Writers have favourite muses. These change as one passes through various stages of life. My farm companions have become my muses at this juncture in time. Brenda, the little duck who thinks she is a chicken has captured my imagination. Here she is with her “mother” Casperella. Brenda is much bigger than her mother, but still she tries to crawl under Casperella, as a baby would do. She topples her mother over and in the end they just snuggle. It is adorable.
I felt certain her story would make a good children’s book. I started it, but searched for an ending. And then, ah, she had seven little babies and I was mesmerized by how Brenda would manage being a chicken hatching baby ducks.
It was a fascinating, sometimes heart breaking living event to observe.
Through the documentation of her actions and the actions of her babies, the book came to life.
In this version, Brenda is not telling the story. Her baby is. I hope you enjoy it; I hope, too, you come to recognize the complexity of a duck’s emotional life.
MY MOTHER THINKS SHE IS A CHICKEN
My name is Guinevere. Lady named me after the famous queen from King Arthur’s Court. I like my name, but I don’t feel like a queen. And I don’t want to be famous.
I am quite shy. I don’t like a lot of attention.
I have good reason to hide.
When I was born, my mother almost killed me.
As an egg, I had been lying under her body for a very long time.
My mother had kept me warm and finally, I was ready to come into the world.
I pecked my way out of my shell.
I wriggled and worked until I was free.
I looked up into my mother’s eyes and smiled.
She looked at my tiny webbed feet, my flat little bill.
I tried to make my way to nestle under her feathers.
She picked me up and threw me away.
What was wrong?
I tried to crawl back to my mother to the safety of her soft warm body.
She picked me up by my tiny neck and threw me again.
I didn’t know what to do. I stayed very still. I wanted to hide.
I began to cry.
A big hand came into the cage and lifted me away.
The hand belonged to Lady.
I was still wet. I was cold. I wanted my mother.
Lady brought me into her big house.
She wrapped me in a towel she had warmed in a big machine.
She fed me bits of boiled egg yolk. And slices of watermelon.
I wasn’t really hungry. I was so so tired.
I crawled up into the space between her shoulder and her cheek.
I fell asleep. Lady fell asleep too.
We slept like that all night.
When the sound of a rooster crowing woke us up, Lady put me in a cage.
It was a big parrot bird cage located in her spare room. There was no parrot in the cage. It had been empty until she put me into it.
She walked away.
I cried and cried.
Lady opened the door of the parrot cage.
I ran out.
I followed Lady everywhere.
For four days, we lived together, me following Lady everywhere and sleeping in her big bed.
While I was living with Lady, three more babies were born.
My mother seemed to be okay with them. She didn’t throw them away.
I guess she was getting used to what her babies looked like.
Lady went out to the crate where the new babies and my mom were living.
She picked up my little brother, whom she later named Lancelot, and brought him into the house.
She put us together in my parrot cage.
I told my brother that Lady would take us out and would let us sleep in her big bed.
I don’t think he believed me. But it didn’t matter. I was so happy to have my brother with me.
It was love at first sight. We cuddled together under the heat lamp Lady had put on our cage.
Two days later, Lady picked us up.
“I told you,” I told my brother.
He just smiled.
I was shocked. Lady did not take us to her big bed.
No. She brought both of us back to Mother.
Yikes! What if Mother tried to kill me again.
Lancelot told me not to be scared.
Lady stood near Mother’s nest and watched carefully.
Lo and behold, Mother accepted us both as her children.
We crawled under Mother’s belly and fell fast asleep.
As a rule, baby ducks are very brave Lancelot told me I was an exception. When ducks are very young, they like to leave the duck house and follow their mother out into the big scary world.
But our mother was not taking us out. She was not letting us go out at all.
When Lady left the cage door open and we began to make our way out into the duck house, Mother would scold us and push us back with her bill. Not hard, to throw us, the way she threw me that day. Soft, gentle, but very insistent.
She did not want us to leave her side. She made us stay inside.
She was acting a lot like Godiva, the brown hen who had her own chicks in the chicken coup attached to the duck house. Godiva kept her babies all tucked under her body. They didn’t seem to mind. They never tried to leave the chicken coup.
But ducks are different from baby chicks. Ducks are big and strong. Even five day old ducks. Chicks are small, little balls of fluff. It takes them much longer to go out into the world.
Our world is a beautiful garden. Behind the garden is a huge field where Lady’s horses and llamas guard us from strangers, and especially from coyotes.
It is a perfect place for us to live.
There are lots of places to hide. Lots of places to play.
My brothers and sisters wanted to go out and explore the garden.
I thought I might like it, too, if Mother would come with us.
One day Mother left the duc