Living on a farm with animals brings great amusement to my life.
But, with all of the smiles that kittens and ducklings bring, there’s always the possibility that harm will come to one of them at any moment.
The farm animals don’t live in the house with us, they live in an outbuilding behind the house. And the barn is surrounded by woods. Woods that raccoons, fox, coyotes, deer, opposums, owls, and hawks live in year round.
Sometimes those woodland creatures get very hungry and decide that our barnyard friends will become their meal.
And that’s what happened to our female duck Patty this week.
The mother of the ducklings was found dead in the barnyard in the middle of the day. I had been out around noon or 1:00 and all was fine. I went back out at 5:00ish and didn’t see her. I saw that the male ducks were honking about and not willing to really move on from the doors to the barn. Where was Patty? I started looking in the tall grass that had grown up around the back of the barn. I was certain Patty was sitting in that grass on some eggs…something she has been doing throughout the yard since her babies were born. Babies, mind you, that she never gave any attention to once they weren’t eggs that she could sit on anymore. But, I didn’t see her. I was heading into the big back pasture where the grass in the horse’s poo corner had gotten very tall (Buttercup Luck has three areas in the back pasture that she uses to poo and pee in. No eating in those areas) and I saw Patty.
Dead and partially eaten.
When the hell did this happen?!
I had just been out there not that long ago!
I had been in the house and the windows were open and I didn’t hear any sort of kerfuffle.
Poor Patty. I blame myself as I had let the grass in a few areas get too tall. And predators can hide in that tall grass and wait and wait and wait and then POUNCE.
I think it was a raccoon.
But, it could also have been a opossum or a hawk.
If it was a hawk, I can’t control that. We let all of our birds free-range (which means we let them run free during the day eating bugs and grass.)
Ducks are very easy prey. They don’t move very fast as they are true waddlers. Patty was fat and slow and had those big duck feet to move her around.
Her body was left where she had been killed, feathers were all around it, and she had had her torso ripped open.
I looked around for footprints, but didn’t see anything.
Then it started to rain.
Any hopes of finding footprints were vanishing.
I still don’t know for certain what killed her.
We buried her after dinner under the big walnut tree. The big walnut tree on the north side of backyard that has now become a bit of a pet cemetery.
Watching the other ducks’ behavior after her death was very interesting.
The big ducks (three adult males-Charlie, Selma, and Monty) spent the next two days running around the yard quacking. They were looking for her. It’s their job to guard Patty. Some help they were on the day she died.
The ducklings were terrified. Did they see the predator out there eating their mother? Were they nearby when it happened and had to flee the scene? I don’t know, but they refused to leave the chicken coop for two days. They were content sitting inside all day. They have now gone back outside and have swam in their pool. All seems to be okay again in their little duck brains.
We have been letting the ducklings sleep in the chicken coop at night with all of the hens. The big male ducks have been coming into the barn and sleeping in the duck house again. We usually leave them outside, but they seemed VERY eager to sleep in their old house after Patty’s death.
We have no females right now.
Or do we?
We still don’t know which of the ducklings are males and which are females.
Male ducks get a curly tail feather and that’s how we first determined who was who within our first batch of six ducks. Six original ducks that have now become three.
Thanks for the ducklings Patty. We will always remember your spunk and sweet face…