Have you ever heard a goat bleat? You might think that something awful were going on in the barn. The other morning, Linda asked if I were going out to feed the goats because they were making this horrid sound, “I know their just complaining about the food service around here, but when they cry like that I worry….”
I deferred heading out at 6 a.m. on a day off from work. I’ll have a cup of coffee first. I wanted to put together lunches for the next couple of days, and help start preparing peaches for canning.
An hour or so later, with my second cup of coffee finished, I headed out with a bucket of water and grain. Cats greeted me in the driveway. Goats blocked my entrance through the gate. Ducks ran about our feet intent on tripping me up.
Once I parted the herd and flock to head to the barn, I noticed one duck lying on its back in the barn door. It’s legs wiggled, while another duck walked over to peck at it.
I quickly surveyed the area. All of the other ducks were present. No pile of feathers were strewn about, as I would anticipate if a fox or raccoon had gotten into the barn. All of the other duck nest boxes were in place with piles of eggs.
Though I knew of the eventual end to this scene, I decided to get all of the other animals fed and out from under my feet before resolving this situation. Grain, hay, water. The goats ran inside to eat. The ducks waited for feed that I would toss outside for them to find in the grass. I noticed an occasional peck that other ducks gave the injured one.
Could this duck have ended up at the bottom of the pecking order? We see plenty of necks, backs, and wing feathers plucked when too many males end up in the flock or a hen steals another hen’s nest box. But, these have never been attacks enough to disable one in the flock.
The other evidence I considered was the location of the injured duck, right in front of the barn door. When one goat moves, the others come running. I have seen cats’ tails and ducks’ feet, not to mention my own boots, get stepped on without any awareness from the goats that they are stepping on anyone. My conclusion was that this duck was standing in the door when the goats bolted out, trampling it.
With everyone else content, I returned to check on the duck. It could not right itself, or keep itself upright even with help. Recovery was not likely.
Living in the country offers beautify landscapes, amusing critter watching, and the satisfaction of a bountiful table at the end of the day. But the pastoral setting sometimes leaves the farmer with the decision to get the gloves and the axe.