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The Pied Piper

Aidan's 3 muscovy ducks have hatched an impressive 31 ducklings. They all chose to make nests in the haymow (2 actually shared the same spot). Now 10 days old, the ducklings spend their days around the barnyard and in the little mudhole/pond nearby.

Aidan decided to hand feed them so they will be tame. At first it was so cute to watch my Pied Piper. He'd come out of the barn with a bucket of grain, and the little fluffy balls would waddle over to nibble cracked corn and oats out of his hand. Wherever he went, they'd follow. It warmed my heart.

Then the cute behavior turned into a problem. The ducklings became indiscriminate about who they would follow. The possibility of a grain jackpot motivated them to go after anyone and everyone.

Now, I know they look tiny, soft, oh-so-cuddly and innocent, but, let me tell you, they aren't. And it's more than a little disconcerting to see 31 ducklings speed-waddling toward you! Before you can make a plan, they have you surrounded, and all you can hear are the clacks of their bills as they snap at your legs looking for food! Their tiny bites are suprisingly painful, and you don't know where to step because you can easily imagine stepping on one! While you feel that is a chance you may have to take, you also imagine the look on Aidan's face if you must tell him you squashed one of his precious ducklings. So you don't take the chance. Your bucolic workday on the farm has suddenly taken a surreal turn as you slowly and awkwardly shuffle your feet to escape into the house!

I may be exaggerating a little for the sake of this story, but the truth is, Aidan has created a problem with his good intentions. Yesterday as I finished loading crates in the van for harvesting, the ducklings descended. I scrambled away by jumping in, and they went under the van. I couldn't drive anywhere without hitting one, so I ran to their mothers by the barn. It worked; they followed perfectly. But I couldn't get back to the van without them!

Just when I was getting thoroughly frustrated, Aidan, hearing the commotion, came and distracted them so I could drive away.

So my Pied Piper is engaging in some on-the-farm problem solving. Does he want to continue the satisfying practice of hand feeding the ducklings? Even if it means he has to pen them to keep them safe? Or would he rather discontinue it so they have more freedom? I think he's also contemplating the wait-and-see method. Maybe the behavior will settle down on its own. Not a bad plan in some situations, but maybe not in the best interest of his family this time.

I guess I will take this opportunity to practice patience while Aidan decides how to proceed instead of jumping in and telling him what to do. I hope our ankles can take it!

Have a great week and watch out for hungry ducklings,


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