There have been some injuries and some losses this year in the various flocks of ducks, geese and chickens. A Welsh Harlequin drake was killed by a loose gate in a windstorm, Frankie escaped through a partially latched garden gate and killed a Welsummer pullet, a raccoon took a young Saxony duckling, and a gosling developed a severe illness which was likely the result of eating something poisonous. The gosling was out in the isolation ward for a few days and is now almost fully recovered and back with the flock. The last twenty-four hours has been particularly devastating. When I opened the duck house where the Welsh Harlequins, Khaki Campbells and four Welsummer pullets hang out at night, only six ducks and the drake came out and they did not look good. I found the missing duck behind a nesting box with her neck completely mauled. One other duck had some neck wounds, but survived. This was clearly a weasel attack. I spent the rest of the day securing any tiny entry points I could find. I decided to use expanding spray foam to fill in a few gaps. I didn’t have my glasses, wasn’t wearing gloves and was in a rush. I thought I had the nozzle in correctly and it seemed to work for a bit and then the nozzle detached itself and the spray foam went all over my hands. I grabbed some paper towel to wipe my hands, whereupon the paper towel promptly adhered to my skin. I plunged my hands into varsol repeatedly, then ran indoors and tried nail polish remover and cotton wool. Both hands were now covered in a kind of crusty shell of nasty chemicals. I had to go and get my hair cut and after I explained what happened, she very kindly spent half an hour painstakingly filing the shell off with a pedicure file.
When I locked the birds up for the night, I had a few misgivings about the duck house, as weasels will always return when they have found an easy food source. I was babysitting my grandson, Owen, and when Natalie and EJ came home, wee could hear the ducks making a noise. I ran down to look with a flashlight and it was mayhem. The weasel had a duck by the throat in a straw bale and the ducks were in a wild panic. I yelled for help and EJ came running. The weasel escaped and we surveyed the damage. Six ducks with neck injuries, some bad. All of them bloodied. It was heartbreaking. Weasels don’t kill right away. They bite the neck and drink the blood. The movement of the ducks triggers the prey drive and they go on a hunting frenzy. I got the Gator and a couple of dog crates, and as EJ caught the poor things one at a time, I wrapped them in a towel and cleaned the wounds before putting them in the dog crate. Natalie and EJ were calm and methodical, which helped me to hold back the tears. The pullets were unharmed. The pullets spent the night in the garage and the ducks spent the night in the back of my truck.
Today I worked with a friend to attempt to create a mini Fort Knox. She found the entry point with some telltale fur and we spent hours trying to seal every gap. EJ constructed a weasel trap after researching weasel traps on the Internet. The trap is baited with a piece of bloody liver and a dead mouse. The ducks were reluctant to go inside the house tonight, and I have been checking on it every ten minutes. We will see what tomorrow brings.
The responsibility for keeping these birds safe is mine. Through domestication they have lost any survival skills. They give eggs, manure and bug control, and my part of the contract is to keep them safe.