Anna Maria was waiting for us.

Day 345 of 365

It has been a long day, but I have good news: Day 1 of the Anna Maria plan was a success! This morning, I put Antonio in the fenced area and let Anna Maria stay with the other females. They weren’t like super excited to see Anna Maria, but they gave her no trouble. And a few did get close to her sometimes.

Still, Anna Maria was largely alone for most of the morning, and since Antonio was behaving very well in the fenced area, I decided to let him out in the late afternoon. I just stayed with the ducks for a long time to make sure everything was okay.

Everything was really okay! Antonio had forgotten about Anna Maria and really just wanted to roam the duck area again. My plan worked! I do think his hormones may have settled down a bit too, so that was another reason I decided to take a chance.

Anna Maria was safe all day. I was so thankful. Sadly, however, she was also still alone most of the day. She has never fully fit in with the flock, but it seems to be a little worse this year–not just since the incident but really all year. I don’t know if it is because she’s mostly blind or if something else is going on.

But I checked on her and talked to her about a thousand times today. She definitely never runs from me now, which is so cool. The coolest thing happened tonight though. When it was about bedtime for ducks, Ron and I went outside to get Anna Maria, and we found her waiting by the gate where she has been every night since we moved her outside. The rest of the ducks were at the back door. Anna Maria used to wait at the back door. Tonight, she was waiting where we have been scooping her up at night. It was like she was ready to come in!

It was easy to scoop her up. She didn’t run from us at all. Ron showed me the way she likes to be held, so I turned her to situate her on my chest with her head looking over my shoulder. I still didn’t get it just right, but I let her situate herself how she wanted. Once she had her chest against my chest, she seemed to just calm down. I could feel her heartbeat in my chest, and it was not beating super quickly, which I figured was a really good sign that she wasn’t panicking about being held.

I also realized that she could feel my heartbeat. I told Ron that I have had sick chickens and baby chicks also situate themselves on my chest, right over my heart, like the heartbeat relaxes them. Isn’t that cool? I wonder why that is.

This reminds me of the time I had to hold the baby chicks against my chest in my robe. I will have to tell that story soon. Those babies sang to me!

Anyway, Ron told me tonight he has also heard Anna Maria’s tic in the duck house at night and wondered what he was hearing. Now that we know, Ron agrees that Anna Maria is sleeping with us at night for the rest of her life. I am glad we agree on this.

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.

A Rare Moment with Anna Maria

Day 330 of 365

If you follow the blog, you know about Anna Maria and how she doesn’t trust me after I rehabilitated her in 2019. She just never forgave me for all the medicine and health inspections. Tragically, it was kind of like I was a part of her trauma, though I was healing her and trying to be so good to her. It’s just a hard thing for a skittish duck to go through. Poor, sweet girl. You may also know that she is going blind, most likely as a result of her injuries when she was young.

I just attributed her strange behavior lately to her going blind. I am not so sure now.

Lately, Anna Maria has been getting closer to me. Not only does she not run from me very much anymore, but she also, sometimes, seems like she wants to get closer to me. I would freeze when this would happen, confused, and it was like she was thinking about coming up to me but just couldn’t do it. This seemed very strange to me. She usually wants nothing to do with me unless I have lettuce–and even then I just better hand over the lettuce and not speak about or make any sudden moves.

Tonight was a miracle! She came to me and stood at my feet, and when I reached to touch her, she stayed. So I picked her up! I had to make sure she wasn’t injured, but mostly it just felt like magic holding that wild, skittish, magnificent creature. It was like a wild animal gracing me with her presence.

She’s so, so beautiful! Those chocolate and white feathers are amazing!

When I got over my awe of her, I realized I had better health check her. She has NEVER had a single one since 2019. I couldn’t come near her without her running away, terrified, like I was a monster for sure. It’s always been kind of heartbreaking to me, but I have learned to love her on her terms and not mine. So this was the first time since 2019 I have touched her more than sneaking some light feet and feather touches this winter to see how blind she is.

I didn’t find anything wrong. Her feet felt fine. Her abdomen didn’t seem swollen. Her eyes looked good. I don’t know what happened tonight, but for a minute, I held a magical creature. I sure hope she’s okay.

When I sat her down, she ran toward the duck house but not as quickly as I thought she might. When the mud is gone, I am going to go sit in the grass and see if she will come see me and sit on me like the other ducks will in the summer. She never has. Wouldn’t it be the best ever if she did?

A Duck Tale

Day 317 of 365

I took this picture of the ducks after the wind blew the water bucker. The ducks are in the background, looking very concerned.

Tonight, when I went to give the ducks their bedtime peas and tuck them in for the night, there was a duck missing. It was Anna Maria! Since she is at least partially blind and possibly quite blind, I was really worried about this.

