The Heartbreak of Hard decisions
This post is more for me and my mental health than anyone else. Writing has been a wonderful outlet to express my emotions when I am passionate or upset about something. Today we had to put down one of our male ducks—Crook. This has been a long time coming, and we put it off for as long as possible to figure out the best possible way, but unfortunately, we could not find a positive resolution. Once our two male ducks reached sexual maturity, the boys have been obsessed with mating all day, every day. It got to the point that they tried to mate with the four hens that shared the same pen, and at that point, we immediately separated the boys from the four female ducks and four hens. We even built a small bachelor pad duck house for them, running chicken wire across the large coop run so they could still see their ladies, but the fence kept them in check.
This design worked well all winter up until now. After that, the female ducks were getting absolutely ridiculous by dirtying the hen’s water despite having their own pond to play in. We tried everything we could think of to keep the ducks out of the chicken water, but nothing worked. On top of that, we noticed the ducks consumed the vast majority of the feed while laying their eggs in the hardest-to-reach places.
Due to the high temperatures, we needed to ensure the hens had clean cold water continuously, so we moved the female ducks into the pen with the boys and greatly enlarged their orchard pen in hopes of giving the girls space to stay away from the sex-crazed boys. That did not work. Crook was incessantly bothering the girls all day. To the point that every 10-15 minutes, he was chasing one of the girls around trying to mate. This would not work for the health and safety of the flock. Sirius, the other male, didn’t bother them at all. He would stand around quacking but not try to mate as furiously as Crook would.
We reached out to a no-kill farm animal shelter a few counties away in hopes they would be able to adopt them, but they too were filled to compacity due to many other duck owners finding out that ducks were not for them. This makes perfect sense when you see the amount of cute ducklings Tractor Supply pumps out each spring. Those ducklings are the most adorable babies ever, but not many people are prepared for when they mature into sex-crazed boys attempting to mate with anything that moves. That, and the exponential cost of their feed, and you have a lot of owners unable to care for their birds. It breaks my heart knowing we will see a lot more of that in the future.
Likewise, we do not have the available funds to build another duck house for the boys. That would easily cost over $100 or more at this point. Then more fencing for a new pen, and we are looking at $200, and we still have them consuming food without producing anything other than frustration. So, we had to make a decision. After hearing Crook chasing one of the girls this afternoon and hearing her yelling, trying to get away, I went out, caught Crook, and put him down. I feel so heartbroken having to do that. This was my boy who I raised since birth, watched him grow up, and gave him the best life I could, and now I had to put him down. What a mess. It’s not his fault—his hormones caused him to want to mate constantly. He didn’t know any better, but I still had to act. There are four girls I am responsible for as well. Their health and safety are just as important as his. His behavior was not compatible with our situation.
The dichotomy of having to put down an animal you love when faced with dilemmas such as this is not fun. I am still tearing up thinking about him; the memories and loving him all make me feel the wound of heartbreak in my chest. It is the same feeling as when my dad passed away. The loss of something precious, never to be made whole again. I went back inside, hugged Chris, and we both cried. I dug a hole for Crook in a special spot called our remembrance garden. It’s a little hill near the house that has an autumn olive (CM's favorite tree) on top of it. This is where I want to make a garden for our nieces and nephews that our atrocious siblings aborted. We do not forget their memory and their unjust end. We put pavers over the burial site so foxes won’t dig him up and placed a lovely gladiolus flower on top. So sad. There was no way I was going to eat him; it would be like eating a person. He wasn’t a meal to be eaten and used; he was a beautiful creature I was responsible for and loved. Still, I had a hard decision to make and an even more arduous task to fulfill. Such is the fallen world we live in. That may be so, but it doesn’t lessen the sting, the hurt, and the sadness of doing it.
Once Crook was buried, I continued to listen for the ducks the rest of the day—silence. Not one of them was quacking, yelling, running, or being boisterous. I went over several times to ensure everything was okay, and they were all sitting in the grass, content as ever. Hardly a peep from them. This is highly unusual because the girls have always been super loud, making a ruckus even separated from the boys. I don’t know why, but the girls were calm and composed with Crook gone. Was Crook really causing them so much grief all this time? It would appear so. This doesn’t make his departure any less awful, but I'm confident I made the right, albeit difficult, decision. The girls and Sirius are calm now, which is a stark difference from what we are used to.
Hard choices are a part of life. So is losing something or someone you love. I know what I had to do after the other avenues were tried. I am trying to make this an encouraging end, but I do not have it in me to do that. So this is a post about losing a loved one and all the difficult choices that lead up to it.