Sunday was freezing. The wind whipped and the air was piercing cold. Painful cold. The ground was frozen hard, and the water for the animals would form a block of ice in the bucket seemingly within minutes.
Sunday my husband spent several hours (yes HOURS) out in that nasty weather running power out to the coop, so the chickens and the goats can have electrical outlets and heated waterers. (He is a saint, and he completely rocks my world, but that’s beside the point.)
That night, we went out the back door, down the deck stairs, bundled up and toting the flash light, doing our nightly chores and getting the animals “put to bed.” The ducks, Gideon and Lois, who usually live at our pond and will have nothing whatsoever to do with such domesticated behaviors as “going in the duck house” even found it icy enough to warrant hanging out in the chicken coop all day and staying for a very wisely planned sleepover.
When we first began walking to the chicken house, we heard an unrelenting “QUACK! QUACK! QUAAAAAAAACK!” It’s important to note at this point in the story that Lois and Gideon are very dramatic and have quite theatrical personalities. So we hear quacking pretty much always. But this was different.
As we neared the coop, sweeping the beam of light across the frozen ground, we saw that all the birds had gone inside, and as we grew closer the quacking seemed to be coming from outside. Selden bent down to flash the light under the coop, as it’s raised several inches off the ground so the chickens can hang out underneath. And there was Lois.
Lois and Gideon are identical. The only way to tell them apart is because Lois is squawking all the time and has a much louder voice than Gideon. He is a quiet sort of guy, and he waddles in perfect sync with her all over the yard, bobbing from one side to the other, and Lois is always talking. There is an unfortunate and unintentional parallel between these ducks and another couple of love birds who live here, too, but that’s another story, right? So Lois is the talker, and Gideon has a deep, placating sort of quack that he interjects from time to time. So this is why we knew it was Lois stuck under the coop.
She was all the way back, which is 8 feet, and the space under the coop is far to shallow for either Selden or me to crawl underneath. While the ducks will come at practically a gallop when they are called by name and know food is involved, they really have no use for being patted or otherwise coming near, unlike the chickens who are very sociable and even sometimes cuddly.
I think Selden and I both thought we may actually die of the cold out there (ok, that may have only been me….), and the more we tried to coax Lois toward us, the more she pressed back against the back of the area which is secured by heavy hardware cloth, so we couldn’t get to her.
“Gideon!” I said, and went into the pitch black coop. From time to time, I could make out the white feathers of a duck scurrying around in the straw, and I lunged toward him, missing him completely and tripping over part of a chicken roosting bar. Trying to avoid the roosts, the dust bath, the waterer dangling from the ceiling, the fencing that divides the space for the goats, and the silkies who sleep curled up in the corner, I continued round and round in the blackness until finally I emerged with one very displeased duck.
With Gideon in my arms, I knelt down on the ground in the run, and Selden shone the light toward Gideon, so Lois could see her love there, quacking from time to time his apparent discontent. “Come on Lois… Look, Gideon wants to see you! Come on out, Lois, good girl,” I cooed in a voice I hoped sounded amiable to a freaked out duck.
It took her a couple minutes, but Gideon’s charm worked its magic, and she soon made her way under the chicken house and out to her drake. I grabbed Lois in my other arm and scooted quickly to the coop to set them down. They are so funny, those two. One day Gideon was in the orchard quacking madly, and we went to see what the problem was and noticed Lois was not there. She was up the hill by the garden. And Gideon would not move a single step until he saw her.
Before you think he’s quite chivalrous, I’ll close by saying that on one occasion our Goldendoodle, Rigby, was in the yard and caught sight of the ducks and chased them, barking. I shrieked and ran to grab the dog just as he had backed Lois up against the garden fence. Gideon took off as fast as 3-inch legs can take a guy. When danger comes, it’s every duck for itself. But once in a while their quirky little love story shines through, and Gideon is the valiant rescuer of his soul mate from the underneath of the chicken coop. But that’s really only once in a while.