Saturday, 9 May 2009

Empty nest

I'm seriously down today. I've spent the last couple of months tending to my incubators, had a first decent hatch of ducklings, a second lousy one, tweaked my technique and humidity and had a good third hatch. Last night eighteen glorious ducklings from one to four days old were scuttling about under the heat lamp. I covered their run with weldmesh as always and went to bed.
After six weeks of early lamb-checking rises I have my first lie- in; not because The Last Ewe has lambed, but because she's been told to get on with it as best she might as sleep deprivation can drive you crazy.
There's a polite cough by the bedside. "Are you awake?" Grunt. "We've had a bit of a disaster". I'm wide awake now. "How many ducklings were in the stable?". Eighteen. "Oh. They've all gone".
There in the corner of the stable is a huge heap of fresh earth, the discarded material from a new rat run. The rats have had every single duckling. I want to curl into a sobbing heap. All that effort, mine and the duckling's. I feel sick.
I head to the office, turn on the computer and buy a metal cage brooder that will take 50 birds.
I take Fenn for a walk and there in the grass is an empty egg, clearly predated, not hatched. Sometimes I really hate nature.


mountainear said...

What a terrible waste indeed.

I'm sure the brooder will be money well spent.

Are the cats not ratting yet?

Mopsa said...

M'ear - the cats are excellent ratters (and shrewers and mousers), but where there's poultry we kid ourselves if we think there aren't rats. It's my fault, not the cats :(

garfer said...

I like a nice lightly boiled duck egg.

Have you got any spare?

Yorkshire Pudding said...

Aw! That's really sad but it's great that your first reaction is to do it better next time. However, I think some rat traps or rat poison is in order now. Here Roland! Come to mama!

Mopsa said...

Garfer - click on the photo of the farmhouse on the front page of the blog, go to the farm website and you can buy as many eggs as you can handle. Guaranteed rat free.

YP - rat traps are in regular use here as are the cats, but if I could find a way to eradicate them I'd be a very rich woman.

locksparkfarm said...

OH NO!Oh no, no, no...what a effing blinking waste.

Winchester whisperer said...

I know an expert rat shooter said...

Jack Russells are a fine response to predators, the phrase, "Like a terrier shaking a rat," comes to mind.
Here in Canada the J-R is a popular dog around livestock. Usually the livestock is much bigger than the dog; horses and cows being the beast of choice. I think I would worry if a J-R was in with a gaggle of scrambling, wee ducklings. The erratic dashing about of fluffy yellow peepers would look quite tempting to the cocked eye of an alert terrier. Perhaps a well conditioned Border Collie might be worth investigating, I've seen them herding ducks - they will herd almost anything, except cats.

We once had a rotweiller who, after being caught killing a gosling and verbally reprimanded - I roared at him so loud that he fell over backward trying to retreat - he became the most dedicated guardian of our diverse, free ranging, flocks. On walks along the lake shore, when he went "to point" on geese or loons, all I would say was, "Chick-enz." In a soft, slurring tone. He would promptly lose interest and dawdle along.

One of our chicken flocks, all laying hens, was completely wiped out by a raccoon. It tore through the chicken wire and ripped open every bird, eating only the heads. It was a grim morning, burying thirty fat, gentle hens in a deep pit away from the barn. Another early morning, after rebuilding the flock, I came out and found a youg fox in the henhouse. It had killed one and had been chewing on it. He flitted up the wire wall and perched on a beam, staring into my eyes in a state of shock. I called to my wife, "Victoria, bring me an axe, quick!" She passed me a hatchet and I prepared to swing at the fox. Then my arms dropped to my sides and I said, "We should let it go, it is so terrified." We stood back from the open door and the fox bolted down and flashed away into the woods. It never came back.

Life on a small farm is filled with dreams, nightmares, and emotional moments. Some things never seem to make sense, other things confirm your best feelings about nature. Too often it is all about building, rebuilding, and trying again to make things right. We've moved on and limit ourselves to big veggie beds, three horses, two cats and two pug dogs. But we were never trying to make a living off our land, just trying to seek answers to better foods. We buy eggs, lamb, pork and other supplies from neighbours who know more about it than we do. I make sausage, hams, bacon and other smoked meat using my own smoker and apple wood. We still buy milk at the store, but we get cheese from local artisans. It all comes together and the veggies that don't get eaten fresh or frozen for winter are shared with neighbours. Life is sweet. Good luck.

Mopsa said...

TWpride - yes, borrowing someone's JRs might be a good idea. Not sure what Mopsa and Fenn would have to say about getting a collie - far too rushing about for their laid back attitudes - but I have lots of friends with that's an idea too! We have to make a living off our land, so losses like this really hurt in all ways. Oh, and I can understand the reluctance to dispatch the fox, although a night of complete devastation suggests eye for an eye tactics. No qualms about rats though.