Coming to grief

To truly appreciate happiness you have to feel sadness. And it sounds strange to think, let alone say, but grief is to be appreciated for it makes you realise how dear the person, or pet, was to you.

Yesterday our little Pecan and Pumpkin disappeared. No sign of a struggle, no sign of a feather, simply no sign.

There were two possibilities. They were spooked and flew and ended up some place they weren’t familiar with. It has happened before, with other ducks. This was the hopeful scenario.


No amount of calling and searching elicited a response. And they were not one to keep their quacks to themselves when they saw me or heard my voice. And with two of them, it would have been even more likely they would have responded, if they could.


The other ducks told me something sinister had happened. Maggie came to find me, entourage in tow. But instead of wanting to play or come in the house, she turned and had me follow her to the garden.

Normally when I go to the garden I am greeted by a chorus of quacking hello’s. This time it was ominous silence. Until I went in to the duck enclosure. Then Pi ‘told’ me something awful had happened. She ran up to me when she saw me, quacking like mad, and simply wouldn’t stop.

Pi is the runt, who lives in her own world, and is barely tolerated by the adult ducks. But her sisters, Pecan and Pumpkin, loved her and looked out for her. Now she very obviously felt very alone. I scooped her up and where as she is not normally a cuddler, she tucked her beak in my neck and quieted. That was when I truly knew.

Ducks grieve too. Especially if they see what happens, or are particularly attached to a mate and that mate disappears. They call out, repetitively, in hopes of an answering cry, like Pi has been doing today. Or, when our Sunny was taken by a fox, Sir Studly would search her nest each day, in hopes she had returned.

It’s in times of these tears that I find myself questioning having prey as pets. Predators, like cats and dogs, are of course not immune from death, but they do tend to live longer overall. And although ducks can live up to 12 years, it is not so common an occurrence, particularly in the wild, as they face being prey from any number of sources, directions, and at all times of the day and night.

Grief is a part of life when you let ducks into it. And it never gets easier.

Maggie is sitting beside me as I write this. I don’t have the strength of mind to leave her outside, even in the enclosure today. She sits very contently on her pink blanket, George below, trying to cheer me with her little peeps.

It may sound like a contradiction, that one can almost enjoy grief. Not because it hurts, makes you cry or leaves your stomach feeling sick. Rather because by grieving we recognise the depth of our feelings for those we have loved.

Rest in Peace Pecan and Pumpkin

Addendum: I thought about not writing today. But I do get asked a lot, am I always so happy? The answer is, actually, yes. Except when sadness calls. It’s days like these that truly make me treasure moments of happiness.



  1. So sorry for such sad news. We know how close you are to your little family and to what a degree each one is like a child – difficult for me not to see our own animals as such. Was the door still open or how was a predator able to get in?

    1. Author

      Hello Barbara, very kind of you to say.
      We have always given the ducks some modicum of freedom. Closing them in at night, allowing them free range during the day. But now my head will rule my heart. They are on lock down, enclosed unless we are with them. (And I am hearing a lot of complaining from Maggie.)

      Keeping them closed in their enclosure does not guarantee them safety sadly, as we have found to Sunny’s cost. A fox broke through our stone wall to get to her this past spring. But it and their whole enclosure has been strengthened since then and during the day at least it will deter predators. At night they will still head to into their bedroom in the barn as it is behind two solid doors.

      We can but try to give them happiness, whilst also trying to keep them safe.

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