VIOLA - Pema, a darling duckling, would need human help in order to survive. She was only a day old, with no mother in sight, and none of her siblings had hatched. As soon as I heard about her in a Facebook message, I offered to help.
To my surprise, she was delivered to me with a friend, whom I named Sushi. Setting them up on a cushion of wood chips under a red heat lamp in my Duckhall was a treat. I had named the Duckhall for what I believed happened in it after lights-out: a well-attended all-feather dance party. But ever since the 2019 massacre of my precious geese and ducks, it had stood barren. Not anymore!
Once I got them settled, I placed a chair in the Duckhall so I could watch the sweeties and let the dogs take a peek at our newest family members. Even mischief-maker Salvador, the black-and-white kitty, came to say hello under my supervision.
Hardly able to tear myself away for more pressing matters, like real work, I’d go check on them a few times every hour. My last visit was to wish them a good night at 10:30 p.m.
At first light, I skipped down to the Duckhall. I could barely make out the glow of the heat lamp with the sun beaming on the horizon. To my dismay, I found Sushi curled up next to Pema’s lifeless body. Sushi started squawking the minute she saw me. Poor Pema—her life wasn’t even two days long.
I made sure Sushi was drinking by gently guiding her beak into the water dish. Then I decided to leave Pema in with her until I could arrange to get Sushi situated inside my house, not wanting to leave her in the huge Duckhall alone.
When Dane came over, we got busy bringing up an old wooden crib and placing a tub with fresh chips inside. Dane hung a heat lamp above the tub, and now Sushi was safe and sound inside my mudroom, where she would have lots of company.
Soon Ruben jumped up on the bench next to Sushi’s crib and hung his head over the edge while Sushi’s tiny quacks accelerated in volume and speed. When I checked back later, Ruben was sound asleep, as was Sushi. To keep Sushi company when Ruben or I couldn’t be there for her, we put in one of the dogs’ many stuffed animals.
Our new job is keeping Sushi not just alive, but happy. Not easy when there are three more weeks until the rest of my flock will arrive from McMurray’s Hatchery. Although I placed my order in March, there’s a longer-than-normal wait with the recent trend in people wanting fowl to go along with their gardens.
Now that Sushi has her down feathers, her day starts in the bathtub where I place her each morning, letting the water drip gently from the faucet. Ruben keeps a keen eye on her and has even had to be pulled back, because there’s nothing he’d like more than to join Sushi in her bath-time fun. After her bath, Sushi has quiet time in her pen under the warmth of her heat lamp. When I peek in to check on her, often Salvador or one of the other cats will be lying on the bench next to her crib.
Afternoons, she spends pecking at my keyboard alongside me and causing general mayhem in my office before nap time. At bedtime, Sushi is allowed to hang out with me again on the kitchen counter as I clean up after dinner. We almost make a dance of it: Wash a dish, grab the duck out of the drying rack; wash and rinse another dish and grab the duck before she waddles off the counter; wash two more dishes and make a fast catch before Sushi lands in the hot soapy water.
It can be exhausting, when there is only one duckling to save.
It's a shame the two-ducklings-for-one didn't work out. My life would have been much easier and Sushi's richer. With the warmer weather, Sushi now has play time in the Duckhall’s outdoor pen, but oh, does she protest being out there alone, even with the other dogs, Finnegan and Téte, poking their nose through the chicken wire to say hello. My heart breaks for her as I count down the days until the new flock comes home to live with her.I’ll bet my bottom dollar she’ll be the boss of them all, even the goslings. She’s already the boss of me.