Sitting Ducks

In my ‘About’ page I state; this blog will be about the milagros (miracles) and mishaps of our life in rural Mexico. This is an example of the kinds of mishaps that are common.

Recently, I lost both of my sitting ducks, Edith and Nona, to a fox. They were one and two of Three’s family, the only two I had left from my flock of six. They were both within 10 meters our bed as we slept, with only a screen door between us. They were collectively sitting on 22 eggs. Once we realized they were gone, Felipe placed the eggs under 2 sitting hens, but it was unlikely they would hatch because they were probably chilled for at least 12 hours. This was a pretty big failure, out of six ducks the only one that served its purpose was Three, all the rest were lost to predators. I have also lost three chickens.

Because ducks are fussy about their nests I left  Nona and Edith alone as much as possible. Their proximity to the house was sufficient activity. I didn’t notice their absence for about 24 hours, when I realized that Nona had not come for her corn for two days. The first day I thought she’d probably come out while I was taking Felipe his breakfast. Her eggs were so close to hatching I didn’t even want to peek at her, hoping to avoid the problem I’d had with her mother Lucy, who tried to kill each duckling as it hatched, likely due to some disturbance of her nest.

At the time the ducks were taken, three of my dogs were outside. Foxes are sly indeed; it must have waited until the dogs were called away on some hare-brained barking errand, as they are many times a night, and stolen away with them then.

My ducks and chickens don’t have a house for many reasons: building requires money, enclosed animals require food, and I like my animals to have the opportunity to express their nature, which I feel they are more able to do when they’re not enclosed. We have a beautiful yard with a large bird bath, they stroll in search of bugs, bath in the sun and the water; they appear content. Also, we keep ducks near the house to keep the scorpion population at bay, due to their long, hard, powerful beaks there are excellent scorpion hunters.

I miss my ducks. I was enchanted by Nona. Everyday, she stomped out of her nest all puffed up, banged at the screen, and demanded I go to the bodega (store house) to get her some corn. I took my afternoon break from writing during their elaborate bathing ritual, watching them preen was soothing relief for my computer weary eyes.

I still have Gerald, my drake, but his baths are not as dramatic as my sitting ducks were. I have allowed him to sleep on the patio again. I banished him and my first duck Lucy by installing a fence around it, because they slept right in front of the door and left a remarkably large pile of poop there for me to clean every morning. Duck poo had an unpleasant acrid chemical stink, not at all pleasant to wake up to. But now, as I wake to the stench of duck doo, I know that Gerald has made it through another night pressed against the front door just inches from my feet, and I am relieved.

I wish I had a smart, insightful way to wind this up, but I don’t. It sucks to fail. I guess I could give up, not keep animals, or wait until I could invest in a safe facility for them and could afford to feed them. Though it may be selfish, somehow that doesn’t seem like the thing to do. I like the way they meander the yard, and I cherish the deep pull of flight in my chest as they take wing.

Three

Last Sunday we ate a duck for dinner, his name was 3.

I once had a duck named Lulu, 3’s mother. When her eggs hatched she promptly began killing her ducklings. I rescued 3 and his five brothers and sisters when their down was still wet, and took over their mothering. It was a wonderful, exhausting and heartbreaking experience motherhood; it was as close as I am ever likely to come.

Poverty is the mother of invention, thus we have developed unusual methods of caring for animals in need. My little flock lived in our cooler, in the house with a heating pad until they were strong enough to go outside. It’s difficult to maintain small birds in the campo, there are many dangers, scorpion stings and predators: hawks, skunks and chickens are brutal; the least sign of weakness inspires barbaric behavior in chickens. Twice I watched as hawks carried my babies away. I fell to the ground in tears, helpless. I gained a lot of respect for my hens that manage to bring even one chick to fruition under these conditions. Three’s original name was five, he was always the one on the outskirts, the one I could not find when I did a headcount, one, two, three… always ending with, where’s five? As my flock dwindled his name changed, until there were only 3. Continue reading