In a month we have lost two of our ducks.
Cocoa (the Khaki Campbell, at the back of the line) and Betty (the Cayuga, in front of Cocoa) both struggled over the past 7 1/2 years with their reproductive systems.
Cocoa was chased by a neighbor's errant dog when we first moved to the farm at about 18 months of age, and never laid a normal egg again. Occasionally she'd lay what we call a 'water balloon', but the trauma of being chased really unnerved her and her system just stopped functioning normally. For a breed that's known for high levels of egg laying, this was a shock. Ducks have a level of sensitivity like that I have been constantly in awe of, and our sweet little independent Cocoa (imagine the little kid in the corner of the field looking at a flower while the other kids are all playing a game) who once ruled the roost until Lucy came along, well she'd taken about all she could in this world. I gave her a last swim in their pool and she sat there, quiet, seeming to know it was about her time.
Betty, on the other hand, was our Mama duck, going broody easily and hissing at my husband when he'd discover her hiding in blackberry brambles back at the farm sitting on a clutch of eggs, or just a week ago inside a clump of tall Shasta Daisies, trying to lay more. However, when we downsized back to the city, Betty didn't adapt as well as the others. She ate more than the rest by far (and sorry folks it's just not possible to manage your ducks' portions), so we just made sure their feeder wasn't left out after they'd all eat so she couldn't sneak more in. She also had a habit of not figuring out how to follow the others down their ramp to the lower tier of the garden, and near the end, would try to fly - and then flop (as she was born in captivity and had trimmed wings) - off the edge of the carport to the rest of the garden, which I'm betting didn't help her in the end with any eggs waiting to be laid.
Both of our girls tried valiantly to lay (Cocoa was constantly going through the motions, with nothing coming out, Betty was just staring out into space, unable to lay down comfortably), but egg binding is a doozy, and without an avian vet in the area, all we could do was to try to make them comfortable. Betty got a cuddle with me and on her last day, I picked her up and set her in the pool, which she enjoyed immensely, but it was clear that evening she was preparing, as we both looked out our bedroom window (which views their house) and could see her, standing, weary, ready.
Euthanasia is difficult no matter how it happens...and just because you've butchered a hundred meat chickens doesn't make it easy. Nor should it. We've raised these girls since they were 2 days old and arrived in a little box at the post office back in Portland. They have names, personalities, unique features and behaviors. They were loved immensely.
Back at the farm, our very first duck we lost, Ethel, was euthanized 'out back' by our neighbor, who was kind enough to give us one of their Crested/Runner ducks (Lucy). So I didn't have to see that - I just carried Ethel up the hill to their house in my arms, and came back with Lucy. With Cocoa, we were in the city and decided to euthanize her ourselves (my husband and his cleaver, which we determined was MUCH more humane than attempting the neck thing which can terrify them if it's not done right). Betty, a month later, was discovered when my husband went to let them out in the morning - she'd crawled into one of their nesting boxes (no, ducks don't need them, they stole them from our chickens back on the farm and never gave 'em back) and died during the night. For both of them, we wrapped them in old t-shirts of mine and buried them in the yard about 18" deep, putting bricks and rocks over them to ensure other animals wouldn't discover them. While some websites will tell you to put them in a plastic bag in the trash, that was not where our girls belonged. They go back to nature, period.
Our dog Ruby looking after them in the garage as 2 week old ducklings; their first taste of freedom in the backyard at a month or so of age; and discovering the awesomeness of the rain barrel's overflow on a rainy day...
My husband and I shared memories of them, and talked about how they have been with us in all of our homes together, more than any of the dogs we've had. They've been our constant. I felt attuned with Cocoa because I had a broken reproductive system and was independent like her. I understood Betty's insecurities and issues with food (and her loud quacking!). And Ethel, our Blue Swedish, was our little 'bouncer', so unafraid of our first dog, Ruby, that she'd run at her and nip her just to keep her in line.
Blondie and Lucy, our two who are left, are dealing with the loss as best they can. They've been eating more than usual, are following me around a lot, and are sticking close to each other during the day. They know they've lost two of their sisters, and it's not easy. We always knew these days would come, but thinking about what to do when the next one goes? It's emotionally devastating to contemplate. Our plans were to ultimately get more ducklings, but not until after we did some traveling, and we aren't the kind to give the last one away, so we might just adopt an old chicken for company's sake if that happens. But right now, I can't even think about it. I miss my girls.
RIP, our three ducks who've passed over the years Betty, Cocoa and Ethel