Apparently a new duck owner is not allowed to get sick. Not even sick sick but just one of those, I’ve been burning the candle at both ends and need to hang out on a rainy morning, cats at feet, Italian murder mystery in hands kind of sick. Before I retired to said blissful set-up, I had filled the ducklings’ waterer and left an extra one as well. I turned on the little Canadian barn heater thingamajig to dispel the damp and removed the feeder as it was now post-breakfast. Fast forward a bit as I make my groggy way down for coffee and hear all the way through the fire door, the unmistakable whistle-peep calls of Gladys– and others besides. I hustle to the garage and yank back the door. Maybe I’m still napping because for some reason I see five little duck faces turned up at me but two of them are right at the bottom of the stairs.
This still life with excited ducks lasts a micro-second before the cacophony of distress calls relaunches. Bonnie and Fannie, the two Cayugas, stand looking at me, tails slightly quivering as they brazen out the moment. A couple of things hit me at the same time. One, it’s warm and toasty in there—you go, Canadian space heater! Two, the big waterer has been tilted sideways and the other one is bone-dry. And, three, there is a maze of duck poop scattered around the garage floor like a Jackson Pollock painting.
Where’s my coffee when I need it?
Instead of a caffeine transfusion, I leave the girls gaping and go back to the kitchen to fill up a clean waterer. The Cayugas scatter as I tiptoe through the splatters to deliver the water to the other ducklings left behind in the pool/pen. I make a half-hearted attempt to grab the runaways, either of them, as the other three happily slurp away. This attempt backfires, of course, as the escapees divide and conquer me easily—it’s a big garage, that’s a lot of poop and I have no shoes on. Ok, next, get them their own water and find those gardening clogs—pronto!
That done, I place the waterer on the floor next to the pen and wait for them to lap some hydration before I make my move. Even with the clogs, this is not easy. There are so many nooks and crannies but, luckily, they tend to want to stay together. I realize that delicacy is not going to work here. With more luck then skill, I manage to find a spot where they can’t slip under a twelve-speed or a wagon and I go for both of them at the same time. I grab one, pop, back into the pool and then before the other can really process it, I grab the other. Their less-adventurous fellows peep some equivalent of a welcome back slap and soon all are huddled around the waterer. They eye me with undisguised wariness as I come and go with the feeder—might as well clean it out really well before giving them a generous lunch portion—and they attack their meal as if they’d been trapped on a desert island. Which, to their ducky minds, they had been.
As the girls ate and drank to surfeit, I methodically wiped and disinfected the concrete floor and thought things through. If I had placed a money bet on which of the five would be most likely to make a break, it would not have been on Fannie and Bonnie. Ordinarily, these two were the most skittish, least assertive of the group. I wouldn’t have guessed Gladys, naturally—she was still a full third smaller than the others—but I had tagged Puff as the born leader of the bunch and would have expected with her superior height, more ability to scale the wall.
Maybe she just gave the orders.
Post-script: No, I did not get photos of the jailbreak. Between my mental fuzziness and the emergency at hand, I forgot to get my camera from its re-charging station before it was all over. Oh well. As Louis Prima would say, next time!
Post-post-script: Another bust-out the next morning and I still hadn’t downloaded the data from my camera (full memory disk, as it turned out.) I did run the wall all the way around the pool this time. Don’t know how long that will keep ‘em penned up but, Gentle Readers, you will hear about it if so….
Post-post-post script: The following day when even Gladys was able to make it over the wall, I knew it was time to get serious about duck control. That night we went to Home Depot and bought some 36” high plastic poultry netting. Here’s a photo of Gladys and her Cayuga henchduck before re-capture.
Copyright 2012, Lori Fontanes