Well, tell me about the duck rescue that you do.

April Rosseau: That started earlier this year, I saw a little female mallard in the middle of the road that had been hit, and so I doubled back around and I picked it up and I took it back in my car to a vet that I know. He does a lot of rehab work for a lot of ducks, he'll do it for mallards and also domesticated ducks, which is a really good thing because a lot of wildlife rehabbers won't touch domestic ducks because it doesn't fall into their range of what they can help. And even though it is a duck, it's domestic and so they can't help it, but they also can't really do it and they can't do anything with it.  So a lot of them won't help you. So I took her to him, and it turned out that even though she'd been hit by a car she was just great, and she ended up being fine the next day. They were able to release her successfully, so that was good.

Bob Tarte: Where did you keep her?

April Rosseau: Oh, I just kept her in a box overnight, and then I took her to the vet the next morning.

Bob Tarte: OK, but you do have room for some ducks where you live.

April Rosseau: Yes.

Bob Tarte: You do have outdoor space as you were saying, so that's nice, that's nice that you're set up like that.

April Rosseau: I actually live in a neighborhood, but we have a nice big backyard and so we built a nice duck house. The other two ducks that I have had, that I have rescued, were from Ball State Campus, in Muncie, Indiana. One of them was a White Pekin duck that had been dumped, actually all of them, were White Pekin ducks that had been dumped and one of them had a fractured leg and a broken wing, and a sinus infection. So we took him to the vet three hours away, and then another duck also had a broken-off bill, and a slight limp, and so we ended up having to take her to the vet as well. So they were both in rehab, and we also found them good, loving forever homes that aren't gonna eat them.

Bob Tarte: That's great, and it's a good thing to talk about, that duck dumping is really a big problem.

April Rosseau: It really is.

Bob Tarte: I've noticed that, in our area, you can hardly find a pond or river in a populated area where you don't see at least a couple of domesticated ducks mixed in with the mallards. And you know, other places it's even worse, you'll see a lot of domesticated ducks.

April Rosseau: Actually, that's something to talk about. A lot of people don't know the difference between domestic ducks and wild ducks. The big white ducks that you see out on lakes, those are actually domesticated ducks called White Pekins. They can't fly, they really don't have any defense system, and once that lake freezes they have nowhere to go. So they most likely will die.

Bob Tarte: Yep. And sort of the same if you see larger, brown-looking ducks that don't look like the female mallards, those are often Khaki Campbells. The Males have a darker head. And the same thing with the Khaki Campbells, they can't fly. In fact, a lot of domesticated ducks are bred so that they can't fly away because they were bred for food. And so, it is a big problem.

April Rosseau: Yeah, it's an escalating problem and I try and help whenever I can by rescuing as many ducks as I can and taking them to Dr. Reed at Westchester Animal Clinic in Westchester, which is right in Chesterton. He does good rehab work, even if the animal isn't really sick he'll find it a new home, he'll do a vet check and stuff and make sure that it's okay and healthy. And then he'll find it a new home, and that's a really good thing because it's really rare to find someone who will help domestic ducks. So I do my part, and I try and find- I don't go out looking for them, but when I did hear about them and I find them and I feed them, and I try and catch them and give them a good home. Because they really need it. You don't want to dump domestic ducks, this happens all spring; moms and dads will bring home little baby ducks for their kid, it happens with chickens and bunnies too, you know. "Oh look, a cute little Easter present!" And then all of a sudden they have a big duck and it's stinky and it's dirty, and it's a lot more work than they signed on for so they think, "Hey, it's a duck, I can just dump it at this lake! It'll be fine. You know, it can just fend for itself. You know, there are other ducks here, I'm sure it'll be okay."

Bob Tarte: We should mention, they're not really stinky and dirty, they might seem like that in the house but they're no worse than any other animal.

April Rosseau: No, not really. But when you have them in a house, which is how these started out, they get pretty bad.

Bob Tarte: Yeah, they do.

April Rosseau: It gets bad fast.

Bob Tarte: Yeah, they do. A lot of the ducks we have are rescues that came from wildlife rehab centers in Grand Rapids, and they do take in a few domesticated ducks. Not too many,  but they take in a few because Peg and Roger Markle, they have really big hearts and they end up keeping some of them. We've ended up with some of them too. So that's a very good message for people. If you're thinking about getting a duck as a pet, you better think again unless you have the proper setup to keep the duck happy. It's not an easy thing to do, and some breeds of ducks can live up to thirty years. So you know, that's quite a commitment. I would encourage people to stick with cats and dogs or something that they're comfortable with rather than getting a duck.

April Rosseau: I wouldn't exactly say the same thing. I'd say do your research, make sure you can commit to taking care of this animal, and then consider it, because these do make amazing pets.  They're extremely intelligent, you can teach them tricks like a dog, they learn their name and they'll follow you around. They're really neat animals, but you need to make sure you can  take care of them because if you can't build them a predator-proof pen with even hardware cloth, which is basically like big screen, quarter-inch hardware cloth, a raccoon will get in and it will eat them.

Bob Tarte: Or else he'll reach his paw in too. Yeah, we have one of our shows, either our second or third episode, Linda and I talk about everything we need to keep ducks. And you definitely need a top on the pen, and you really have to be careful. You know, make sure you keep them safe. Yeah, they make great pets and I would say if you do your research and decide you want a duck, it would be great if you could contact a rehabber or a vet or the humane society, and take in some homeless duck that needs a place to live.

April Rosseau: Even if you want to get a duck in the springtime, and you want a baby duck, honestly there are tons that need adopting even as babies too. Check on, and check veterinarians near you, and places like that, and Adopt-A-Duck, before deciding to go out and buy one. There are a lot of homeless ducks that need a good second home.

Bob Tarte: I absolutely agree with you. Well April, thanks so much for being on the show. It was really fun hearing about the duck diapers and the pythons and your fat-tailed gecko. And it's always good to tell people about the ups and downs of keeping ducks as pets.


Well that was this week's episode of What Were You Thinking. I'd like to thank April for being on the show, and I'd also like to warn you that next week there is a very special episode of What Were You thinking. Usually people say "Next week's episode is one you won't want to miss." Well, next week's episode is one you might want to miss, because it is an appearance by a book character Bill Holm, and book character Bill Holm is a character and an actual person in both of my books enslaved by ducks in Fowl Weather. And whenever Bill shows up, there seems to be a lot of chaos and disorder, and that's exactly what happens on next week's show. So you might just wanna listen to something else instead. In the meantime, if you would like to be a guest on What Were You Thinking, just like April did, all you have to do is send me an e-mail.  Send an e-mail to Tell me a little bit about your exotic pet. And that would be anything except a dog or a cat. Tell me something interesting about your pet, what kind of stories do they have, and you might be my next guess. Thanks so much to my very mysterious producers, and thanks to you for listening, and Linda hasn't been on this week at least. But we'll be hearing back from her shortly. Just try and keep her away from the microphone. Bye-bye!

Announcer: Thinking about buying a monkey? How bout a ferret? Or a skunk? Then check out the show that will add to the burning questions, where do you get them? What do you feed them? How do you take care of them? And most of all, what were you thinking? With exotic pet expert and author Bob Tarte. Every week on demand, from


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