Not deferential enough: A house full of babies

Posted Tuesday, June 3, 2014 in Opinion

Not deferential enough: A house full of babies

by Gina Hamilton

It's been a busy few weeks down at Turning Tide Cottage, in part because we're the proud parents of five little ones.

Two are of the webbed foot variety, getting bigger every day, and three are little tiny chicks.

For anyone who doesn't know, ducklings are among the messiest of creatures. But they're so darn cute you can't really hold it against them too long. This morning, I swept out the brooding box while the ducklings were in the shower ... quite a nice playpen for toddler ducks ... and replaced their food, grit, water (which was utterly disgusting) and cut up some fresh fruit and vegetables for them. On a good day, I'll go out and pick them some dandelion greens, but today was a "quickie".  They've graduated to oats mixed with the ordinary chick feed, so they're as happy as can be. They go outdoors for brief periods, followed around my younger springer spaniel who has declared herself to be their mother.

They're spending more time away from the warming light, even though they still huddle together when it gets chilly. In the meantime, we've been building their pond, which is a well-used kiddie pool the dogs used until this year, when we bought them a new one because they're big now.  We have to plant some shade grass near the pond so the earth doesn't wash away, and move the solar panel that powers the pump to a place in the, well, sun.  In a matter of weeks, Stan and Ollie will move down to the poultry yard with the others, and spend their days wandering through the yard and eating ticks.

Which is a very, very good thing, because we've got them, in profusion. It's a bad tick year. Any small itch, any stray hair, could be the harbinger of Lyme or Powassan disease. We had hoped the cold weather would have killed them off, like it used to, but no dice. The snow actually insulated the little buggers and kept them alive. 

Being organic and all, the only thing we can do about it is try to keep their natural hosts free from ticks using the most organic means. That means we give the dogs a shower and bathe them with teatree soap and work a little tea tree oil down into their coat in the worst places where the ticks ... and fleas ... like to congregate, mostly under the collar and along their sides where they brush up against things. Rudie needs a serious grooming session, which is in my plans for this evening. She has a different coat than her little sister, and although beautiful, the coat hides a multitude of things.

Then, once groomed, bathed, and totally dry, I dust them with diatomaceous earth, which is a fine white powder made from the shells of single-celled algaes. In life, under a microscope, these are beautiful things. But in the dry, powdered form, they slice open the body of any creature with an exoskeleton, bringing a slow and inevitable death.


That includes ticks, and fleas, but unfortunately other things, too, so we have to be careful how it's used. We want our bees to survive, and we're fond of our butterflies.

We don't know if Stan and Ollie are boys or girls, yet, but we suspect one of each. We probably won't change their names even so.

The baby chicks are still very much babies, and are living in the parakeet cage on top of the brooder, under a warming light. Less of a mess than the ducklings for now, they need a cleanup once a day. I haven't named them, yet, but if we follow our odd little tradition, they'll probably end up with some sweet old fashioned names. Perhaps I'll name them after Shakespeare heroines.  Beatrice, Titania, and Lady MacBeth? OK, no Lady MacBeth. Portia. There we go. It is the anniversary year for the Bard, after all. 

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