chickens · Ducks · Farming · Humor · Nature · Neighbors · Relationships

Ugly Ducklings

We all know not to count our chickens before they hatch.

A neighbor visited and chatted with my husband about wanting to incubate a batch of ducklings. She’d found a brand new incubator at an estate sale but didn’t know how to use it and was leaving for an extended period of time. They discussed the timeline and agreed to do it. I’ll call her Gabby because I inevitably find myself backing out of a room once she starts talking. It’s all pleasant chitchat, I just get the distinct sense that not only is my input is not required in these “conversations”, but worse, that she might NEVER stop talking.

My work day was interrupted later in the week by Garrulous Gabby dropped in carrying 16 fertilized eggs. They were carefully wrapped in a worn yellow towel, a situation so precarious she was literally biting her tongue and staring at the eggs. Her head was leaning so far forward as she walked that I was afraid she would break into a trot or fall on her face on the eggs. As soon as I took them from her she exhaled deeply and immediately took up a line of thought I didn’t follow, sucking up all the air in the room. She made endless trips to her car for the incubator and its various parts, talking the whole time, while I impertinently prepared a spot for the 2 foot square contraption in my dining room.

I am a reluctant farmer’s wife so gall rises within me whenever I enter these situations. How do I get reined into them? “Isn’t it wonderful?” The farmer cajoles over-enthusiastically.

“No!” I say. I am the one that ends up with stinky chicks in my closet for  weeks on end. I am the one that ends up shaving years off my life scaling fences while running away from mad-cow infested beasts. I am the one that has to listen to interminable conversations about ducks despite my attempts to stay out of his dealings with her. “It is not wonderful!”

She checked in frequently while she was away, yakkity voicemails to boot, “I can’t find your husband’s number… I know there are 21 more days to go. Ducks incubate a week longer than chickens, you know…. We are having a great time. I just don’t want you to feel like I abandoned my project on you.”

With a week left, the farmer starts preparation for the arrival of the ducklings. Humidity in the incubator must be adjusted. Temperature too. He’s starting to get excited. I’m staying out of it. I’d just like the space in my dining room back from its barn status.

We wake up in the morning to very loud peeping. No critters in the incubator but boy those eggs are rocking back and forth. That can’t be right. He looks at his calendar again. Hmm. Sure enough they start hatching and we are all befuddled. Not only are they very early, but there are no bills, and no webbed feet. They are all chicks!

It makes for great laughs with everyone that’s come through, curious about the operation. Gabby hasn’t checked in and I’m not about to initiate contact. This is going to be good.

A few hatch and the farmer brings in a massive cage with feeders, waterers, poop catchers, warming lights, receiving blankets, the works. I might as well set the dining chairs on the table and move it into the kitchen. The nesting boxes and barn doors can go right here.

Some eggs haven’t hatched and we leave them in the incubator. Maybe it was a mixed batch and the ducklings will hatch in a few days. By the next Saturday, I’m tired of dust and ridiculously loud cheeping. I declare the rest of the eggs are duds. I text her, unable to contain the surprise any more, “Your ducks are ready for you to come pick up.”

“What?!” She screams, calling back immediately. I put her on speakerphone. This is going to be really good. “That is terrible. They are not supposed to be ducks! I thought they were chickens!”

All six people in the room fall over laughing. We’d all heard, repeatedly, that they were duck eggs. The farmers wife shakes her head in dismay.

Don’t predestine your ducklings before they hatch.

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