Thankfully, I found her by her voice, but she was stuck–or at least she thought she was stuck–under the deck. She was trying to get to her people in the straightest line she could, but there was a garden fence in the way. She couldn’t seem to understand she had to go around the way she came. She was just following the voices of her people.

I have no idea how she got separated, but I have noticed the ducks will start to go their separate ways for a bit in the spring. All winter, they move as one almost all day long. But the snow is melting, and there is much to explore. They get busy and get separated. Every now and then, they will call each other back together. It’s very cool!

I guess, tonight, Anna Maria didn’t hear the call until everyone else had gone around to the other side. I tried everything I could to get her to go back the way she came. I thought she would be so afraid of my touch that she would run when I touched her, but she just let me touch her. Clearly, she had bigger worries about getting to her people.

I tried the flashlight, but that didn’t make her run either. She was stuck and determined to stay stuck. Poor girl.

Then, I got wise and thought like a duck. I realized I needed to herd her people back around to the deck, so she could follow their voices out in the proper direction. This was going to cost me though. To herd the ducks that far at night would not be easy. It’s out of the ordinary, and out of the ordinary is always stressful. Always. They make no exceptions.

I hate to stress those ducks because maintaining their trust all the time is not easy. They are very skeptical. But I didn’t see any other way to get Anna Maria out besides crawling under the deck–in the mud–so I was like, “Ducks, we’re going around!”

They were resistant for some times, but I finally pushed them with my presence enough (that I learned from thinking like a dog), and Anna Maria came to their quacking and was finally free.

Then, here’s the best part. After all of that drama, I knew the ducks wouldn’t eat their peas. So I had to come back in the house after everything and sit and wait about five minutes before I went out with the peas to tuck them in. I have learned they need a re-set. Then, if you go back to the routine, all will be well.

So I came in the house and told Ron and our son the story and waited. I then took the peas back outside and said my exact words I say every night–“Duck, ducks! It’s your peas!”

This time, seven sweet little ducks came for their peas.

Trauma, Ducks, and Life Lessons

Day 301 of 365

I finally admitted to myself recently that our sweet little duck, Anna Maria, is at least fairly blind, possibly quite blind. It breaks my heart to see this sweet duck struggling some.

We adopted Anna Maria in 2019 and rehabilitated her after she had been over-mated at another farm where they had too many males in a straight run. Anna Maria had a tough time, but she made an amazing recovery and lives a very spoiled duck life now. But we noticed this summer that it seemed like she couldn’t see the wheat bread we often feed the ducks as a snack. It’s whole grain, and they love it. Anna Maria loved it the most. Just last year, she would quack and quack at Ron to get him to bring her treats. He always did.

But, in the fall, we kept testing and testing and putting the bread right in front of her, and it seemed like it was only with luck that she found a bite. She just seemed like she couldn’t see it.

Then, this winter, I noticed she was having trouble seeing the bowl of peas every night at bedtime. I had to start moving the bowl to her, as she struggled to come to the bowl. This was a worry.

I told Ron that maybe her sight wasn’t that bad though. “I haven’t seen her walk into a door or anything,” I said.

Last week, I saw the poor girl walk into the duck house door.

It makes me feel so badly for her that, after all she has gone through, that she has to deal with blindness in her life. Thankfully, she seems to handle it well. She is a part of the collective that is made up of our seven Indian Runner Ducks. They moved together as one most of the time, so she can just stick with them. Still, you worry.

I am going to post this week to a good Maine poultry group and ask if anyone has an advice for making sure life is good for a blind duck. I want to do everything we can for her.

I told Ron one of the most profound things about all of it for me is that poor Anna Maria has to continue to suffer the consequences of her trauma, even so many years later. I researched, and her blindness is most likely connected to her over-mating experience when she was young because over-mating in ducks damages the sinuses and the optic nerves.

“Isn’t that just the way of it?” I asked him. “Trauma impacts us all of our lives.”

He nodded in sadness.

The only upside is this: Because I didn’t raise her as a baby and because I had to doctor her far more than she wanted when she was healing, she has always acted afraid of me, though I tried and tried to make her trust me. She became pretty good friends with Ron, but I could never be trusted. I could never pet her like I could the other ducks, and it made me sad.

But since she can’t see very well, at night, when the ducks are busy eating peas, I carefully give her a pet or two.

She’s magnificent.

Spoiled Ducks

Day 53 of 365

We have seven Indian Runner ducks. Six are the ones we special ordered from the best waterfowl hatchery we could find. One is a duck who taught me one of the most valued lessons I have learned in my life. She’s a chocolate runner named Anna Maria, and I will have to tell her story one day soon. It will take me some work to do justice to Anna Marie. She’s special.

