At the beginning of August, it was a day like any other. I sent the oldest country kid out to open the coop, only to have him run into the house yelling that one of the birds was injured and I needed to come quick. It was so much worse then I could have ever imagined as I found one bird dead, another mortally injured, our female duck, Betty, injured but with hope and my male duck, Fred.... my poor sweet, wonderful Fred was also dead. Without going into all of the details of that horrible morning, I can tell you one thing I know in my heart of hearts..... he fought to protect the flock with everything he had. He had always been the "eye to the sky" kind of guy and it was evident he did not go down without a fight.
As I raced to sort and triage the birds, my oldest country kid...... my boy who never listens, never follows directions, who is most times incapable of empathy because of his Aspberger's syndrome..... he was my hero that day. He listened to my every command. He did ever last little thing I told him. He not only helped with the surviving birds, he helped with his little brother, and he hugged me and told me how sorry he was about Fred, because he knew how much that duck meant to me. If you don't know anything about Aspberger's, this day was mind blowing because of all he did and the compassion he showed.
|At the vet|
At the vet's office, they quickly tended to my girls, doing what had to be done for one and trying their best to help the other. Betty the duck was in shock and was at serious risk of infection from her wounds, but they said she could pull through and that was enough to give me hope. After examining all the wounds, both vets agreed it was most likely a weasel attack. Now, I have lived here over 10 years and have never in my life seen a weasel!! But I guess anything is possible. They are small and fast....
I returned home with my dear little Betty and set her up in the dog's kennel, much to Heidi the Homestead Hound's dismay. She would be our house guest for the next ten days as she needed medication twice a day. We brought in the last surviving pullet (young female chicken) that we had also gotten that spring, to try and calm and comfort Betty. They had been best buddies and I know in the weeks that followed that bond grew even stronger.
We set up a second, much smaller pen, we called Fort Knox, for the remaining chickens who were still outside. We tended our lost souls and laid them to rest. The oldest country kid made a silk flower arrangement to mark his love for them and their final resting place. It was one of the longest days of my life. And as I looked into our empty backyard, where just the day before they had all played together, it hardly seemed possible that it had all happened. My Fred would never greet me again. He would never stand guard as the girls ate, always waiting like a gentleman till they were done before he took any. After all he had been through loosing his first mate and then finding love again with Betty.....
Oh sweet Betty, with each passing day she improved. She began to fight us at medication time, which was a good sign. But it is hard to get a duck to take liquid medication twice a day when they have enough strength and the mindset that they don't want to! Again the oldest country kid stepped up and he became the duck holder for me so I could get the syringe in her beak and the medication past her tongue and down her throat. And even while life was taking on a new normal, every time I passed the back window, I would pause, like I used to, to watch the flock..... and sadness would rush over me as my Fred was no longer part of the colorful movement of the yard.
|My first ever attempt at a "selfie." Yeah, I did it with a duck!|
I know for some, there is no understanding of how I could love a duck so much. The bond we had developed after he suffered the tragedy of losing his first mate.... Ducks can get depression and he did. But he had bounced back. I cheered for him when he finally connected with Betty. Life had been good in our little flock..... But now there is a new flock, a smaller flock, where once Fred had kept calm, there is now chaos. A new pecking order has to be sorted. We have one chicken with PTSD who screams and runs for her life at every little thing. It is honestly crazy to see how this has impacted not only me, but them as well. Don't ever believe for a second that animals' don't have feelings!
Betty made a full recovery and has returned to the yard. And while I miss my Fred, she has wormed her way into my heart. She now runs to me when I step out back, only to give me the riot act. She is not happy about no longer being a "house duck." Sorry sister, but you were starting to smell up my house! On the day it all happened, I didn't know if I would ever be able to open my heart again to loving my critters as deeply as I once had. But Fred was a survivor, he was a warrior, and while he is no longer with us, he will always be a part of my heart. He taught me that even through the loss of his first mate, he could love again................... and so can I.