In a previous post I wrote you may remember that our duck, A Khaki Campbell named Patty, was laying on a nest of eggs.
She began to lay her eggs when we were on our vacation in Florida.
My dad noticed that our male ducks, the drakes, were hanging around behind our garage. Hanging around means that they had set up shop behind the garage and rarely left.
Upon inspection, he found Patty our lone female duck, laying on a nest under the branches of a wayward growing tree behind the garage.
Were they fertilized eggs?
Would babies emerge in 28 days?
It was a wait and see adventure for us.
And, let me tell you, it was a hard adventure to wait for.
We have never had eggs hatch on our hobby farm before.
We only have hens so any eggs they lay are unfertilized.
George Washington, our lead hen, did get her chicken undies in a bunch when Patty was sitting on her nest. In a show of superiority, she decided to lay 20 eggs and go broody. When a hen goes broody (or a duck or any other poultry) it means she’s sitting on eggs and she’s not getting up. She’s hoping to sit on eggs and incubate them so that they grow into babies. In George’s case, that was not going to happen. The babies part. Because we have no rooster.
Patty the duck, though, had a good chance of incubating her eggs so that the insides grew into babies. We have three male ducks. So, we left her and her eggs alone.
And one day we saw this…
It didn’t look like this egg was actually hatching. It looked like it was crushed.
Did Patty step on it too hard?
Were these eggs even viable? She seems to have been sitting on them for a month now…weren’t they ready to hatch yet?
A few days after noticing the crushed egg we found the egg by the back door of our house. Which is not too far from where Patty’s nest was located.
And the egg was open.
A duckling was hanging out of it. But, it was dead. It wasn’t ready to be hatched.
I looked at Patty sitting on her nest and realized it, and she, was covered in ants.
The egg must have opened up from the crushing and ants invaded it. Patty moved the egg out of the nest to save the rest of the clutch.
And that dead duckling confirmed what we had been wondering…the eggs she was sitting on were fertilized and we would get some ducklings.
After the ant incident, I made a decision.
I moved the nest.
To save the rest of the soon-to-be-hatching ducklings from ants, I moved the nest into the duck house in our barn. No one was using it, so it was the perfect spot. The adult ducks we have don’t sleep in it at night anymore. They sleep with the horse in the barn stall. We had used it as a brooder for our chicks when they got too big for the box they were living in in our kitchen. But, they are sleeping in the chicken coop with the adult chickens now. So, the ducklings could safely hatch in this ant-free zone in the barn.
But, Patty wasn’t having it.
We managed to catch her…now, our ducks do NOT like to be handled. Only Charlie, the Indian Runner duck, likes to be sort-of touched. We can occasionally touch his bill. Nothing else.
But, Man-Farmer managed to grab her when she was looking behind the garage for her eggs that I had moved. He was wearing work gloves because there was the possibility that she would try to bite him.
He high-tailed it to the barn to put her in the duck house with her eggs.
And she hated the whole thing.
To move the eggs to the barn, I had put them in an old round cat bed that was hanging around the barn that the cats had abandoned.
There she was, in a safe, dry, ant-free environment with her eggs sitting sweetly together on the old cat bed and all she did all night was sit NEXT to the cat bed and scream that she had to get back to the garage.
The next day we let her out.
She ran at warp speed, which is still not very fast because she is after all a duck and therefore waddles at all times, back to the garage and the weirdest thing happened.
She got to the area where her nest had been and frantically searched for her eggs.
Ummmm, Patty…you just left your eggs in the barn.
Remember those oval things sitting next to you all night long in the duck house?
Those are your eggs.
I then realized something…had my light bulb moment.
She didn’t care about the eggs themselves and what was in them.
She only cared about sitting on them. Her addiction was the heat of incubation.
She looked and looked and looked for them.
And later that same day she seemed to have forgotten about them all together. She was back to hanging with the guys. Following them around the yard, eating bugs as they flew past her and drinking from a bucket of water.
We set up the duck house as a brooder, plugged the heat lamp in and situated it right over the eggs to keep them warm.
And shortly after Patty stopped caring about her eggs, something happened.
It started as a small hole in one of the eggs.
And then another egg had a small hole in it.
And they began to emerge. Some came out quickly, some took their time. And some didn’t come out at all. It seems that some had died in the eggs. Let me tell you, if a duckling dies in it’s egg before it hatches, you’ll be able to smell it.
Out of the 12 eggs that Patty started sitting on behind our garage, 7 ducklings made it out of their eggs.
One duckling struggled and struggled and we had to help it out of it’s egg.
I brought it into the house and kept it on a heating pad, but it wasn’t going to make it.
It died the next day. Gigi put it in a pencil box and Man-Farmer buried it under the old oak tree behind the house that has become our pet cemetery. It had been named Gilbert.
The 6 survivors are a week old now and Patty seems to have no recollection that they ever existed inside their eggs.
Yesterday though, something very interesting happened.
I took the ducklings into the barnyard for the first time. The chickens saw them, the juvenile birds saw them, the goat saw them, and Patty saw them.
She was hanging out around the duck swimming pool (one of those plastic pools you can buy at the store for $10) and the ducklings were sitting near my feet as I sat on the edge of the concrete water trough. They were quacking their little duckling quacks and she came to them. She came so close to me, something that NEVER happens, and she stared at them. They stared at her. Her head began to quiver. She stared and stared and stared. It was as if she was trying to remember something…do I know you? You seem so familiar to me…
This went on for about five minutes.
Then the drakes began quacking loudly, alerting her that they were leaving the area.
She gave the ducklings one last glance, turned away from them, and ran after the males.
She caught up with them and walked with them out of the barnyard.
I did the same thing with the ducklings this morning…gave them their morning walk into the barnyard with the other creatures they would be living with in the future.
Patty was there.
She paid zero attention to them.
She was more interested in what was in the tall grass in the corner of the barnyard than in the six babies that just yesterday invoked something within her.
Maybe tomorrow she will be interested.
Maybe George will be their mother figure.
She shows more curiosity in their goings-on than their real mother does.
The ducklings all look very similar now, they grow very quickly.
Their names are Bilbo, Bambi, Artichoke, Otis, Butterbeer, and Alexander Quackington.
Welcome to the farm little ones…