A Sitting Duck for 29 Days
by Megan Sampson
A Duck is supposed to sit on her clutch of eggs for 28 days. This is the story about why ours sat for 29.
We had 7 ducks, they roamed about the gardens each day looking for snails, they loved to eat comfrey, sunflowers, sorghum and bread. When we first got the ducks one had two broken wings because the man stuffed them harshly into the bag. Mum collected her own ducks after that, paying for them and gently catching them to take them home. I remember her at a boy’s pen. We were on the way home from town when she saw a little sign that boy had painted “Ducks for sale”. The boy was much bigger than my brother and me. He yelled at the ducks, they flew and honked and snarled and flapped at him, he yelled louder and I learnt a lot of new rude words!! He went to get a broom and started hitting at them.
Mum said she’d heard enough. She asked, could she please collect the duck herself. The boy grinned! Mum slipped off her black velvet high heels. She gingerly tiptoed around the dung in her stockings, she spoke quietly to the bird, looking firmly and directly at it. She slowly came nearer. Then suddenly she swooped, clasped the bird in her hands and tucked it under her arm. Mum marched out, washed her feet at the tap, and put her shoes back on. All the time with a big bird on her hip, and carried it off with us walking proudly behind.
ducks and chickens sharing water
As the birds grew older they started disappearing. Some got eaten by foxes and some by neighbouring dogs. One even got a snake bite we think. Some got paralysis ticks which didn’t always kill them but made them ill.
Usually the drake (the boy duck) in charge sacrificed himself in the battles. You can tell which is a drake. They have a little curled feather on their tail. My friend says they quack less too. The one in charge is the first in line. He is usually the biggest drake.
We decided we needed more ducks. We had raised some under the broody chickens but chickens can’t teach ducks to swim and the grown up drakes never understood why the chickens were not happy to have them as roosters.
We needed ducklings who understood that they were ducks. The last remaining duck (the girl with
the broken wings) was now at least 6 years old. She was middle aged for a duck. She laid a clutch of
eggs and started to look broody. Duck eggs are a treat but we let her sit on some. She looked quite
serious about sitting: not moving unless other children startled her, not eating, brushing a little ring of straw about her to form a cosy nest.
But the eggs had a poor chance of hatching. The Drakes would bother her each night when we
locked them away and the eggs would catch cold. The chickens, if they got in, pecked at the fragile
eggs and gobbled some up. In the end the Duck, had only 3 eggs left. Mum felt sorry for her. “She
has been trying hard, I’ll put some hens underneath her to cheer her up and give the duck eggs better odds”.
Something came in the night, an egg was gone. It could have been rats, it could have been a lizard or a carpet snake. It came again and again and preferred duck eggs! All the duck eggs disappeared.
Poor little duck, she was sitting on hen eggs that would never hatch. [We don’t have rooster.]
It was day 29 when Mum decided to go a buy the duck some ducklings. We brought them home in a cardboard box. My brother was at school, I had to look after them. I minded the ducklings in our bathroom with a light above them to keep them warm. I made sure they all got a lot to eat and drink. I like ducklings they will eat and eat forever if I let them. I made a little track for them to run around the box, wait their turn to eat and drink and then back around I’d make them go. Mum was outside in the duck house rebuilding the nest safely inside a hutch.
She was afraid the duck would give up and the ducklings would be all alone. Secretly, I hoped it would. Then I could be their daddy until they were big. But Mum said that they get very messy and smelly in the Bathroom. I remember last time when Mum let us have two ducklings in the bath for a swim “if they poo, you’ll have to jump out of the bath”. Well, we soon jumped out, faster than ever.
At last, the nest was ready, and the duck happily returned. Mum wrapped a duckling up in an old white nappy of mine. It went quiet, it must have thought it was night time. Maybe it thought it was back in the egg! She went out and placed the bundle under the duck. The duck was getting angry now and hissed at her. Mum backed off a little, then came back slowly and tugged at the nappy. The nappy slowly opened and to the ducks surprise, a duckling rolled out beneath her. The duck quacked and flapped, she was so excited. After a little while, Mum placed another duckling in the nest and one by one, the duck tucked them under her broken wings.
I begged to keep one for myself. I was sad to let it go with the others. We sat back and watched. After a while the duck called to the drakes. The drakes came waddling over. The Duck quacked loudly and then the Drakes saw the ducklings and started quacking too and dancing around the hutch.
When they grew too big for the hutch they were let out and they all waddled about, over my sandpit, under the car, around the table and into the ponds. The ducklings grew to be bigger than the mother Duck. I wonder what she thinks of that? I wonder if she notices that they are a totally different colour too.
One night a fox came again. Our new ducklings were big and heavy now and wouldn’t do what their mother Duck told them to do. A few of the ducks had decided to wander and not go to bed. When the fox came the mother called them, she fought the fox and got a bite on her neck but she managed to save most of the ducks and whisk them into the cold pond with her. The fox got two ducks.
I wanted to set up a secret trap for that fox, I wanted to wait all night to get it. I still hunt for it with my little wooden gun. Now every night the ducks go to their house and we lock them up and every morning they look happy to see me.
Story written by M. Sampson partner of PermacultureVisions.com