Last Thursday morning, I stepped onto the back deck to hang laundry and realized, "Wow, it is really quiet." And while I normally would rejoice in the lack of noise from road traffic, leaf blowers, and loud barking dogs (my own included), I felt a bit sad because the silence was caused by the absence of Lou and Lily, our two Indian Runner ducks. I have written about Lou and Lil several times; I really loved these two guys. Yes, they were both male; we had at first thought that the slighter duckling was a female, but the drake feather appeared on "her" also. They seemed to love me too, if I may dare to anthropomorphize a bit. My most pleasant memories of the ducks are from last Autumn, during our second batch of red raspberries. At the end of the day, sun sinking behind our house, I would let Lou and Lil out of the chicken yard and they would dibble dabble in the grass under the apple tree while I picked berries. If I got out of eyesight, they would quickly waddle, waddle over to where I was standing in the bushes, helping themselves to the low hanging berries along the way. I felt such peace and happiness in these moments, having these two funny ducks murmuring to each other and simply enjoying life.
Flash forward seven months and the two teenage ducks became hormone charged adults. With no females to make them happy, I suppose I became an odd sort of substitute. Their "love" for me became aggressive, obessive, and downright annoying. I could not walk into the coop without being dogged by these two ducks. They would dart around my feet in erratic movements, trying to figure out where I was going to step next so they could be right there. I would step on them, they would run into each other, swear words would be uttered, fighting would ensue (the fighting was between the two of them). Then when I would turn towards the door to walk out of the coop, they would chase me the whole way, making my exit a hurried event of kicking, extracting ducks off my legs, and trying not to slam the gate on their webbed feet. Have you ever read the book, "No Fighting, No Biting" by Else Holmelund Minarik? Lou and Lil were just like the two little alligators in that story, constantly bickering. If it was just me that they were bothering, they would probably still be with us. (Oops, I just gave away the end of this story.) However, the little babe could not go into the coop because they would go after her also. And the chickens were bearing the brunt of their bad behavior. Multiple times throughout the day we would hear indignant squawking and look out to see a chicken running with Lou and Lil pecking at her back. They were downright vicious. Plus, from a practical standpoint, we were feeding them and getting nothing in return - except stress (and duck bites).
I guess that last paragraph is me trying to offer a guilty explanation for the fact that my husband took Lil and Lou to our friend's farm last week and they did not come back. I know that some parents try to sugar coat unpleasant actions for their children, saying that animals "went to a farm" or a better place, when in reality they had them killed or the animal died of natural causes. I am raising my daughter with a no bullshit approach and so in her own words, "they just WHACKED their heads off!" Yes, our friend did. Very quickly, with no suffering, Lou and Lily's lives ended.
There was a lot of sobbing on my part. However, the chickens are happier and my daughter is happier. That night when it was time to lock up the birds, instead of saying, "I'm going to put the boys to bed", I paused a moment and then said, "I'm going to put the ladies to bed." My daughter said, "Can I come too?" Sure honey, I guess you can. And so we pulled on our wellies and went out into the quiet of the evening into the now quieter chicken yard and put the ladies to bed. While I missed the chatter of my boys, I enjoyed having my daughter there beside me saying, "Good night ladies."
And no more impulse buys.