Not sure but my eyes may be starting to move to the sides of my head.
Like a slow-motion Wart from”The Once and Future King”, I’m now my own Merlin, transforming into waterfowl to better understand their joys and perils.
And why the ducks not?
In “Storey’s Guide to Raising Ducks” Dave Holderread advises novice owners to “think like a duck” when caring for them, especially when it comes to predators and other dangers. When we first prepared for hatchlings three years ago, I meticulously heeded those words but revisited them again in the days since we lost Gladys. Not that it really would have helped, though, because I’ve never read anything that mentions this particular hazard for a duck her size.
In fact, I’m just beginning to process her strange and unexpected death by a bird I’ve long admired. Ironically, not the hawk that harried us all winter but a new backyard visitor I didn’t recognize as dangerous: a Common Raven.* Not sure whether the ducks knew or not, or whether they knew too late. Like me, they certainly know now. Ravens are big, bold and smart. They don’t need surprise; they just need opportunity.
So, for the past week, all I’ve done is hang with the girls, not letting them far from sight whenever they’re not locked in the pen. On the few occasions when I have left them alone, I’ve kept windows open to hear the cries I hope may never happen–the cries I didn’t hear last Monday.
I stand in the yard and watch the trees and dissect the skyline. I kneel on soil and freeze whenever a shadow passes overhead. I dig under pine chips, ducks clustered about me, watching for worms and grubs and centipedes. I study the pen’s defenses. I sleep lightly; I dream fitfully.
This week we still mourn but next week we celebrate. Determined to cast off sadness, we await the arrival of a very special box and a phone call from the post office.** Our new little hens won’t replace Gladys but they’ll certainly bring us joy.
Just like she did.
Meanwhile, I’m hardening the perimeter and adding aerial measures. Our new hatchlings will live in the garage for a month, which should give plenty of time to sort out the safety issues. By then, too, the trees and shrubs will be fully leafed and cover won’t be so fleeting. If necessary, we’ll add aviary netting or a day pen or rent a goose. (Or a mastiff.)
Like the ducks, I want to live each day fully and attentively, close to the ground but eyes on the sky. Unlike them, however, I can see a future as well as the present. I can imagine finding a raven where one shouldn’t be.
And then I ponder the lost Gladys and a visitor from Night’s Plutonian shore.
Quoth the backyard farmer:
*Not at all common around here, as it turns out.
**Make way for (more) ducklings!
Copyright 2015, Lori Fontanes
My heart does go out to you my friend. Glady’s brought you a lot of happiness. And just think – don’t be sad. Remember the happy times and that she is watching you now. Love you my friend. Hogs and snout kisses. XOXO – Bacon
Thx, sweetie!!! Gladys had many friends and we will all remember her!
I’m sorry for your loss, Lori. You’re right about the hens: They won’t replace Gladys, but they’ll definitely bring you joy. Gladys will always be in your memories and you can cherish them for sure. ❤
Thanks, Angie! The other ducks and I are outside everyday now & enjoying the garden together. 🙂
Good to hear!
Unfortunately, we can never be prepared for the unexpected. Ravens are huge. The closest population we have of them lives downrange on Ft. Carson. Around our neighborhood, it’s crows.
Looking forward to seeing your new babies.
Countdown starts today–hatchday! Hope to see them safe and sound on Wed morning! 🙂
I wouldn’t think that a raven would attack a healthy adult duck, but ducklings would be a different story.
Right! That’s what all the literature says but, as you know, Gladys had physical issues that were probably very evident to the raven. *sigh* Hoping that s/he won’t bother going after the other full-size, healthy ducks. Haven’t seen it in a week. Fingers crossed.
How exciting to be awaiting new arrivals! I think predators are always an issue when keeping poultry. I could tell you many stories of loss due to foxes and mink. We’ve ravens too but I’ve never seen them bother either ducks or chickens. But remember magpies being an issue with young poultry from my childhood! All we can do is make them as safe as possible.
You are so right, I know! Poultry are extremely appealing to predators. There were many tough things about this incident but one of the toughest was that I misunderstood the raven’s capabilities. Heck, I saw it several times and didn’t even think to be worried. (I thought it was after their kibble!) Thx for your kind words!!!
I’m so sorry to hear about Gladys 😦 My sister has so many sad stories about her chickens. They are like family.
By the way, I never did thank you for the bumper stickers. My daughter put one on her laptop for everyone to see at school 🙂
Oh, thank you Anne Marie! I have to say I thought of you, too, because I know how much you liked her name…almost like I personally let you down. 😦 But, of course, she lives on in many people’s memories. She was and will always be a very special duck. 😀 !!!
PS, please tell your daughter I am so pleased she likes the sticker!
awww-Lori-I am so sorry to have missed this post, I have not been at my computer and missed one week posting. Busy with other stuff in my life , but I am so sad- I missed this thought provoking post. I have often thought-I would make a “bad” farmer in the country since you lose animals. I do not have any farm animals in our yard other than our dog(s) over the years. I can’t imagine the horror you must of gone through and to constantly wait for that sound or shadows overhead. It is the circle of life, but hard to accept when it is one of your loved pets:-)
I hope nevermore for you!
U never have to apologize to me for being away from your computer–I applaud it! 🙂 I, too, have been doing “soil therapy”. Get your hands in the soil, starting new life, watching it grow, keeping out squirrels–it’s the best way to heal. As you know, blog buddy!!!
You got that right BB!