Ode to the Ancona

On April 9th we, my husband, two sons, and I, went to Homestead Fair 2016 at the Benton County Fairgrounds in Corvallis, OR. We meant to buy a few chickens. Instead, we came home these four, 1 week old Ancona ducks.

photo 1

We called them our quack pack and set them up to live in our bedroom. Our four-year-old was real stoked.

photo 2

We were told they would take eight weeks or so to feather out and needed to be kept warm. We bought a heat lamp, food tray, refilling water tub, food, and shavings for bedding. We were real stoked.

The ducks quickly became too large for their reinforced cardboard box home, so we moved them to a larger space in our garage. They looked like this:

photo 3

Still without feathers.

Then they needed yet a bigger space, so my husband built this:

photo 4

The ducks were real stoked.

We moved the duck house around the yard every other day. They became a favorite with the many children in our neighborhood.

The ducks featherd out and looked like this:

IMG_0275

We discovered that we had one drake.

We felt like they needed more space during the day. So, my husband built a mesh-like fence next to our garden in the backyard.

One day later, our quack pack went from four to two. In a moment of sadness I wrote what is posted below. It is not too pretty and came out with a flurry of emotion. I’m putting it here anyway.

The two that remain stand still and quiet, as if holding a moment of silence for the two that are dead, the two laid to rest, given back to the Earth, deep in the soil next to the big tree.

She was soft, like the feather pillow upon which you want to rest your head. She was warm and still, her black eyes blinking slowly while her head hung low across my arm, her bill resting on the grass. I could feel her pulse as her heart beat quickly on my palm. Her breath, no longer labored while held tight against my chest, was shallow. Maybe she felt safe, in less pain, as I compressed her damaged chest, ripped into by his teeth, against my own.

There were four holes, two on either side of the base of her long and narrow neck. Her feathers wet with her own fresh, red blood.

If I put her down she did her best to join her siblings, the two that had not been held fiercely in his jaws and flung through the air. Another sister had gone quickly, but not without terror first.

Could she be healed? Was she in pain? How might I know her depth of suffering? What is ethical? What is humane? What is my responsibility? Questions without answers.

What is the life of an owner of livestock? That word was first written by mistake as “lovestock” – perhaps that could be accurate too? Caring for our paddling was an act of love. We read that waterfowl are peaceful creatures and should never be chased. It was told to us that we should speak in quiet voices while in their presence.

They are prey. Does this make us protectors? Bred and now flightless and slow. Slower than a dog.

The decision made, almost too terrible to whisper, sits uneasily in my mind. My heart heavy. My eyes wet. And two rest beneath the soil now, next to the big tree.


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