Let Them Go
We had a beautiful moment down at the lake today. We've been trying to get our 16 ducklings to stay in the poultry enclosure, but their mother keeps flying out, so they squeeze through the electrified netting to follow her. They're still small enough to do that, but at some point it wouldn't go well for them anymore.
They put themselves to bed every night in the root cellar, and we close the door to keep them safe from predators. Again, we'd rather they sleep in the poultry enclosure, but they have other ideas.
Yesterday, three ducklings disappeared. No signs of a struggle - they were just gone.
So this morning, rather than letting the remaining 13 out of the root cellar and leading them to the poultry enclosure (so they can all escape through the fence later in the day), we ushered them and their mother into a dog crate this morning and transported them down to the lake.
I positioned the crate close to the water's edge, in a sheltered location near a sandbar where the ducks sleep when they choose to fly off on their own. I opened the crate door and Favorite Duck paused for a moment, then led all of her ducklings into the lake, where they were met by their Auntie, who had chosen to spend the night there on her own.
The more freedom we give our animals, the more we witness the full spectrum of nature. Yesterday, ducklings died. They may die today, too. But this morning, we watched them plop into a lake and swim like they'd been doing it their whole lives. It was the most natural thing in the world. Sometimes I need to remind myself that how they live is more important than how long they live.