But she’s spoiled. All of our ducks have become so spoiled. It happens every summer. We are with them so much they get used to us and start bossing us around. Only, this year, it’s worse. Every year, they get a little bolder and a little bolder. It’s a new level this summer. Today, those ducks sat at the back door and quacked very loudly until we brought them treats–three times. And, I assure you, a group of female ducks can make a lot of noise. So, you give in.

Our neighbors are not that close, but duck sounds carry. Our neighbors have geese and ducks, and when my son and I go for a walk down our road, when the ducks and geese start carrying on, you can hear it for like a quarter of a mile for sure.

So I worry about the loud ducks. So I give them everything they demand.

It’s usually Anna Marie who starts it. She’s extra spoiled. She’s been through a lot in her life. We got her when she was about one year old and have been spoiling her extra every day of her life. Ducks are very smart. They all figured out that everything Anna Maria asked for she got.

Yesterday, we found that some of the ducks were leaning across the fence into a garden area eating the broccoli leaves. Ron went over to them away, and they all ganged up on him and quacked and quacked at him. They were clearly griping at him. Ron had to move the fence farther from the broccoli, and those spoiled ducks quacked at him, complaining about it the whole time.

Tonight, while I made dinner, I took the ducks their nightly greens from the garden. During greens season in the garden, every single night, Ron or I give the ducks their fresh greens.

And I’m not even kidding about this–our ducks will not eat store-bought greens. I have thrown some to them at times when I have bought lettuces in the off season. They’re organic. But nope. The ducks will not eat store-bought greens. They would rather go without. How are they this spoiled?

But they are. And they are so cute they can get away with it. And it helps us on feed bill that both the chickens and the ducks can eat from the garden. I mean, look at them. You can see why they are so spoiled. It’s why every single night I play the duck game.

Duck Game

Day 22 of 365

We have seven Indian Runner ducks (six females and one male), and they are magnificent. We have had them for over four years now, and every night for four years, we all play a game. It starts with peas and ends with a tail shake and many circles around the duck house. I call it our “duck game.”

Before I explain the duck game, I feel I should explain Runner ducks for those who do not know. Runner ducks are suspicious of EVERYTHING. And I do mean everything. We raised these babies by hand, but if I am wearing the hood on my robe on cold days, I cannot be identified and must be feared. They will run, quack, and just in general make me feel like a horrible person who is surely an eater of ducks.

Our male duck, Antonio, falls in love with me every spring and summer. When he hears my voice, he comes running from across the field to see me. He gets pets and snuggles. He stands on my shoes and tells me he loves me. He does this every single time–until I try to video him. Then, there’s the phone–a foreign object that cannot be trusted and may, in fact, eat ducks.

And, of course, there’s the peas. Every single night of my life, I warm up one pound of frozen peas in a medium-sized white bowl, add warm water, and deliver said peas to said ducks before they go to bed. Every single night. Rain, sleet, or snow. When the pandemic first started and everyone else was scrambling to buy toilet paper, yeast, and flour, I was trying to secure frozen peas.

One time, I accidentally ran out of peas. I tried frozen blueberries. Ducks love blueberries. But, no, before bed, it’s only frozen peas. One night, I tried fresh peas from our garden. Hard no. Only frozen peas. Early on, I used a different bowl one night. Hard no. All bowls other than the medium-sized white bowl are suspect. One cold winter night, when there had been a snowstorm and the ducks had been hunkered down all day without eating much, I tried to bring them TWO medium-sized white bowls full of peas. Hard pass. Two was scary.

So, yeah, routine is important.

After the peas are devoured, it’s time for the game to begin. We start slowly. We go around the duck house one time, two times, three times. Usually, after round one or two, our one chocolate Runner duck we rehabilitated heads into the duck house. She doesn’t trust me. It’s been three years, but you never know when I might try again to give her medicine. You just never know. (I will have to write more about her soon. Her name is Anna Maria, and she’s a little miracle to me.)

The rest keep going. We go around and around the duck house a few more times. As we go, a few more ducks will peel off and head into the duck house. Sometimes, Boudica helps me, and we can get the ducks into the house in just maybe six or so rounds. There have been times, however, on my own, that I have made over twenty circles around the duck house. I remember feeling dizzy from the circles as I leaned into the duck house to say goodnight and close the door.

Antonio tries to help every single night. His raspy little quack tries to boss the girls around, but there are two girls who like to play way too much. No matter how much he tries to help (and he tries everything, from standing at the duck house door rasping at them to coming back out of the house himself and trying to herd them in on the next round), two girls refuse to be bossed around by him.

