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Another Day in the Country

We’re sitting ducks

© Another Day in the Country

My post office lady, for lack of a better title, told me that she has ducks.

“One Easter, my girls saw these cute little ducklings and wanted them, and I said, ‘Why not? We live on a farm,’ so they got ducks. I had no idea how long they lived,” she laughed, “I thought they were like chickens, but ducks live 10 years or more. My girls are in college, and we’ve still got those ducks.”

Those lifespan expectation words — “ducks live 10 years” —we said in unison.

“That was my big shocker, too,” I told her, “Those ducks have a longer lifespan than I do.”

Another thing about ducks became abundantly clear. A lot of creatures, including humans, eat ducks. Keeping six baby ducks safe for a month was something I couldn’t do. Right off the bat, I let a duck drown. But then their constant vulnerability seems not to concern them as much as it does me. 

I’m constantly counting ducks: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. I tuck them into their house at night and I’m counting. I let them out in the morning and I’m counting.

I now understand why the mother duck was constantly counting in a children’s book I used to read to my kids. The literary mother duck had 10 ducklings, as I recall. That’s a lot to keep track of.

The ducks love the pond and all the things that used to grow therein. They stay in their confined space fairly well.

Only once in a while do they find themselves on the wrong side of the fence.

“Whoops, wrong turn.”

They raise their heads in unison and watch as I come to their rescue, counting, and show them how to get back inside.

“We don’t know how that happened,” they seem to say, and I believe them. They aren’t the brightest kids on the block.

For every duck dilemma I solve, there seem to be five more cropping up.

We’ve explored options — like where we could take them if I prove to be totally incompetent. At what point is that evident, I wonder. Everyone I’ve asked so far is not eager to adopt ducks.

The night after a big rain storm, the ducklings were feeling pretty cocky. They’d weathered the storm, and all were present and accounted for the next morning. 1, 2, 3, 4…those two black ducklings are hard to see against the dark pond water, 5, 6. All is well.

Evening came and the ducklings decided they weren’t going into their too-small quarters for another night.

I tried all manner of bribes. Nothing worked.

I was a little miffed, to be honest, threw up my hands and said, “You’re on your own.”

The next morning I came around the corner of the house, with dread, and I began to count, “1, 2, 3, 4, 5…where’s that smallest black duck?”

Gone.

“Well, we’ve been outed,” I told my sister. “I think the local fox has found us because I’m minus a duck.”

Now what? Do the ducks go live with the chickens? 

I decided I just had to get them in at night, until I figure out a permanent solution to foil whatever considers them fair game.

And so we live, one 24-hour period at a time — watchful daytime, squashed into the little house at night.

I’m sure the ducks dread being penned up as much as I dread losing them to some four-legged huntress.

During daylight, I love watching them on the pond, enjoying every minute — me and them!

In the rain this last week, they literally were dancing in the water, all of them cavorting — water under them and coming from above in heavy drops. Dip beak underwater, throw back head, shake tail, lift wings, double twitch tail, dive under water, repeat. 

The rain let up and they began their grooming routine, beak busy sifting through down, smoothing out new feathers they lift at will, stretching wings as far as they’ll go.

Then there’s the leg move that defies gravity, like yoga practitioners of the warrior pose, and I marvel they don’t lose their balance, especially Daffy, who is so much bigger than the others.

I envy Daffy’s ease in the water after all his awkwardness on land. Those big feet and sturdy legs are perfect for the pond. How can I think of shutting them away from the water with the chickens to keep them safe?

If they could give me advice, would they agree? Or would they throw caution to the wind and choose taking a chance on another day in the country?

Last modified May 24, 2023

 

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