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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