She sat on a huge nest of eggs. After the low success rate of the chicken hatching, I was not all that hopeful for all those to hatch……but they did. All except one. One morning I went to the barn and heard the chirping of little babies, but she was still sitting so I did not lift her to see. The next morning, there she was leading a large carpet of yellow and black ducklings that I was only able to count when they were holding still in a picture. She had hatched out 20 ducklings.
What an awesome morning. I watched the ducklings follow her almost all the way to the pond. When one fell behind it chirped, she answered, and the baby found its way back to momma.
A couple of days later, I found one dead by my trailer. When I asked my dogs what happened, my GerLabSky went slinking away. He had wanted to catch one and had killed it. He did not eat it. That was not the motivation. He just wanted to get ahold of it. But it died. He learns well by shame, so I told him what a bad dog he was, tied him up for the rest of the day (which is a huge punishment to him), and ignored him (which is death to him). The next morning I kept a close eye on him and that seems to be the end of that problem. Since then he has not touched the ducklings.
One day, when they were about a week old I heard the chirping of what sounded like a duckling in distress at the lower pond. I figured that the mother was somewhere around so I didn’t do anything about it. But it kept going on and off for most of the day…..I kept justifying not going to see what it was.
The next morning I saw the mother with her large carpet of black and yellow. I had to go to work so I did not count the ducklings. It looked like they were all there and I was in a hurry. My daughter does part of the chores for me when I have to go to work so feeding the ducks was part of her part. She texted me later that she did not see the mother and babies when she did the chores. But that would not be unusual because she did not do chores at the time that I normally do them so she would not know to be there. And with 20 ducklings following you, it would be really hard to hurry.
I got home late that afternoon and looked to see where the mother was. I did not see her, but the chirping was still going on at the lower pond. I can pretty much pinpoint the spot that the sound was coming from and it had not moved. I was curious but not alarmed.
It was starting to darken that evening when I thought that I would go look for the ducks. A few days before we had found a pile of white feathers behind the barn. Whatever it was, it was not one of our adult ducks or one of our chickens. But it still had me thinking about possible predators. I checked the upper pond which was closest to the barns. But she was not there.
Now I had decided to go hunting ducks while I was already outside…..in shoes…..not boots. And it had been raining. So on the way back from the upper pond one of my shoes got stuck in the mud and I had to haul it out and dump out the water before I put it back on. Then I turned off the electric fence and started for the lower pond. Before I got there I had lost the other shoe in the mud……twice. But being the stubborn person that I am, I did not go change into my boots.
The chirping was still going on, but I was not thinking about that. I did not see the carpet of ducklings. And because I didn’t see the ducklings, I did not associate the chirping with them. But I was curious….and I was at the lower pond…..and I was already muddy……and the chirping was on the back side of the pond. No. It was on the island. No. OH NO!
When this pond was built before we bought the place, the guy put installed a 4 inch drain pipe so that the water would stay a certain level and not drain over the banks. This pipe went straight down about 12 inches before there was a bend and it went through the bank to drain. This had long ago stopped working correctly so I had completely forgotten its existence. The last time that I had tried to do anything with it, I was up to my hips in water before I could reach it. Now I was recognizing that there were ducklings stuck in that pipe.
I stepped into the water. The pond had filled in the years I had ignored it. Now I could get to the pipe with water only to my ankles. And there, in the pipe, were 3 ducklings. I drew them out, one at a time and put them into my coat. But as I drew them out I saw that there were more than three. There were actually eight. The others had drowned. Not all of them could stay above water in a 4 inch pipe.
How do I not cry…..when it is my fault? I could have saved most, if not all, of them if I had gone to see what the chirping meant the day before. The mother must have gone back the next day and more of the ducklings fell in. Damn.
I covered the pipe with a log so that no more could fall in. Remind me to fix that later. As soon as fall comes and the water level in the pond rises, that log will float off again. But for now, no more can fall in there. And I was wearing a coat with ducklings in it.
I still did not find the mother. So I took the babies to the house and nestled them into a bucket with grass hay and covered them so they can warm up and rest. As it got dark, I took them to the lower barn with me to see if the duck had showed up and there she was……so I let the babies out and there was a happy reunion.
The moral of the story for me is to always check things out. I could have saved the ducklings if I had gone down the first day that I heard the chirping and covered the pipe. I may have lost one, but not five.
But now I gotta go. My daughter just informed me that her memory was wrong and that the horse that we thought was due next month is actually overdue a week. I have to be ready for this event. Camera….check. Employers on notice…..check. Barn ready……nope…..gotta go!