When Disaster Strikes

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.

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About tarnegolita

Dutch expatriate, mother of 3 boys, freelance translator and pet zoo keeper in a kibbutz in Israel.
This entry was posted in Animals and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to When Disaster Strikes

  1. Sunith says:

    life is so precious and yet so precarious…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. debc says:

    I am so sorry for the loss of the quail eggs. The little broody must be so confused right now! Next year, mark the eggs you are saving with pencil or colored marker. It won’t hurt the eggs, and if you let your friend and their family know that the marked eggs are for a broody hen, they will remember not to touch them.

    Your story about the bunny makes me sad. While I have no doubt the family is caring for the bunnies you gave them, I feel for you in having to do so at the loss of another. I probably would not have been that generous.

    My mother lost a teacup poodle in a similar fashion. They are tiny, and even tinier as pups. She had a friend who was a breeder and allowed mom to pick out a newborn to purchase. Mom went several times a week to bond with the pup and when it was old enough to leave its mother, we brought it home. It could fit in the palm of your hand, it was so small. My grandfather’s wife and her grandson (school aged, maybe 6) came the next day to see the puppy and the little boy picked it up. The pup scurried out of his arms and up onto his shoulder and fell off, onto the ground… and died instantly.

    The little boy was scared and started crying. So did my mother. My grandfather’s wife, who is a nurse, and was always a close friend to us, was heart broken. After she took her grandson home, she called my mom and told her that she and grandfather were going to buy her a new puppy.

    They wound up getting two. The breeder also felt so bad, she gave mom two new puppies for the price of one. But ever since then, my parents have been leery and over cautious with anyone around their dogs. Even older people, even people the dogs knew. They guarded those two dogs for all their lives, like little glass ornaments that could break at the slightest touch. All because of that one instance.

    Liked by 2 people

    • tarnegolita says:

      Oh that is such a tragic story! Simply the fact that we are much bigger than some of our pets puts them in danger from us… It is very sad when kids are involved, because they often have nothing but good intentions, but haven’t yet learned what the consequences of their actions can be. All the more reason to watch them closely when they interaxt with animals…

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Everybody who loves animals and takes care of them has a private small pet graveyard. Only those who don’t care, haven’t. Mistakes are heartbreaking, but we are all learning to take care and to improve taking care.
    A few weeks ago I noticed a young tree-creeper hitting a window. It happened in a flash. Not many notice such a thing. I rushed outside of the restaurant and saw the young bird flying erratically around, disoriented. It came down and I picked it up. It seemed fine but you don’t know whether there is a brain bleeding, do you? I went over to a tree and tried to put it on a branch. It didn’t work. I feared the worse. Then it dawned on me that this might be a tree-creeper so I put it against the bark of a tree. It slipped. Then it dawned on me that the bark was too smooth so I put it against the rough bark of a pine tree. That worked well. I took the bird again, making a new chose to put it out of the sun, a bit hidden on a good piece of bark. It liked it and it became more lively.
    When I was young, I would bring a harmed bird home to nurse it back to health. It would always die. Later, I would bring it to a bird centre (which were not operational when I was young). That helped improving its survival. Now, I try to keep a young bird near its parents.
    We are all learning as soon as we take care. All your mistakes are forgiven because you take care. You have a heart of gold and a beautiful karma.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Oh I’m so sorry 😦
    At least you know the little quail will brood though. Sometimes it is a steep learning curve with animals. Fingers crossed for next year xx

    Liked by 2 people

  5. aheikkinen says:

    So sorry to hear about the disasters. Unfortunately unexpected things happen. You love all your animals. They love you for your loving care. Your intention always is the best for the animal welfare.

    Liked by 1 person

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