Animal Antics – Birth, Death, Amputations, Games of Spies and a retarded duck (Part 2)

This is the continuing chaotic saga of the animals antics that abounded this summer. Please do read Part 1 first, if you haven’t. Then follow the link at the end back to here.

From Death, we come full circle back to Gigi. With our attention diverted to the rabbits, our very pregnant Gigi was not getting all the right type of attention she would have liked and spent most of her days lounging under next doors sun umbrella. Much more tranquil, no other animals. Our neighbours texts kept me up to date with her location. Then she went missing for 3 days and returned one evening skinny, and starving, demanding to be fed. She ate everything in sight including the dog food, hissing in passing as Lapsong and Chewie watched. This set up the pattern for each night.

We were certain she had had the kittens in the neighbours garden, under their shed or in the garage. They were certain she had had them under our pool house. We decided we would try to follow her and see where she went. What ensued were a series of evening manoeuvres Special Forces would be proud of, but with maybe less favourable results.

The first time Gigi came in for food before dark, we ran out and down the road to a vantage point in our neighbours field, overlooking the lane and our neighbours drive. If Gigi was under the pool house or under the neighbours shed she would not come by and it would confirm she was somewhere in one of the properties. If she wasn’t on either property, she had to come by us and we would see where she went. Poised in anticipation, we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Then we gave up and I went back to the house to see if she was still there. She was, and still eating, anything she could find. As she left I followed her, and she led me to the pool house, where she started talking to me. I figured, ah ha! Then she went over the wall into the neighbours garden. I quickly texted Pumpjack where she was and to keep an eye out. We waited.

I slowly walked around to Pumpjack’s location, texting if he had seen her. Nope. It was looking promising for the neighbours shed. But, as I walked down the lane past the border of the properties, out popped Gigi to say hello (or nah nah nah nah nah, I suspect.) We were rumbled.

The next opportunity we were a little more organised and ready. I stayed with Gigi whilst she ate, texting Pumpjack when she left, this time via the lane. He was lying in the same field in readiness. She went by and on down the lane, and under the cover of the descending dusk disappeared when she reached the Mairie (the Mayors office), about 200 meters from our neighbours property. Well, at least we knew now she wasn’t on either of our properties.

What followed over the next few weeks were lots of searches around the Mairie, under hedges, down culverts, and any where else we thought she could have hidden her brood. We even tried to convince Chewie (our dachshund) he was really a bloodhound and garner his aid, but to no avail. We followed, we cajoled, we spied, we even tried reasoning with her, but we never managed to find them.

With the death of the rabbits our attention focused one hundred percent on Gigi and a last ditch effort to find her kittens as they were now 4 weeks old. We were concerned with them becoming feral (or sauvage as they say here in France).

Pumpjack was up before dawn, ready to put his best spy skills to the test. With Chewie on lead they headed out only to be greeted by Gigi waiting at the gate. She didn’t make it easy, obviously still not sure what was best for her kittens, but ultimately she led them to the area they were. She had had her kittens almost a kilometer (1/2 mile) away! She’d gone beyond the Mairie and  behind a large building at the end of our lane. No wonder we hadn’t been able to find them. We had never considered she would go that far.

Still Gigi didn’t want to make it easy and wouldn’t divulge the actual hiding place. A quick call to me had me scrambling to join in the search.  We played a game of hot and cold, each walking a different direction and seeing who Gigi followed. Whoever she followed we knew was closer to her kittens, until finally! we found them under a stack of wood in amongst an area of nettles and brambles. Of course. Why make it easy for us after all?

We lifted and moved the boards one by one and slowly discovered kitten after kitten. Gigi was tranquility itself now that we had found them and simply sat and watched our antics as we tried to herd and collect up her children and put them in a travel carrier. There were 6… and then we heard a faint mew amongst some brambles and found number 7! At this point, Gigi gave the all clear and we put her in with the kittens and drove them back to the cottage.

Our concerns on how they would react to being inside and handled by humans were very quickly allayed. After an hour, their curiosity got the better of them and they were quickly exploring their new home. They took to being petted and handled like ducks to water with lots of purring. We figured, probably as there were so many, they were starved for a bit of attention and extra loving.

It has been a logistical scramble to determine who could or should be where in our 2 floor  cottage. We settled on Gigi and kittens upstairs, Chewie and Lapsong downstairs and luckily Maggie decided to hang out with the ducks for the time being. It wasn’t long though before they started muddling things up, with Chewie joining the kittens upstairs in rapt fascination. And although he plays (quite rough) with Lapsong he obviously realised that these little creatures were too small to play with, so he simply sat and watched them, even allowing them to play with his tail now and then. It wasn’t long before the kittens were exploring downstairs, much to Lapsongs’ consternation. With a shrug we gave up and simply tried to make sure each animal was happy, fed and getting the attention they wanted.

And then Beepbeep entered the picture.

Beepbeep is one of the ducks from our flock, those we’ve kept from Maggie’s ducklings. (She had 13 in all, back in the spring – of course, at the same time Gigi had her first litter of kittens, our animals are nothing if not interesting in their timings.) We had kept 2 males and 4 females including Maggie. Alas, we lost a male one early evening, when the ducks were spooked by something and, having just learned to fly,  were not that coordinated in where they landed. No amount of searching turned him up.  So we are 5 in our duck world now.

With mallards, particularly females, they all look, well, pretty much the same. Identical even. Amongst our flock it is only their voices that tell me really who is who, and sometimes their behaviour. (It does help sometimes that Maggie wears a pink ID bracelet.) I noticed Beepbeep because, not only was she smaller than the others, but she started acting weird. She began running out to greet me, chattering as she circled me, always running at full speed, and then following on my heels. Always talking non-stop.

