The Anna Maria Plan

Day 343 of 365

It has been 10 days since Anna Maria was injured and had to be removed from her flock. Because she is so fragile, Ron and I have been back and forth about what to do about her.

For 6 days, she was in the house full time. I hung out with her every day for hours, playing music for her. It was fascinating to see not only what she responded to but also how she responded. I learned in the last 10 days that Anna Maria has a nervous “tic” of sorts. I am happy to report that, over time, I saw less and less of it, but music helped the most. When she liked something, the tic was gone. In addition to cello music (Bach is a favorite for sure), there were some country music songs she liked. She did not approve of Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark or Don Henley’s Boys of Summer. She did very much like Maria by Brooks and Dunn. I played it for her because of her name because, a couple of years ago, she learned her name.

Not all of our chickens and ducks learn their names, but some definitely do–like Mary Jane and Rooster. I try to say everyone’s names when I say hello to them in order to see if they eventually learn their names, but I do not spend a ton of time with the chickens and ducks each day (mostly just food and water and treats and egg collecting). I guess the exception is Ruby because, she’s always everywhere. I assume it would take a lot of interaction for the chickens and ducks to quickly learn their names, so it usually takes awhile for anybody to learn.

Still, there is another characteristic of a chicken or a duck who learns their name: It’s that they are curious enough to pay attention to me. For some, I am food, water, and security, but some are pretty curious about me. The fact that Anna Maria learned her name makes me think she has maybe been paying a lot more attention to me than I had thought over the years.

Anyway, I am getting way off track, but maybe it’s important to share those details to see how much I have come to adore Anna Maria extra over the past week and a half.

Ron put some extra fencing around a fenced area at the back of our property, so Anna Maria could go outside during the day. Four days ago, we started taking her outside in the mornings. She is fenced from the rest of the flock but can at least be outside during the day. She seemed so very happy to get back outside. She loves digging her bill into the dirt and hunting around the fence edge for insects. Anna Maria’s joy at being outside made it clear she would not he happy being an inside duck.

So we thought about trying to buy a single female duck to be her companion. Ron would have to build a small duck house for them, and it would mean an additional job in the winter having to shovel snow out of a third area. Ron and I both feel stretched fairly thin most days. We talked and talked, trying to figure out if we could handle more work. Plus, runner ducks live long lives if all goes well. Apparently, they can live 10 to 15 years. Getting a young duck would mean starting that clock over, and while we plan to keep chickens into our old age, the ducks are harder work.

Then, we talked about finding a home for Antonio, which led us to realize that would never happen. People just don’t want an older male duck. Plus, he’s definitely been more aggressive with his mating in the last 2 years. You can’t really give away a duck that might lead to problems for other people. We wondered if we should consider culling him because of his aggression, but we have a hope that this will settle down. He’s getting old enough that his hormones should start to slow a little. We’ll see, but we decided we can’t really choose Anna Maria over Antonio. We just can’t. We love them both, though Anna Maria is definitely the favorite for both of us.

It seems there are no simple solutions, but I think I have an idea that can work. Ron is on board to try, so we are going to try in the morning. The Anna Maria plan is to put Antonio in the smaller fenced area tomorrow and let Anna Maria be with the girls for a few hours. Then, we can let Antonio out and see how he does. We will have to watch closely the whole time. If all goes well, we can try to let them all stay together during the day, but we have decided that, to be safe, for the rest of her life (well, at least as long as Antonio is around), Anna Maria is going to sleep in the house. I think Antonio might get a little aggressive in the duck house.

The first day Anna Maria was in the house with us, I saw her making her nervous tic in the bathtub. She was in the corner and she would move her bill back and forth, over and over and over a million times, each time tapping one side of the bathtub and then the other. It was a constant “thump, thump, thump, thump.” I realized then where I had heard that sound before. There have been times at night when I have been outside near the duck house, and I heard this “thump, thump, thump, thump.” I wondered what in the world this could be. I realized this must have been Anna Maria, and I am heartbroken. That poor girl is nervous out there too–at least at night.

But Anna Maria has good days the flock, so we are going to try her out and see how she does. The plan is to put Antonio up any time he is aggressive and for a few weeks at the first of spring and first of fall, when his hormones really seem to get him wound up. Then, of course, we will bring Anna Maria into the house at night. Hopefully, this will work. Hopefully, Anna Maria is okay. She hasn’t laid an egg in 4 days. It’s a little bit of a concern.

Hopefully, all goes well tomorrow.

4 thoughts on “The Anna Maria Plan

  1. Oh, Anna Maria and her nervous tic is just heart wrenching. What a lucky duck –that phrase fits so well here!– that she has humans who care so deeply!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right? Having her in the house has given me a chance to see more of who she is. That poor girl has a lot of anxiety, but I feel glad to have learned enough now to help her avoid situations that cause her too much anxiety. And I am so happy to report that today was a good day. Day 1 of the Anna Maria Plan was a success!


  2. Great
    What a heartwarming story of dedication and care for their animals. I hope that the new plan works out for Anna Maria and she can continue to live a happy life with her flock.
    Eamon O’Keeffe
    Live Free Offgrid

    Liked by 1 person

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