Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Story of Della

We lost most of our chickens to raccoons several weeks ago. I fortified the coop and the hen house. I am fairly confident now that the raccoons can't get them. So we went and bought some more chickens.

We found this guy on Craig's-list that was selling hens. We set an appointment and drove up to his house one morning. I asked all the right questions. I established that I wanted the chickens, but I didn't want the turkeys. I was assured that I was getting all hens so that I would have more eggs and no crowing. I got a variety of chickens and then the guy offered to show us around his place. He had a variety of chickens. And then he showed us the ducks. My boys were excited about the ducks and I was too. I didn't want to jump into anything so I asked what ducks eat. He said they eat chicken food and don't have any special needs except for more water. He didn't even have a pond for his duck.

So I bought the duck. And my boys named the duck Della. The duck was bigger than the chicks that I bought, so I put it outside with the older chickens.

I put my blood sweat and tears into training that duck. After 3 days it was able to climb the ramp into the hen house all by itself. Also by that time the duck began to think that the chickens were its parents. It followed the chickens everywhere and the chickens pretended to ignore the duck. It was actually quite comical to watch the duck follow the chickens around thinking that it was a chicken.

Then someone asked me why I bought the duck. 'Does it lay eggs?' he asked. I thought for a moment. I didn't know if the duck was a girl. I asked all the right questions about the chickens, but I didn't know about the duck. That's OK though, because ducks don't crow.

I built the duck a very small pond (that it could get in to, but not out of) and it seemed to like it (probably because it couldn't get out). Unfortunately the pond I built did not quench the ducks desire for water. Every night the duck would take the water in the hen house and mix it around with the straw and make one awful mess. When the duck was smaller, it didn't get enough water to really matter, but as the duck got bigger, so did the mess.

Eventually it got to the point where I had to replace the bedding in the hen house every day. Every morning there was a small puddle of mud and chicken poop that I had to clean up. It didn't take long for me to get sick of cleaning the chicken coop. Once every week or two with a bunch of chickens. Daily with a single duck.

I decided I needed to get rid of Della. Although she was a meat duck, I couldn't do that. I thought of taking her back, but the guy we bought the duck from really didn't take great care of his animals and I didn't feel that was right either. Finally I decided to take her to the park. I put Della in a box and me and the boys released Della at the park to play with her duck friends for the rest of her life.

Unfortunately, Dell is a duck that will never fly. She weighs too much and has really small wings. So her only defense from predators is missing. I find it odd that I realize the reality of what I did, but I can find some comfort in riding my bike by the park and seeing white ducks. I will never know what happened to Della, but she will live out her days (or years?) at the park. And I will be able to ride by that park and see white ducks forever. So I guess Della will always be alive.