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.