We had a tragedy over here the other night.
Benny was fine when I went out in the snow and wind to put the roosters up for the night. (I put the roosters in a dog crate covered with a thick rubber backed rug in the garage to block their crows in the morning for the neighbors. It works very well.)
Benny got injured while we were at the beach back in October. He got a random string wrapped around his foot, and it got caught on some brush and pulled tight around his ankle. I cut it off when we got home, but his foot has never been the same. He had a limp that got worse, then better, and then lately worse again. His foot was dark colored and not quite right, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it. It was just damaged internally.
This past week I noticed Benny was dirty. He’d stopped grooming himself. Ducks are fastidious groomers! They keep their feathers snow white, even in the muddiest of mud. They can somehow make their feathers white by bathing in a mud puddle in my yard. It’s quite impressive. For any animal to look disheveled is a bad sign regarding their health. I made sure he had plenty of food and water, and at night the ducks had access of the chicken pen once the chickens were in the coop. They have an extra large dog house with lots of straw in there. But they never go in it ! Instead they prefer to huddle in the snow and wind with their beaks and feet tucked under so all that is visible is one beady black eye peering out from each white bird huddle on the white snow covered lawn.
I heart them. A lot.
I find this at my back door many mornings. They await the toast and egg scraps from breakfast, daily. Cheeky beggars!
Once it gets warm out I have to lock them off the porch and pressure wash it. Downside to their awesomeness is their lack of anal sphincter. Their poop just squirts out like mud.
Anyway, back to the tragedy.
We woke up the following morning after the snow and Rosie let the dogs out. She yelled to me, “Mom there’s a duck laying down and not moving in the snow!”
I knew right away it had to be Benny.
Sure enough it was.
We already knew he was unwell, it wasn’t a surprise. I was actually pretty surprised Benny had carried on with the injured foot for this long. A lot of times when birds have a foot injury they die quickly. I think they know they will be slow and picked off by a predator before they can heal, so they just lay down quietly and die. Birds have more intelligence and grace than most humans ever notice.
The sad part was that the other ducks were huddled around Benny’s body. They wouldn’t leave his side. We watched them all morning.
Benny was patriarch of their flock. He led them everywhere, even with his limp they would stay behind him patiently. June, the mama duck, was solely dedicated to Benny.
As we watched them we noticed that the other ducks would go off to get food and water, but June just laid next to him. Duck Face would come up and nudge Benny’s body every now and then, as if trying to get him to stand up.
Honestly it was like something from Discovery or Animal Planet that you tear up while watching. I couldn’t believe how dedicated to him the other ducks were!
A little while later while we were doing school work we heard the chickens and ducks screaming. The ducks have this loud warning quack, and the chickens do this repetitive honking cluck sound when they spot a predator. I thought it was probably a crow or something startling them and didn’t bother to get up and look.
The next time I walked by the window I glanced out and I was completely startled to see that Benny’s body was gone from its spot in the yard! There were no foot prints of any kind in the snow near him other than the duck prints.
Then I saw his body laid out on top of the little chicken pen.
Hrm. That awkward moment when your dead duck relocates himself…
The ducks can’t even fly up on top of that pen when alive, let alone when dead. I guess a vulture or something must have picked him up then realized a 15 pound frozen duck was too heavy and dropped him a few feet away. That’s the only possible explanation I can think of.
His body is still out there. I want to bury it, but I don’t know where. He would just get dug up by something, which would be highly disturbing. I have to do something with him soon because the snow is melting and he’s defrosting. Ick.
Yesterday evening while Rosie was at dance class Ada and I went outside and fed the chickens and ducks. Ada had a cup full of treats. She was having so much fun I couldn’t get her back inside! (Can you spot the dead duck?)
She had ketchup all over her face. I didn’t scrub her face off before we tromped out in the mud. For shame. Wiped it off with a dry rag and it didn’t all come off.
Ada’s thoughts on Dead Benny:
Upon realizing her attempts to pry open his beak and fill them with treats were failing:
Sorry Love, dead ducks don’t eat any longer. :(
Let’s feed the live birds instead…
Our yard has some kind of weed grass that has web like roots under the ground and it turns brown and dies in winter, but it cannot be killed ever. It’s prolific during the summer and invades EVERYTHING. It kills all grass seed by choking it out. I spend hours ripping it from my garden beds. The neighbor next to us has nice year round green grass because the previous owner resod the whole thing. Lucky them!
Ada’s fat cheeks kill me.
Hank, the baddest hound beast ever. He’s so old lately. His face used to be all brown with just white freckles.
The mud makes me want to die just a little. The weed grass is lying dormant and it will be up in a few months.
The remains of our beautiful, huge Bradford pear tree.