This story involves a few brushes with death, one more serious than the others. It begins on Wednesday night, when I cruelly kicked the two Muscovy ducks out of the chicken coop. They like to sleep there, inside the tidy nest boxes. While they sleep, they poop enormous, wet, stinky poops. And no one wants poo in their nest boxes, because that makes for very icky eggs.Not only are they messy, but they beat up the chickens in the morning when the innocent things hop off their roost. I often go outside at dawn to hear terrible thumping and the voices out outraged hens calling from the coop. When I peek in I see bad ducks chasing the sleepy chickens and trying to rip their feathers out. And to top things off, I have 6 brand new teenaged chickens that I just got, and they have not figured out how to roost yet, so they would be "sitting ducks" for the "pecking ducks." There are other places for the ducks to sleep. We have a duck house, a cozy calf hutch, and even the shed where the goats and pony hang out would make a nice spot. So I only felt a twinge of guilt when I booted them out that night.
My guilt gained new heights in the morning when I woke to find the duck on the right gone. The birds have very predictable routines. When I go out at dawn the ducks greet me, heads low, making plaintive noises until I bring them a scoop of food. On this morning there was just one duck.She looked a bit shaken. I glanced around and became convinced that something had eaten the missing one. I felt horrible. The other duck looks lonely and a little worried. She goes in the coop much earlier than usual now, and I leave her there.
Today, (Friday) I was doing evening chores and visiting with the critters. The horse was grazing next to me, and I spied a sturdy muck bucket nearby. I pulled it over to her, upended it and then climbed up. I swung a leg over the ponies bare back and hopped on. She was not amused. She put her ears back and stomped up to the gate. I just sat there, thinking after a bit she'd wander around and I'd just sit on her and feel happy. She had other ideas and broke into a brisk trot, heading for the shed. The shed with low overhead. I leaned down, hugging her neck so I wasn't decapitated, and once in the shed slid off. My ride was unsuccessful, her beheading me was also a bust. That was the first brush with death.
A bit later something caught my eye. I walked out into the meadow and gave a hard took at some white material in the grass that I had earlier thought was milkweed down. I realized that it was really downy feathers from a duck. Then I remembered that this morning Ziva dog had spent a LONG time sniffing around in the very back corner of the pasture. So I headed down to see if I could find anything of note. Soon I saw more feathers, and then, at the very edge of the fence I found the remains of my poor duck. Whatever killed her had eaten her head and neck, and all her breast meat, and the rest of her was in a forlorn pile in the grass. (This was the most serious brush with death, oh, my poor, poor duck.) I dispatched what was left of her, and headed back up towards the house. Meanwhile, the horse and baby goats had followed me to the spot where I had found her, and they remained behind, grazing. I walked partway up to the house then sat on the overturned muck bucket and contemplated life and death and the earthy nature of living on a tiny farm. Ziva frolicked around me, dropping her tennis ball for me to throw over and over. In the midst of tossing it off to the right of me I heard a sound and looked up.
Galloping towards me (and my pony never gallops!) were the two terrified looking baby goats and the clearly upset horse. I believe they were spooked by the scent of whatever animal ate the duck, or by the smell of blood, but either way, they were moving fast, in my direction. The goats veered away from me, but the horse was headed blindly directly towards where I sat on my bucket. I had visions of my husband returning from work to find me trampled in a bloody heap there in the pasture. I jumped up, waving my arms, "WHOA!" She veered away at the last second, dusting past so close I could feel the air from her movement rust past me. That was death brush #3. After my heart stopped pounding at an unnaturally swift rate of speed, I finished up chores and counted my blessings.
I will miss that good duck, and we will try to make sure no more animals fall prey to whatever carried her off.