They are the last ones up every single night, and one, our smallest duck who is full of personality, is almost always the very last. The first time I realized this might be fun for her was one night, after everyone else had gone into the house, she stood at the door. “I might go in,” she seemed to say. “But I might not.”

I froze. She froze. I was hopeful. Maybe she was going in. But then, she wagged her little tail and took off again around the duck house. “This duck is messing with me,” I said to myself.

Now, after so many nights of this same scene with her, I realize it is absolutely a game. I also realized the tail wag was a good thing for sure when I saw my husband feeding grubs and worms to the ducks as he was breaking new ground for more garden area. The ducks would come when he called for them, grab a snack, and then wag their tails with delight. It’s just about the cutest thing I have ever seen.

Most nights, I love to play the duck game with this little duck. Every now and then, in the rain, I am begging her to please just go to bed. Of course, she loves the rain. Just loves it.

I have thought that I might not know what to do with myself without the duck game. It has become this fantastic part of my life, my routine, and I feel pretty fortunate to know these ducks. I love that I do this every night of my life. In fact, it’s bedtime for ducks. I need to go play duck game.


I have a quick Ruby and Kate update. Kate is still broody and doing well. I find out tomorrow if there will be babies for me to pick up for her. And Ms. Ruby is a VERY good mama! I can see there are six babies for sure. There might be seven, as there were seven eggs under her, but all I can see right now is a sea of little legs when I lift Ruby. I hate to bother them too much, but I figure we will know for sure very soon how many babies she has hatched. In a few days, she will be taking her babies on field trips. I love the field trips!

Dog Crates and Duck Eggs

Day 16 of 365

I have no recipe for you today, as today has gone longer than I had anticipated, but I do have a name for that recipe now and will have the recipe for you tomorrow. I think it will be a treat. My struggle with recipes is that I want to tell too many stories before I get to the recipe, which just annoys the heck out of people, so I am trying to figure out how to tell my story about the recipe very briefly. We’ll see if I can manage that tomorrow.

Today was spent focused on duck eggs and dog crates. I’ll start with the dog crate story.

We have two giant dog crates, which are truly just essential for chicken keeping. They are hospital wards and broody hen homes. Two used to be enough–until Juliet claimed one. She has to come into the garage to lay her eggs, and unless I provide her with a proper dog crate, she’s going to either lay her eggs in my husband’s tools or just leave altogether and lay her eggs in the woods. We’ve been there and done this.

Since Ruby has a dog crate now and I need a space for Kate and her eggs, I have been looking online for a used dog crate. I refuse to pay full price for a new dog crate. My frugal self simply will not allow it. Both of our current dog crates were purchased used and have been wonderful. Once you get a good deal on something, how is it possible to then go backwards and pay full price for something? For me, it’s just too painful.

So I have been on the hunt and getting a little desperate. But, today, I found a used dog crate that would be perfect! Ron was in the garden working, so I went out to discuss it with him. He was not a fan of my plan. We don’t really have the room for storing three dog crates. “We need a barn,” he said.

I agreed, but I explained that there was really no choice in this matter because of Juliet.

“You’re going to buy another dog crate because we have a spoiled chicken?” he asked.

I confirmed.

So I set up the meet, drove out to a beautiful house on a beautiful pond, and landed the perfect dog crate for Kate. I’ll have to share a picture soon because I am quite proud of myself.

I spent another part of my day washing and then freezing duck eggs. I love chicken eggs, but duck eggs are just extra. To me, they are everything wonderful about chicken eggs–and then some. I love them boiled the most, but they are an absolute dream for baking. Professional chefs and bakers prize duck eggs for their cooking, and I can see why. They are magnificent.

Ours are also beautiful, at least I think so. We have a total of seven ducks–six females and one male, Antonio. He’s both wonderful and terrible at the same time. We originally had just six ducks, but a few years ago, a farmer friend asked if I might be willing to rehabilitate a female she had who had been over-mated. Anna Maria was in pretty tough shape, but I took her on and am thankful. I am happy to report that she thrives now.

She also lays a green-ish egg! My reward for sure!

We have one other duck who also lays a green egg, but Anna Maria’s are the darkest. This morning, after I washed the eggs and was about to crack and freeze them, I decided it was imperative that I do a duck-egg photo shoot.

Aren’t they beautiful?


I have a quick Ruby and now Kate update. Ruby is doing well considering. She had some whole wheat pancake for breakfast, and I discovered that she won’t really eat unless I feed her. I put a tiny bowl right under her face, left and did some other chores, and came back to find she hadn’t eaten. When I put the pancake bites in my hand, she ate. So I guess I’m feeding Ruby by hand for the next week.

Kate will be moved to her crate tomorrow, and, then we just cross our fingers that she’ll take the baby chicks next week. I’ll detail the process in a later post. She seems to be doing well.