Once upon a time, on a lovely spring day in the country, something exciting was about to happen. A mother duck was sitting on her nest by the edge of the pond.
She had been sitting there for a very long time waiting for her eggs to hatch. It seemed like she had been sitting there forever!
Finally the eggs began to crack. "Peep, peep," said the newly hatched ducklings. "Quack, quack," said their mother. "You are the sweetest little yellow ducklings that I have ever seen! Are you all here?" She stood up to look in the nest. She saw that the biggest egg hadn't hatched yet.
The tired mother duck sat down again on the last egg. When it finally cracked open, out tumbled a clumsy, gray baby bird. He was bigger than the others, and he didn't look like them. In fact, compared to other baby ducks, he was rather funny looking.
"Peep, peep," said the big baby. The mother duck looked at him. "He's awfully big for his age," she thought to herself. "I wonder if he can swim?"
The next day, the sun was shining brightly. The mother duck led her ducklings to the pond. "Quack, quack," she told them, and the ducklings understood. One after the other, the eager little ducklings jumped into the water. They bobbed and floated like little corks. They knew how to paddle their legs and swim without being told.
All of the new baby birds swam very nicely, even the one who looked different. "He may have too long a neck," thought the mother duck, "but see how nicely he holds it. If you tilt your head a little bit, he is almost handsome." For the rest of the afternoon, the mother duck helped the baby ducklings practice their swimming.
The mother duck was very happy with her ducklings. She decided it was time to take her babies to the farm to meet the other ducks. "Quack, quack," said the mother duck. "Follow me! Keep your legs far apart and waddle."
The one baby could not quite get it right. The other baby ducks on the farm gathered around him and said, "Look how ugly that duckling is!" One big duck came over and quacked, "Stay out of my way, you ugly duckling!"
"Leave him alone!" cried the mother duck. "He may not be good-looking, but he is kind and he can swim as well as anyone -- maybe even better!"
No one listened to her. The other ducks acted mean and chased the poor ugly duckling.
Continue to the next page to see what happened to the ugly duckling next.
For more children's stories and activities, check out: