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Duck, duck, fox

In the middle of the night on Monday, Francois and I were startled awake by one of the dogs barking inside the tiny house. I was about to tell them to be quiet when I heard the ducks quacking – unusual at best, as they usually sleep through the night (as do the chickens, and contrary to the goats).

I let the two dogs out and they raced off, barking at the top of their lungs.

The next day, I noticed that our white duck Marilyn (her name might change) had some blood on her. I assumed it was from plucking so many feathers off herself to add to the nest she and Big Mama (also a temporary name) had been building and using to brood.

A bit later, Francois called me outside – to survey what turned out to be a bit of a crime scene.

Behind the duck coop, a pile of freshly dug dirt was smattered with feathers, egg shells, and a few whole – but by now cold – eggs. We’ll never know exactly what happened, but we suspect a fox tried to dig under and into the duck coop to feast on ducks and ducklings-to-be.

Luckily, Francois’ coop design has wire mesh underneath and all around the front. This protected our four ducks, but the loosening of the dirt caused a few of the eggs to fall through in spite of the thick straw bedding.

Unfortunately, we think the fox then went to the side of the coop and tried to achieve its mission by sticking its paw into a crack (ducks love a well-ventilated coop, they said). That’s probably where he got Marilyn, cutting her beak and wounding her back.

We disinfected Marilyn as best we could with betadine (a must-have for every household if you ask me, as it serves for animals as well as humans), and hoped for the best.

The good news is that a few days later, she seems fine. Her white feathers are still splashed with rust colored and orangey brown, reminders of the bloodshed and betadine. Undeterred, she’s running around catching bugs and drinking water like nothing ever happened.

I don’t know if she’s ok, but I am once again inspired by how resilient animals are. They just get on with things, without dwelling on what happened or what could have been.

The eggs that went cold were thrown into the compost, and through the cracks, it was clear that little ducklings were in the making and almost ready to hatch. That made me sad, because I can’t help it and any loss of life is upsetting – even though on a farm, there is no other way but to make peace with death.

At least we still have 10 or more eggs in the nest! I hope they hatch soon, in good health, and that the mama ducks manage to protect at least a few of their ducklings through to adulthood.

In the meantime, Mojito and Castanha have started sleeping outside again*. Their guard dog instinct is incredible, as is their endless energy to run throughout the night to chase away any potential threat. The duck coop has been reinforced, and we are crossing fingers for happy duckling news soon.


*You might wonder why they don’t always sleep outside… it’s arbitrary in some ways, rational in others. Their constant running around and barking wakes us up, which is no big deal but far from ideal – and thinking ahead to when we have clients, we want them to be used to staying inside at night. They also listen a little less and act a tad more “wild” when they spend too many consecutive nights outside – and yes, that might be me projecting, but that’s good enough for me ?


  • flavia
    3 July 2019

    love your posts Shahnaz! greetings from Zurich


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