In reflecting back on the past year, it was certainly a roller coaster. It has been a tough year for many, including here at PumpjackPiddlewick. In particular it has been a year of grief for us.
This time last year we lost Maggie, our very first duck who began our adventure into living with ducks. She was the Queen of our little family. And, goodness she let us know it. She left behind a grieving George, her mate. I comforted him as best I could, and he in turn comforted me.
Then in the early summer we lost BeepBeep, our blind duck. She went from being a tiny, frisky, dare anything spirit to a quiet barely moving about shadow of herself. We knew her time was coming and had the opportunity to say goodbye. It was heartbreaking and cathartic at the same time. We had a little funeral, where she lay in state. Sir Studly stood by her side watching over her in her final peace.
Then in autumn, suddenly Gabby was gone. One minute with us, the next minute quietness reigned. He was called Gabby as he was a talkative chap. He slept by my bed and would let me know he was guarding me with quiet little pup, pup, pup sounds if I checked in with him during the night. I still catch myself trying to hear those little sounds, and my heart is still sore when the silence greets me instead.
And we close this past year with the additional loss of George and Sir Studly in early December. They died trying to protect our littlest duck, Betty. I went out to check on the ducks and found the three of them missing and the other ducks spooked. If the other ducks are acting different you know they saw something happen. We found a break in our fence and following the trail found a fox run confirming our worst fears.
Laddie in particular was distraught, crying and calling for them all. He had been left alone as the sole mallard in our little flock amongst a small sea of white call ducks. His dejection and grief were palpable, and added to the heartbreak.
And then we had a miracle. Two nights later, I was tossing and turning, trying to sleep. At 1am, I gave up and was reading when I heard the sound of a duck outside the front of our house. Scrambling to figure out what a duck was doing calling from the road out front, I woke Pumpjack to assist.
In our pajamas we went out into the wet foggy darkness that was the road. We could see almost nothing, but we could hear her. Blindly we tried herding her in the front door, but she was having none of that. Pumpjack ran inside and around to open the gates to our courtyard, whilst I waited, talking quietly to the space near my feet, hoping on hope that no cars would come.
With gates open we came at her from angles and slowly manoeuvred her into the courtyard. Once in the courtyard she definitely recognised where she was and headed straight for the stable bedroom, calling back and forth with the now awake ducks within. Laddie’s voice raised in happiness above the others. Betty had returned.
How she knew which house to come to as she has never been on the street side, let alone why she was trying to return at 1am, we will never know. But, we and the ducks embraced this little uplifting miracle.
We close this past year with no more ducks left from our original flock. And no imprinted ducks. Our remaining flock of (white call ducks) are: Louis, Macey, Niege and Claxon, and (mallard call ducks) Betty and Laddie. We are trying to take solace in those that remain.
Though a smaller flock, they are a closer unit in consequence. The ratio of females and males is much much healthier. And they are in fact much more manageable. Without an imprinted duck amongst them that would share time wandering between house and flock, we are able to instigate more security measures to better safeguard them.
It has always been a fine balancing line of freedom and captivity. Our choice was to give them freedom. An extra large duck enclosure. And they are free to roam our enclosed garden. Ducks understand and can learn boundaries. They know where home is. But sadly, with freedom of movement comes the potential of predators. It will never be an easy decision, never more so than when we have to grieve for one of them.
Normally we like to err on the uplifting side of life in our blog posts. So why this one? Mainly as a good lot of our readers come to our site to read about ducks. And whilst ducks make great pets, as prey animals they also come with additional recognition as such, and choices of how to bring them up in consequence. Not all of it nice.
This post had started out in my mind as a round up of what had been the most popular posts here on our website in 2022. Top of the list, by a very wide margin, was Do Ducks Grieve. It shifted my mind and focus to all we had lost this past year. So on reflection, I wrote this post to help me grieve for my ducks.
Top 10 Posts of 2022