A few weeks ago we had a duck that decided to stay on her eggs. She was pretty determined so we let her do her thing. We provided her a temporary shelter around her nest and waited to see what would happen.
Broody duck behavior turned out to be quite interesting. Ducks are pretty funny as it is. A broody duck will only get off her eggs about twice a day to do all her business: her eating, her drinking, her swimming, and her pooping. Watching her run off her nest in a snit every morning, waddling as fast as she could, pecking at any ducks or chickens who got in her way was entertaining. The other ducks learned to back away from the food when she came speed-waddling by. I'm pretty sure that I recognized those mama hormones at work.
She sat for about a week and a half when one of her sisters decided to share the nest with her. I freaked out! Was this ok? Would this ruin things? I searched the internet, and it seemed that this happens all the time. I didn't want to lose a layer, so we tried to force her off the nest, until we finally gave up. We decided to let nature take it's course. She was determined to sit on those eggs too, and they cuddled up together and shared duties.
The kids and I were excited. They were sitting on about 14 eggs or so. This was of course, right after we had purchased and brooded eight new ducklings from the co-op North of us. Of course! I should have just waited for nature to do it's thing.
There are no guarantees with nature though, and I heard and read stories of mama's pecking their babies to death, or quitting halfway through and deciding not to finish sitting. I warned the kids, we'd be lucky if one hatched, and even luckier if one survived.
You know how the saying goes, Prepare for the worst, but expect the best.
I had my hopes up just a little bit.
This week when I walked out things were different. Instead of the hissing I usually received from the mamas when I approached the nest, they were quacking really loud. Hmmmm. Why? I wondered if they were covering up the sounds of a little peeper. I stood by, not too close, and waited awhile. And then I saw, a flash of bright yellow movement under one of the mamas! From what I could tell, just one little guy. So adorable! Such a tiny miracle.
OK, dang it, I cried a little! What the heck has happened to me? I'm no stranger to reproduction. I don't think I realized until that moment how much anxiety I had been feeling and how caught up in this I had been. I had been waiting in suspense to see if this whole thing really works.
I wandered around the farm in a happy daze. It worked, it really worked! Bird lays egg, bird sits on egg, egg hatches. Seriously so cool!
The next morning I rushed out to see if there were more little peepers, but noticed that the duckling that was perky yesterday was maybe asleep, or lying flat, or well...
Yep, dead. It's death, it's a silly little bird, I know, and at this point I have several chicken killings under my belt so you'd think I'd just grow up about the whole thing.
But I was so disappointed.
I needed this a little too much, I think. While the kids sometimes enjoy the funny farm here and sometimes don't, I have to admit that It's for me that I'm doing this stuff. It's good for them in a million ways, but this extra work, this dirty work, this all-weather, never-ending caring for animals. It's for me. And the little miracles and joys, well, I live for them. All the more when the other stuff in my family life is tough.
My garden has been gradually eaten by something at night (wild bunnies we think) . My broccoli and salad greens have been skeletonized. My tomatoes and potatoes and some other things are surviving. I have pumpkins growing that we didn't plant, leftover seeds from dumping haloween leftovers out there two years ago. They sprung up in the space where my peas were before they were eaten by the chickens.
It's all part of one giant, crazy, experiment. It's completely unpredictable, and it's one of the most awesome things I've ever done with my entire life. Once in awhile, I remember all these other things I wanted to do with my life before, and for now I just shrug them off without a single regret.