Our ducks and chickens are old and as such, they lay very few eggs these days. The rare ones they do lay are very quickly collected, simply because being able to enjoy ultra fresh eggs in our house isn't an everyday occurrence anymore. So it was with great shock and surprise that one morning last weekend we went out to clean the barn and found a tiny just-several-hours-old baby duckling running under and between the legs of Wilma Marie, an extraordinarily gentle and maternal silkie chicken hen who has mothered every baby duck and chick we've hatched in the last four years.
So how on earth did this happen? And I don't mean the fact that based on the markings of the duckling and the color of the hatched egg shell that this is clearly the love child of Pibb, our tiny male gray call duck no bigger than a toy rubber duckie and our very large and buxom rouen Emily Claire. How did the boy manage this without a step ladder? But I digress...After much thought, we've deduced that this one little stray egg was well-buried within the depths of a nest by a very possessive duck hen as no one who collects the eggs saw it at any time. And since none of the barn residents have shown any evidence of being broody, the outrageously high temperatures we've endured over the last few weeks in an unusually lengthy summer heat wave probably helped to create just the right conditions for this baby to be hatched without an incubator or a hen setting on it. It was, however, born with an unusual birth defect to its bill and tongue, which may or may not be due to the unusual conditions of its incubation and birth, though not one of my many fowl textbooks describes this aberration.
After several stressful days of worrying that the duckling wouldn't be able to eat or drink, we've had our fears allayed by a baby that is doing what ducklings do: growing at an alarming rate. If it continues to thrive, we'll now be watching to see whether it's a little boy or a little girl. I am not much for the vent sexing of birds and with the little one's deformed bill, my one nearly surefire way to sex a bird is impossible this time around. Stay tuned to this spot for updates on the newest and most unexpected member of our flock.