Friday, August 28, 2009

Baby Ducks on the Move

Fuzzy and ever so cute – the baby ducks twitter as they spread out in the grass. Hard to believe they are insect assassins, snapping up every last bug in their paths. Forty of them, spread out at six-inch intervals, combing the grass, picking out every fly, grasshopper and beetle.

I come out to the barn and they twitter louder, excited because my appearance means they get their fill of grain. They follow me, little feet patting, twittering, into the barn. They avoid the hens, watch the cats warily. The cats affect dignity and ignore the stream of fluff.

I toss some grain to the hens, keeping them away while the ducklings come right to my feet. Brownit spars with the chickens until Sony the rooster comes to his harem's defense. I swat him with a bamboo cane to put him in his place. This is duckling time.

Brownie stole the hatchlings of two other females to get this huge brood. I wonder if the ducklings aren't imprinted more on each other. They move about in fits and starts, more like a school of fish than birds.

They're a restless, twittering stream of hungry brown and gold fluff; eating from my hand, shoving and scarfing as much grain as they can hold. I can trail my fingers over their backs; they're so absorbed in eating. Once full they plop in the dirt, little bodies top-heavy.

Forty hungry little ducklings make short work of a pound of grain. They stream over to the water, drink, twitter some more as if discussing the weather then patter outside. A couple who are left behind chirp the signal that says: "where are you?" Soon they are all back for another meal of grain.

The hens chase the ducklings off eventually. The duckling flow outside, to nap in the grass. The rooster Sony, sulking from the swat, calls his hens back to the manure pile they are diligently turning into compost.

He's still king of the compost heap.

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