… of ducks and women often go awry.
This spring, we decided NOT to add anything to the menagerie. Then our ducks went ahead and veto that decision. Of course, it is my fault for letting them sit on the eggs but if you have ever encountered a broody duck you will have some clue as to my passivity in the matter.
They turn into hissing, biting (mine had done no such thing prior) puffed-up taint smears. Hell-bent on guarding their stash of orbs. There is no reasoning with them. After a couple weeks of contentious egg theft and consequent daily berating, I relented.
I was additionally motivated by the fact that my first two broody ladies were also injured. Both started limping badly about 2 months ago (I think they may have been stepped on by sheep while trying to feltch sheep feed) and so I had been keeping them inside the shed and feeding them Ibprophine, anti-inflamitory, antibiotic herb laced feed everyday. When they started refusing to leave the nest in order to sit on eggs; I thought it was perfect.
At first, I was marking eggs and taking the new ones but this become a daily battle with an inflated (limping) pissed off duck kraken, who would then follow me around hissing and nipping at my heals when I turned my back. After a couple times walking through the yard backward; I was totally over it!
“Fine!! Keep them! See if I care!”
(Side note: don’t judge me. Arguments with the critters are frequent ’round these parts. Points are fiercely debated. I wish I could say the blatting and squawking is one-sided but that would be a lie. I might have arguments with animals but I’m no liar.)
We started candling the eggs about a week in and sure enough there were red trees of life spreading from central nodes. The countdown was on.
Though we have hatched many runs of birds this was the first time we let it happen via broody-dragon-fowl. My mom warned me that ducks don’t make good mothers, especially their first time around.
It is a universal truth that I should always listen to her. Bad things happen when you don’t listen to your mom.
Unfortunately this was one of those times.
One morning, I went in the shed and shooed the males out. I got ready to fill the broody bunches’ water dish when I noticed a new set if tinny shinny eyes gazing up at me.
It really is magic!
I am not one to get all gushy about the “miracle of life” but turning an egg into a duck with warmth and patcience seemed like a miracle in the early morning light.
My mother’s words resounded in my head but after showing my husband (read- waking him up yelling “duckling!”) then coming back outside to a new level of duck scalding I thought “what’s the harm in letting them try?”
Sure enough the reunion was heart-warmig and Teency seemed like she would take good care of him. This picture is blurry but you can see her head down, puffed-out hissing at the trespassing chicken.
So I left him.
Over the next day; we checked frequently and worried constantly while we were gone about the little fluff ball. Everytime I checked, he was under wing or tail happy and peeping. On the night of the second day I found him over near the water dish, cold and shaking. Since birds can’t see well at night I brought him inside chalking it to up poor vision. I returned him in the morning.
The next night he was safely underwing and running around the morning after as my husband went to work. When I came home there were two surprises.
A new chick!
And one dead three-day old.
He was underfoot in the nest. I think with three big ducks sitting and the excitement of a new chick the result was squashing the old one. The ladies are large and it wouldn’t take much.
I picked both of them up and had a momently pang in my heart when the new little one squirmed in my hand. It was the devastating lack of movement in the other hand that strengthened my resolve that this experiment was over.
We had two more hatch that day! One appears to be expressing his Peaking genes and is all yellow, like his dad.
There are now two more that have pipped but you know what they say about counting your fowl before they have escaped their pod.
So I won’t.
I have been so focussed on work, these past few months it seems to take up all my time, energy and thoughts. This gave me some badly needed perspective, when I make a miscalculation at work, people are disappointed. Worst case scenario they are down right pissed at me.
When I mess up at home, things die.
It is our responsibility to help these beings live happy, healthy, long lives. When they do; it is because of their own resilience and when they don’t that is our fault. I am ok with that most of the time, it is a good glass to view life through and I am grateful for the opportunity to share my life with these beings.
I know the reason I write about these tragic bits of homestead life because it is not all rainbows and unicorns, this is not happy acres. It is real life and death. A constant reminder that each day you take breath is a fragile gift. It makes me appreciate the good days that much more.
I will leave you with a montage of cuteness that is hard to beat. Our silver lining.