We are not going to have quail chicks this fall. Not because the little quail hen stopped brooding, not because the eggs weren’t good, but because something happened.
It was mostly my fault, because I had forgotten to lock the cage. I came back later to lock it, but I was too late. I found an empty little nest. Someone had gone in and had taken all the eggs.
I was so devastated I cried. The little quail hen was confused and running around the empty nest. I think she might have cried too, if she could.
Mysteries, accidents and tragedies happen. This particular mystery was cleared up – it turned out my friend’s son had gone in and collected the eggs. We had let him do that before. He didn’t know the quail were brooding. She called me to apologise – all the eggs had broken in the child’s pocket on the way home.
“It’s ok,” I choked through my tears, standing over the sad little nest. I meant it. How was the kid supposed to know he wasn’t allowed to touch this particular clutch of eggs..? It wasn’t his fault. But oh, how I wished I had remembered to lock that door!
I was hoping the quail might start over again, but the nest stays empty. Their egg laying has slowed down – it is November by now. Soon, they will stop laying altogether for the winter. So that was the end of the chance for quail chicks this year. But at least, now we know the younger quail will brood, like their mother did. They will certainly try again in the spring.
This small tragedy reminded me of another, even worse one that took place this summer. It happened when we had a lot of young rabbits and we had to give some of them away. A friend of a friend wanted a couple of bunnies and came with her children to get them, together with my friend and her children. The kids were excited, boisterous, and trouped into the cage looking for the young bunnies.
I was a bit worried and tried to calm them down, but I definitely didn’t expect what happened next. In their efforts to reach a particular bunny, they shoved aside a piece of “rabbit furniture” – and in the process, squashed the very rabbit they liked so much. It happened in a split second. I rushed forward, shouted at them to stop and pulled out the rabbit. The young bunny who had been skipping around just moments before, was now very dead.
A terrible hush descended on the group as I held up the lifeless rabbit. “Don’t move things,” I managed. Then, I had to get out and burst into tears over that poor, fuzzy, still warm bunny body.
Because these people were friends of my friend, I was at a loss. I didn’t know what to do. If these were random people, I would never have given them rabbits. But in my pain and confusion, I didn’t do anything except tell them to please be careful. They picked out two other bunnies and left. I still feel terrible about it. They hardly even apologised and the kids didn’t seem to fully understand what they had done.
My friend assures me that the rabbits are fine and that the children are more careful now. If nothing else, they might have learned the hard way just how fragile rabbits are. I certainly did.
There have been another few disasters that are branded into my memory. One is the time when six muscovy ducklings drowned. Yes, you read that right – drowned. It was the first time ever we had ducklings… I was so excited. Katya had a huge clutch of them – she sat on 20 eggs and they all hatched. I put her and her babies in a large pen with food and a shallow kiddie pool of water. In my zeal to keep them all safe, I locked the door.
I had no idea that baby ducklings could get waterlogged and drown if they get stuck in a container of water and can’t get out. So I was totally taken by surprise when I walked in the next morning and saw a small group of people trying to break the lock to the pen to save a small group of ducklings floating upside down in the kiddie pool. I had the key out and that lock open faster than I believed possible!
It was so sad… Six of them died. I was able to save a seventh. I immediately dumped the pool, of course. Now whenever we have ducklings, I put out a very shallow dish of water, and after a few weeks, they graduate to a kiddie pool with bricks in it so they can get out easily. Fortunately, there have been no more drownings. But oh, how awful I felt whenever I saw Katya with her 14 ducklings!!
Mistakes happen… But when animals die as a result of our mistakes, it’s nothing less than a tragedy.