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Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Pall at the Coop

You might have noticed I've been absent from random stories for a little while.  That's mostly because I have been absent from home, traveling and gallivanting all across the country.  But this story must be told today.   

This story begins two weeks ago today, Thursday.  I was out of town, again, but due back that evening.  J was at camp.  L was left here to keep things rolling along, and he was doing a great job.  While he was taking a dip in the pool, he noticed that he was intruding on some duck love.  Yep, the mystery has been solved.  Daffy is a boy.  Aflac is a girl.  

Wouldn't have guessed it from their first few days here.  

Aflac will double in size from this first picture, mostly around the middle.  And Daffy has become a beautifully colored mallard with this great teal/purple/blue/green stripe on his wing.  Of course they still don't like to swim in the tank, despite being fully grown now.

Ahhh duck love... then a week ago Monday L and J found two duck eggs.  They fashioned up a make shift incubator on the porch.  The next morning I looked up everything we needed to know about incubating duck eggs.  The ideal solution was to have a duck or chicken sit on them.  Aflac was not interested, and an incubator was $45 and in town.  I wasn't going to town that day.

After I checked with my neighbor D to see if she had an incubator I could borrow, J reported back that one of the chickens had turned broody.  Perfect.  We relocated the eggs and she now has her own food and water service so that she doesn't have to get up and go too far for any of her basic necessities. 

Then Tuesday another egg.  Wednesday another.  This is getting exciting.  Friday morning J discovers that one egg is open already, and get this, hard boiled.  hmmmm.  I think the make-shift incubator did more cooking than warming.  

Saturday I try candling them, and I think that there are two good viable eggs and one more that is likely hard cooked.  I based that on the fact that I could not see through it with either a candle nor an LED flashlight.  It is still back under the broody hen for now.  

Monday night we notice that Daffy is trying to get lucky with the hens.  They aren't so fond of the idea.  

Last night, really it was super early Thursday morning, think 3am-ish.  I hear Aflac quacking.  She is not a quiet duck.  Daffy you can barely hear, ever.  Aflac could do the commercials on tv.  So I put my glasses on and there is Aflac sitting right by the yard gate in the grass just quacking up a storm and not in the coop.  

My 3am brain decides that this is perfectly normal, she's obviously alive, and I can just ignore her and go back to sleep.  I crawl into bed again and she starts quacking louder, if that was possible.  So I wake L up to tell him I'm going outside to check on the duck.  He hears her and soon follows.  

There is no sign of imminent danger outside.  Daffy is right there by her side, as usual, quacking quietly.  She long ago stopped liking to be picked up so I try to herd her back to the coop and it is obvious she is having trouble walking.  No signs of obvious damage.

L goes on a reconnaissance mission to see if there is a looming predator out there.  Nothing.  He checks on the chickens to be sure everyone is where they are supposed to be and yes, they are all 7 accounted for. Except now they are awake and wandering around outside the coop.  I carry Aflac into the coop to sleep the rest of the night, but then we have to herd chickens at 3-something in the morning.  Who wanted these silly birds in the first place??? Oh yes, I remember, me.  Finally, we can go back to bed.  

In a few hours when we are supposed to be awake, L and I decide that we should leave everyone cooped up for the day in case the predator is still lurking.  

When J and I return home this evening from school/work I send him over to let everyone out to stretch their legs.  Unfortunately, Aflac did not make it through the day.  There was still no sign of obvious trauma, though a little bit of blood on her beak.  

So instead of hitting the pool first thing, we dug a good sized hole in the corner of the garden and had a duck burial.  J took it hard.  He removed four feathers.  

One for himself, one for me, one for L and one for Mrs. K (who gave us the ducks) to remember her by.  

I recited Job 1:21b "the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."  

There were a few tears.  

Some anger against the other chickens who may have done her in the rest of the way.  

He asked if we could have a duck funeral.  I asked if he meant, like say a prayer and read some verses?  No, like have Mrs. K over and talk about Aflac and what a good duck she was.  

Then there is the hope that the duck eggs will continue to grow the remaining 18 days to hatch. 

I think we're moving through the stages of grief pretty well.

She was a good duck.  

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