We decided to become parents.
Macrina and Petra, the ruling hens of our duck family, got broody last summer. We took the eggs for the breakfast table and other culinary purposes, and eventually the mama wannabes got over their broodiness. But this year we thought it would be good to let both of them keep a clutch and raise some young if they were of a mind.
So their most recent lay was left in the nesting boxes, and sure enough, when there were a total of about 40 eggs between the two, they went into Major Brood Mode.
This is a fascinating thing. Something shifts in mama duck’s brain, and she no longer explodes out of the duck house in the morning, eager for food, water and the adventures of the day. Instead she hunkers down on a nest feathered with the undercoat of her own breast feathers and loaded with about twenty eggs.
The strange brain thing shows in her eyes — a glassy, detached stare that tells you that it will take major intervention to get her off that nest.
We don’t even try.
Macrina and Petra come out once or twice a day on their own for about twenty minutes, taking a bath, getting a sip of water and a bite to eat. Then it’s back to the nest and that long-distance, dead-eyed stare.
While the two moms stare at the Duckingham Palace walls, the other ducks have to adjust to the new arrangement: Basil is confused, Henrietta doesn’t care, and Clementine is getting the worst of Basil’s attention. I think everyone will be glad with the 20-35 day brood comes to an end.
Of course, then we’ll have ducklettes to contend with, and we haven’t a clue what that will mean. Oh, we’ve read the books and talked to a few duck-oriented friends, but we’ve learned that such help is only so helpful.
In the first place, not all forty eggs will be viable (at least we certainly hope not). Though Muscovy hens lay about twenty to twenty-five eggs per clutch, only the newest eight or so will make it to ducklinghood.
Then it’s anyone’s guess what will happen. Raccoons, fox, owls and hawks lurk hungrily at woodland’s edge, to say nothing of the occasional eagle, or Simon’s lethal intentions where little furry creatures are concerned. And it’s possible that none of the eggs will be viable, and soon we’ll all go back to duck business as usual.
We haven’t long to wait. By my calculations, Macrina will have completed thirty-five days of The Great Brooding Sit on Tuesday.
We’ll keep you posted.