LIKE A DUCK TO WATER
1) The Runaway Duck 2) How NOT to Integrate New Birds to a Flock 3) GG Has a Police Record
GG was a couple of years old when she ended up in my driveway on a late August Sunday morning last year. She was in a large crate with other ducks, destined to be sent to slaughter.
She was cute; she had a gleam of determination in her eye.
GG is a white Muscovy hen with splashes of brown. I took her out of the cage and said “Okay, you can stay here a while”. The other 20 or so anonymous ducks went off to fulfill their destiny. The destiny of delicious. It is the unfortunate role of many a duck and a primary reason they are (possibly) more prolific than rabbits.
During the Sunday morning poultry transaction, the mean rooster Stew escaped. He ran off a couple houses down. We weren’t able to catch him.
Normally, when I bring a new bird home, I keep them confined in the far back section of the poultry run, fenced off, separated. I put GG in the confinement area with the duck hens, then let the chickens out to free range. GG checked out the new hen friends and flew over the 5 foot fencing. I gave up. A morning of chaos. I let the ducks out and hoped that the runaway rooster and the runaway duck would figure out their new home by dusk.
The rooster came round by early afternoon. Heck, there was a harem of young hens, lots of food, some interesting ramshackle abodes, and a pedestal to hop up on and crow. Guys are easy. I caught him and sent him back to his original farm. I had no need for a mean rooster named Stew.
GG spent the day wandering the yard, exploring the new terrain. By dusk she had disappeared. No sign of her. She didn’t follow the rest of the birds to roost. I hoped she had found a safe place to camp out and expected her to come back in the morning for food, or at least water. We were in severe drought and there was very little natural water available. I put out extra tubs and pools scattered around the front yard, hoping to lure her back.
No sign of GG in the morning.
The second day, I left work early to look around for her. I knocked on all the doors on my street. Most folks were fascinated at the concept of a lost duck. Especially the kids. The kids promised to look out for her. I had faith in eventually finding her. Kids are great at finding animals. Many offered to put out a water bucket for the duck in their yard.
The next day, a neighbor called. She had seen a large white duck in the field next to the trailer. She assumed it lived there as it was grazing on the lawn contentedly. I drove past the trailer on the way before and after work looking for her. No luck. At least I had hope. She wasn’t eaten by a coyote or owl yet.
Every day, I would drive around looking for GG. I had a few more calls of sightings. I concentrated on those areas. The next Sunday evening, I was driving up and down slowly the blocks where she had been seen. One house had a police car in the driveway taking a report. I felt awkward driving so slowly. Was I a suspicious person? I went home for a break and there was an email for me from K: “Just got a message that your duck has been spotted at the W’s”.
Whoa! I put a crate in the car and my 2 big nets. Time to go duck hunting. K, who sent the email was out of state. She has ducks and her next door neighbor who was duck sitting had received a call about a missing duck from yet another neighbor. K’s ducks were counted, none missing, K contacted me.
A series of texts, phone calls, emails between Vermont, Maine, and neighbors I had never met eventually resulted in the house number. An interstate duck hunt. It was dark now. I drove slowly up the street of the house but couldn’t see any numbers. It’s a busy street and cars were getting annoyed at me.
I had a hunch.
I pulled into the house where I had seen the police car a couple hours earlier. Yup. Correct place. A woman waved me a welcome from the front door. “Are you looking for a duck?” She told me she had filed a police report earlier for a missing duck. We laughed. It was when I had seen the patrol car in the driveway. She told me the officers had never responded to a duck call. They took the information, the duck’s photo, and posted her on the police department’s Facebook page.
I grabbed my nets and followed the woman out back. GG was calmly perched on the edge of the above ground swimming pool. I was able to go right up to her and pick her up. She was exhausted and hungry. She didn’t struggle at all. No need for nets.
The woman was relieved, I apologized profusely, we all ended up happy that GG made it home, the long way to her new home. She had crossed my street, wandered over 10 acres of cow pasture, then across one of the busiest roads in town, and found herself a swimming pool a mile away from my house.
The woman said “I knew she wasn’t just any duck. She’s very pretty and I’ve never seen one like her. I’ll call the PD and let them know the duck is reunited to her flock”