Yesterday started out in the worst way possible. Death is never very far away when you’re raising livestock.
Poor little duckie. A female, too. Every time a predator kills, it provokes feelings of grief, impotent rage and violation. Guilt over not having protected those who depend on me and frustration and – most of all – despairing exhaustion at the constant fight against Nature.
Not wanting to test the strength of my coop repairs with the lives of my remaining birds, I moved all three duckies into the much more secure duck house with the two older ducks. You’d think any situation would be better than being eaten by a fox… but it’s straight up duck thunderdome in there. Today I caught the older male sort of brutally mounting the younger male – I’m hoping it was just a show of domination and not, you know, a would-be rape. I put a firm stop to it but I can’t monitor them all night. I hope I don’t come out to an injured (or worse) little duck in the morning.
Each time something like this happens, it makes me wish I had different passions. Raising livestock is hard. You can try as hard as you possibly can, but nature and its predators will find the one tiny mistake that you didn’t see, and things die because you made that mistake. Even just growing things is hard, when you have setbacks coming at you in the form of weather, animals, fungus, insects… It wasn’t the first time I thought about just giving up. It probably won’t be the last.
And yet there are other moments, too, on the other end of the spectrum. Moments that redeem my life choices; that set my soul to rights again.
I shouldn’t have worried about the two broody hens and the disparity between then length of their brood cycles. When I peeked in the coop, I was full of trepidation that I’d be encountering at least a few dead baby chicks. A very real fear – usually broody mamas are separated because of this possibility.
But instead they are, miraculously, sharing mothering duties. The black hen abandoned her clutch of duck eggs (aw, oh well). I found her hovering over next to the gold hen, little fuzzy heads peeking out from under both of them and even toddling back and forth. This is very, very rare; usually mama hens are belligerent little dragons, attacking anything that so much as looks at their chicks. (Including roosters three times their size. And humans who soon learn to wear galoshes when entering the coop, to protect their ankles.)
But here are these seven little chickies, happily meandering back and forth between two contentedly purring mamas. And the two hens have chosen a hidden corner of the coop to sit in together every night, snuggled up with their shared chickies. It’s beautiful.
And chicks are funny.
And sometimes it’s worth it.