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Cornelius News

You second-guess yourself when your duck dies

May 1. By Jon Show. If you’re reading this column on a weekly basis (hi Mom and Dad) then you know that the Blonde Bomber acquired a mallard duck egg approximately three weeks ago and we have been raising the egg as one of our own.

What? That doesn’t sound crazy.

What is crazy, anyway? Things here are fine. Just fine.

Well on Monday morning I awoke, convinced the duck egg was dead, and candled the egg by taking it into a dark room and putting a flashlight on the bottom.

Similar to last week when I candled the egg, I didn’t see much. A lot of darkness and maybe an air sac and then, whoa boy. One more turn of the egg revealed the jittery internal shadow of a very alive duckling bill.

Hours later the duck finally “pipped” – popping a tiny hole in the shell – and for 24 hours it didn’t accomplish much. When we awoke the next morning it began working its way around the shell and then finally opened enough to be visible to the world.

The egg membrane bled a little but that alone wasn’t major cause for concern. The duck seemed like it was stuck but it wasn’t. I had a mountain of research we’d compiled in the previous weeks that told us when to help (almost never) and when you let it work its way out alone. This was a leave-it-alone situation.

But in the dozens of hatching videos we watched in the weeks leading up to our hatching, the ducklings exploded into this world the way I tell my kids to start each day. Roll out of bed, put two feet on the floor. And go.

But the impossibly tiny duckling never got its feet on the floor. It laid inside one half of the egg with its eyes partially open.

I spent every minute of the following hours googling duck hatching videos trying to find one experience similar to ours. I went down rabbit holes of duck messaging boards and homesteading resources to try to find some way to fix whatever was going wrong.

But the only guidance I could find was to sit there and hope for the best. So that’s what my daughter did.

She sat in front of the incubator box for the entire morning and clung to every movement as a sign of life. She read it books and ate Doritos and drank cocoa with a dying duckling named Coco – because of course she named the duck. She’ll need to reference it years from now in therapy.

Occasionally the duck would breathe but never with a rhythm that you’d associate with a healthy animal. It opened and closed its eyes a few times. It would move its tiny wings if you lightly grazed its down.

Eventually the signs stopped, and we pronounced Coco dead at 12:14pm. The Blonde Bomber packed up her books and took her dishes to the sink and pretended she was fine even though I knew she wasn’t.

This entire virus experience was exhausting enough before a dead duckling was thrust into it. I don’t even care if things go back to normal – I just need some semblance of normalcy. And that doesn’t include consoling my daughter over a dead baby duck.

I guess this is all probably my fault. I should have told her to put the duck egg back where it was abandoned but she seemed so intent on saving it.

I guess I should have tempered her expectations to a greater degree – we’re not duck farmers – but tending the egg and the possibility of raising a duck seemed to fill the void of her missing school and friends.

I guess I shouldn’t have run out to the hardware store to buy all the components to build a DIY duck brooder. I guess I shouldn’t have sat with her and designed a duck house that I was sure would keep the duck alive and evade the HOA police from finding out we had a duck living in our backyard.

But I’m easily excitable and I guess I started to feed off of her excitement.

Shortly after lunch on Tuesday we buried Coco across the street from our house in a casket of my daughter’s choosing – a large plastic Easter egg. After she sprinkled leaves to make it look prettier, we marked the site with a stone and I asked her if she wanted to say anything.

She shrugged and said, “Bye ducky. Thanks Dad,” and gave me a hug.

Later that night, as I tucked her in while I was heading to bed, I noticed a baggie in her bed with tiny fragments of Coco’s shell. Yes, she’s sleeping with shell fragments from a duck that she rescued, incubated, tended, hatched and then buried all in the same month.

What? That doesn’t sound crazy. What is crazy, anyway? Things here are fine. Just fine.