1. maybe they've escaped and gotten lost
2. maybe they've escaped and been eaten by a fox/wedge-tailed eagle
3. maybe they've eloped together
Obviously the first 2 options are not so pleasant, but we know we're going to encounter losses of these kinds at some point or another, so we kind of resigned ourselves to the fact that our white ladies may well be gone for good.
About 24 hours after first deciding the girls were 'missing', we spotted them, having a peck and scratch around the orchard, like they'd never been gone.
This pattern continued. At certain times of the day, they were nowhere to be seen. When I put the chooks to bed at night, the white bantam was not with her flock, and the white duck was nowhere to be found either. But then, at other times, we'd catch a glimpse of them, and figure they were 'back'. What on earth were these girls up to!?
At some point, it occurred to me that these ladies might be sitting on clutches of eggs somewhere, so we decided that next time we saw either of them, we'd follow her to try to find out what the heck was going on, private detective style.
Yesterday, while I was scything the orchard, I spotted the white lady duck hanging out at the dam with her buddies. I kept scything, so she didn't get suspicious, but watched her closely as she finished up her bath, then promptly slinked under the fence (mental note: spillway makes fence slink-able) and dashed off into the extremely long kangaroo grass we are lucky enough to have a massive swathe of, right next to the orchard. A-ha! When I followed her into the grass, I found her sitting, very protectively, on a beautiful grass nest - complete with feathers.
|Lady duck, not actually 'missing'|
And boy was she pissed I'd found her. She was hissing and getting her shackles up (who knew ducks put their shackles up!!??) and carrying on, so I left her well alone, without even attempting to find out how many eggs she was on.
I felt elated and excited for her, and excited for us, too - baby ducklings! And, perhaps even more excitingly, BBQ duck!
This gave me confidence that the missing chicken was also sitting on eggs, but no-one had seen her for a few days so we weren't too sure.
This morning when Oski and I went for a little morning walk, we spotted something white in the grass, which I initially thought as some wind-blown paper. That was until I remembered the missing white chook. And lo and behold, it was she!
|Lady chook. Not 'missing' either|
Also in a lovely grass nest, but significantly less aggro than the duck. I looked under her and found she was sitting on around 10 little bantam eggs. Go girl!
So it seems that, in 2-3 weeks' time or so (ducks and chooks both incubate for 28 days, they've both been 'missing' for 1-2 weeks), we'll be upping the cute-fluffball-baby-poultry ante here on our little farm, and we're pretty excited, not least of all because it means we'll (hopefully) have our first taste of home-grown meat!
|Escapee baby-flares. They quite like a cuddle.|
You see, even though we've all become quite fond of our ever-expanding poultry flock (especially the baby bantams, or 'flares', who roam around our house - literally! - eating watermelon and generally cleaning up after the kids) we are pretty mindful of what they're here for.
|Flares dig leftover watermelon|
|I don't know how he (?) got up there, but he sure wasn't keen on coming down...|
And I think we're all OK with that, though I promise to write a full and very accurate account of our feelings when, in maybe a week's time, we knock off our first rooster in order to make a dish called Arroz con Pollo. At this point I can definitely assure you that my excitement about the dish far outweighs any anxiety I have about the kill. I know it's right. I know it's the way things should be. I know it's how we want to live - connected to our food and where it comes from. I know the rooster's had a pretty awesome life (even if you count his time in the back of a Prius being transported to Bega-town). And I know he probably won't know what hit him. And I also know that when we sit down to dinner that night (my mouth is watering..) we'll feel grateful to him and we'll appreciate that, while it is a delicious chicken dish we're tucking into, someone died for it. Which is something that a supermarket chook makes a bit easy to forget.
|Daddy-flares at dusk (so named because of the flare-like feathers on the feet)|
* duck/chook nesting photos courtesy of Olive who, upon discovering the duck's nest and realising the potential for baby ducks exclaimed "oh yay! Now we'll have some spare ducks we can eat!". Glad we've got that straight...