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    The Darndest Things: The Case of the Missing Duck

    February 16, 2011 by Brandy Vencel

    We have a daily rhythm in regard to our duck flock. Just after dawn, Son E. heads out to collect eggs and offer a pellet ration. He leaves them in their cage, to finish up laying and eating. Later, between 9 and 10, Daughter Q. opens the cage, and they are free to roam and forage until sunset, when Daughter A. locks them in their cage and offers a second pellet ration.

    This has worked like clockwork for us the past couple years.

    On Friday morning during breakfast, we noticed a beautiful hawk perched on our fence. He sat there a very long time, long enough for us to procure toy binoculars from some forgotten corner of the play nook, to find the birding book, to identify him (he was a Cooper’s Hawk), and to admire him. He sat there for so long that I finally shuffled everyone off to their chores.

    I noticed the hawk checking out the ducks in their cage, and the ducks were obviously chattering amongst themselves about the hawk. The hawk was gone by the time we were ready to open the cage, but I wasn’t worried that he knew there were ducks on the property. He was smallish–little more than half the size of a grown duck. If we had ducklings, I’d have worried, but I figured the ladies could fend for themselves.

    So imagine my surprise on Saturday morning when we discovered that our flock was down one duck. We searched high and low. I walked the perimeter myself, checking everywhere I could think of, but truly there are not many places to hide in our suburban backyard-turned-microhomestead.

    I was mystified, but we all had to assume it was the hawk. The only other known predator in the area is a raccoon, and we’d have seen the evidence. I had recently read that some hawks like to carry their prey off to another spot and then pluck them there, so that was our best guess.

    Daughter A. was particularly sad. She wanted to know if Jemima (the missing duck) was sad or hurt or in pain. We assured her that Jemima was probably dead, and therefore could never feel pain again.

    Hours went by, and we were all reconciling ourselves to our loss when Toddler O. overturned a bucket in our yard.

    And out popped Jemima.

    It seems that Daughter A., on the afternoon of the previous day (the day of the hawk sighting), had thought it fun to put ducks under buckets.

    And then she forgot about one of them.

    Thankfully, Jemima is alive and well.

    And our house has yet another new weird rule: Do not put ducks under buckets.

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  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts February 18, 2011 at 11:30 pm

    Thank you all for wishing Jemima well! 🙂

    I must say that she is our weakest bird, the bottom-of-the-pecking-order, etc. The children dropped her when she was a few days old, and her leg never totally recovered, so she limps quite a bit. A real farmer would have culled her and enjoyed some roast duck, but I feel guilty, since it was our fault, and so we all protect her fiercely and baby her like she’s a child. So we’re very glad she wasn’t actually eaten. 🙂

    KM, I have thought more than once that living in suburbia has its perks (zoning not being one of them) because there really are fewer predators, and everybody has a fence. My uncle lives out in the real country, and he lost about half his chickens in a single night due to a flock of owls that somehow found their way into the cage! I know that someday, if we are ever able to have a real homestead, we’d have to go Salatin-style and use tractors for the poultry rather than our free-range method.

    Either that, or a certain boy I know and his shotgun. 🙂

  • Reply Rachel R. February 18, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    That is hilarious! Glad Jemima is safe.

  • Reply Kristen February 17, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    This is hilarious. I am glad Jemima is alive and well.

  • Reply Kansas Mom February 17, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    Awesome rule.

    The propensity of hawks and eagles in Kansas, including nesting pairs on our property, is one of the reasons we choose not to let our chickens wander outside a cage.

    Coyotes, wild dogs, raccoons and possums are other reasons.

  • Reply sara February 17, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    Pit pat paddle pat. That IS a weird rule. I’m glad Jemima’s alright.

  • Reply Rahime February 17, 2011 at 7:33 am

    So glad Jemima’s ok! I was getting quite sad for her. My dad lost his 2 parrots to a hawk a few years ago.

  • Reply Books For Breakfast February 16, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    This is so funny. I love this.

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