Part of the Homesteading process is acquiring animals; though, I am sure you can have a vegetarian homestead. When you have animals, however, you have a higher sense of responsibility to take care of another living being. Something with a pulse. You grow attached, you may name them, and one day that life comes to a savage end by a fox.
When we picked out our little peepers the week before Easter weekend, I was beaming with excitement. We looked all over for khaki campbell ducks, especially– and out of 6 stores, only one had them left for $1 a piece. I remember being overjoyed and taking on a task worthy of my Grandfather’s praise. He had a farm when I was a baby.
I distinctly remember the face of the young man, who worked at the Tractor Supply, when I specifically asked if I could have the duck with the not so common beak. He thought I was crazy. “You want this duck?” He said. “Oh, yes!” I said. I liked her because she was different from all the others. At the time, I had no idea she was female, but I liked her for her distinctive traits. She not only had white marks on her beak, but also under her neck. That was Tully. And she was my duck.
She blossomed into an egg layer that gave constant double yolks in ginormous eggs. She was new to egg laying in general, but even her eggs were as distinctive as she was. She was different and special. Although unique, she was part of the pack. Those four ducks from day one were a cohesive unit, never leaving each other’s side.
One weekend evening around 7, we quickly left to go grab a bite to eat. We weren’t even gone an hour. When we returned, and went to put the ducks in their pen, they were already in there. Not thinking anything of it, we closed the door and said good night. We should have known something was up though as they NEVER go into their house on their own. The next morning, when we let them out, they all came out but one. Or so we thought. Tully never made it out of the pen because she never made it into the pen.
As Keith was walking towards the house to tell me the sad news, he saw the culprit coming back for more fun at 8:15 in the morning. It was a fox and it was “barking” at the cat as if trying to lure it over to attack it. Ally, usually a bully cat that like to hunt rabbits for fun, was scared out of her wits. Ally refused to move and desperately looked at Keith for help. He went to grab his bb gun to scare the fox off, but the fox was now tired and ready for bed.
A few weeks prior, while we were on our way back from grabbing some grub, we saw this same fox running across the road (roughly around the same time). We luckily got home in time to put the ducks in and spare them from Mr. Fox. I think he’s been plotting his revenge, ever since. He found an unsecured hole in the fence and slowly started to make it bigger. We now also realize that he was the one helping himself to the duck food at night before we started taking it in… that bastard already knew he could fit through the hole in the fence. We should have just let him eat the food instead of him coming in, taking my duck and dragging her off into the woods!
We were outsmarted by a fox who has a sophisticated taste for organic duck and duck food. We have since, re-secured the fencing, and will now be on cautious alert from our new little foe. Yes, foe. That fox ain’t no friend of mine!
In all seriousness, it was a lot of time, money, and effort into raising these ducklings to adulthood and for a predator to take a duck that you can reap more reward from (eggs) is disheartening. But it’s part of the process of having any animal, I guess.
From here, we have the option of incubating the other ducks eggs, in hopes of getting another duckling or we can wait until next Spring and get another run of two ducklings and start the process again. The advantage of hatching your own eggs is they tend to become more attached to you. But, it we are ugly crying over one duck, it may not be a good idea.
Hypocritically, I express my sadness for the female duck, but would I feel the same way if it were one of the drakes? I am not sure. I just recently complained how delicious they would taste and how we have too many males. Now that ratio is even larger (which would pose greater chance of a fertilized egg, especially if the pond is kept clean and filled). So many decisions.
Until then, I will focus my efforts on more positive and creative tasks here at Ferngully.
RIP Tully. My first duck love.
RIP Tully of Ferngully… remind me to not name my next duck at all (tears)… bad idea.