She would often run off in an aimless direction, chattering away, with the other ducks, particularly Maggie, following, trying to keep the flock together.

And then I noticed that the male, Sir Studly, was not keen on her, often pecking her or was driving her further away from the others. Since he is their protector, this added to the concept that Beepbeep was not all there in her mind. After all, in the animal world where survival of the fittest in keen, then a young duck not fit for purpose would hardly be welcome into the flock. But luckily, the girls were quite protective of her, especially Maggie, often getting between Beepbeep and Sir Studly, diverting his attention from her when he spied her getting too close.

Not long after we found the kittens and brought them home, Maggie decided she had had enough of being a duck. You could practically see her thinking, been there, done that, bored now. It was time to be a human again. She once again made it known that she wanted to be back in with her human family (and other animals).

I know from much experience that ducks are empathic, and Maggie definitely knows when one of the other animals is up to mischief and may mean her harm.  It was obvious when she and Gigi were young and learning to live together. Maggie would sometimes happily play with her ‘sibling’ whilst other times, when Gigi was in pounce mode, she steered clear. She does similarly with Lapsong now. She found the kittens interesting, but nothing more. She’d seen it before with Gigi’s first litter. There was the occasional moment of curiosity, but mostly ignoring on both sides – or Maggie would give them a quick peck if they got a bit too interested for comfort.

A couple of nights of Maggie separating herself from the other ducks come dusk and we noticed Beepbeep also hanging back when it was time for them to go in their house for the night. She very obviously liked and wanted to stay with Maggie. It was essentially forcing Beepbeep to go in with the other ducks and her being attacked by the male duck that decided we had to do something different with her. We brought her up to the cottage with Maggie.

Beepbeep was very obviously out of her comfort zone, but also very curious. She mimicked Maggie, standing on the arm of the sofa, watching the world swirl around her. I know if it had been one of the other ‘normal’ ducks this calm acceptance of such a change in her world would not have been the case. More proof that Beepbeep was not like the other ducks, and probably why Maggie was more accepting of her than the others.

Normally Maggie sleeps on the headboard or pillows I pile above my head for her at night. With Beepbeep, we put her in an animal carrier by the bed. Ducks hate being alone (note to anyone who ever wants a pet duck) and although we were in the room with Beepbeep it was not enough, she cried out for Maggie. Maggie, much to her annoyance, was moved in with Beepbeep but they both settled quickly into sleep.

The next night went better, with Beepbeep more settled and putting herself to bed in the carrier, and a happy Maggie getting to sleep once again in her favourite spot above my head. Except… at 3am Beepbeep decided she wanted to explore. I had left the carrier open so she could get to water placed nearby, which she made use of and this inspired Maggie to join her, which inspired Chewie to join the party. They proceeded to be like most youngsters who find themselves awake in the wee hours of the morning, trying to be quiet, yet not succeeding at all. It wasn’t long before Beepbeep was chattering away, as she does, whilst she and Maggie wandered about and pulled and pecked at every plastic bag or rustling noisy thing they could find. Chewie happily jumped and huffed around the two girls, obviously egging them on. Needless to say, we didn’t get much sleep either.

Maggie asleep on her cushion by my desk
Maggie asleep on her cushion by my desk

We still haven’t quite figured out what we are going to do with regards to Beepbeep and the other ducks. She very obviously likes to be with them during the day, even if Maggie prefers to stay by the cottage. Even now, the other ducks, including Beepbeep, have flown down to their pond in the lower garden and Maggie has opted to stay with me. (She is very verbal when she chooses to be left behind.She doesn’t like to be left outside for long on her own, so she calls me to bring her inside. ~ yes, I do recognise this particular call.) She has just had a shower (her preference over  a bath) and is now sleeping on her cushion by my chairs as I write this.

In the evenings, Beepbeep still doesn’t wish to go in with the other ducks, particularly if Maggie isn’t going to be there, probably to protect her. Last night Maggie wasn’t too bothered about where she stayed, so we tried putting Beepbeep and her in the lower half of the chicken coop, closing them off from the chickens. They are within sight and sound of the other ducks, but not actually in the same house. Maybe this is our solution, that is until Maggie starts laying her eggs.

You see, I recognise that Maggie wishing to spend more time by my side is part of her brooding cycle. She sees me as her protector, amongst other things, and is giving me ‘the signs’, but that’s a story for another blog. Let’s just say my favourite is her fluttering her eyelashes. So pretty soon, it will be all change again.

Addendum. I realise I have barely mentioned the chickens, so will simply say they have been well and happy throughout, though they miss the rabbits. When the rabbits were ill they would sit beside the fencing of rabbit world. Gertrude still rushes over when she sees me as inevitably I have lettuce for her and the other chickens. And we have permission to build a new chicken and duck enclosure complete with self-cleaning pond, which of course I will document once under way.

And last week we sterlised Gigi before she could get into more mischief. Her kittens are 7 weeks old and all are now reserved to new homes. They will be leaving us at the beginning of October. Probably just in time, as no doubt that is when Maggie will start sitting on her eggs.

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3 Comments

  1. Wonderful. You are very devoted to your feathered and furry family and it’s interesting to hear that the chickens comforted the rabbits. People really underestimate the empathy of chickens and ducks and we could learn a lot from their social behaviours. Thanks for a lovely post

    1. As someone who is rather later in life taking care of animals, it has proven a boon to the spirit. And I can’t believe how much I am learning from them. Thank you for your kind words. 🙂


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