Farewell to Fred

Sometimes in life, events occur, beyond your control, that just rip the wind from your lungs. And while you get through those dark moments, you are forever touched by them. So much so, that it takes weeks to even wrap your mind around them. This is one of those events. I knew I was going to have to write about it sooner or later…… but doing so just made it all so final.

At the beginning of August, it was a day like any other. I sent the oldest country kid out to open the coop, only to have him run into the house yelling that one of the birds was injured and I needed to come quick. It was so much worse then I could have ever imagined as I found one bird dead, another mortally injured, our female duck, Betty, injured but with hope and my male duck, Fred…. my poor sweet, wonderful Fred was also dead. Without going into all of the details of that horrible morning, I can tell you one thing I know in my heart of hearts….. he fought to protect the flock with everything he had. He had always been the “eye to the sky” kind of guy and it was evident he did not go down without a fight.

As I raced to sort and triage the birds, my oldest country kid…… my boy who never listens, never follows directions, who is most times incapable of empathy because of his Aspberger’s syndrome….. he was my hero that day. He listened to my every command. He did ever last little thing I told him. He not only helped with the surviving birds, he helped with his little brother, and he hugged me and told me how sorry he was about Fred, because he knew how much that duck meant to me. If you don’t know anything about Aspberger’s, this day was mind blowing because of all he did and the compassion he showed.

At the vet

As I raced to the veterinarian’s with the mortally wounded chicken and the banged up duck, I cried. I knew we would have to say goodbye to Molly next and who knew if Betty would pull threw. And again my thoughts slipped to my brave Fred and my awesome son……

At the vet’s office, they quickly tended to my girls, doing what had to be done for one and trying their best to help the other. Betty the duck was in shock and was at serious risk of infection from her wounds, but they said she could pull through and that was enough to give me hope. After examining all the wounds, both vets agreed it was most likely a weasel attack. Now, I have lived here over 10 years and have never in my life seen a weasel!! But I guess anything is possible. They are small and fast….

I returned home with my dear little Betty and set her up in the dog’s kennel, much to Heidi the Homestead Hound’s dismay. She would be our house guest for the next ten days as she needed medication twice a day. We brought in the last surviving pullet (young female chicken) that we had also gotten that spring, to try and calm and comfort Betty. They had been best buddies and I know in the weeks that followed that bond grew even stronger.

We set up a second, much smaller pen, we called Fort Knox, for the remaining chickens who were still outside. We tended our lost souls and laid them to rest. The oldest country kid made a silk flower arrangement to mark his love for them and their final resting place.  It was one of the longest days of my life. And as I looked into our empty backyard, where just the day before they had all played together, it hardly seemed possible that it had all happened. My Fred would never greet me again. He would never stand guard as the girls ate, always waiting like a gentleman till they were done before he took any. After all he had been through loosing his first mate and then finding love again with Betty…..

Oh sweet Betty, with each passing day she improved. She began to fight us at medication time, which was a good sign. But it is hard to get a duck to take liquid medication twice a day when they have enough strength and the mindset that they don’t want to! Again the oldest country kid stepped up and he became the duck holder for me so I could get the syringe in her beak and the medication past her tongue and down her throat. And even while life was taking on a new normal, every time I passed the back window, I would pause, like I used to, to watch the flock….. and sadness would rush over me as my Fred was no longer part of the colorful movement of the yard.

My first ever attempt at a “selfie.” Yeah, I did it with a duck!

I know for some, there is no understanding of how I could love a duck so much. The bond we had developed after he suffered the tragedy of losing his first mate…. Ducks can get depression and he did. But he had bounced back. I cheered for him when he finally connected with Betty. Life had been good in our little flock….. But now there is a new flock, a smaller flock, where once Fred had kept calm, there is now chaos. A new pecking order has to be sorted. We have one chicken with PTSD who screams and runs for her life at every little thing. It is honestly crazy to see how this has impacted not only me, but them as well. Don’t ever believe for a second that animals’ don’t have feelings!

Betty made a full recovery and has returned to the yard. And while I miss my Fred, she has wormed her way into my heart. She now runs to me when I step out back, only to give me the riot act. She is not happy about no longer being a “house duck.” Sorry sister, but you were starting to smell up my house! On the day it all happened, I didn’t know if I would ever be able to open my heart again to loving my critters as deeply as I once had. But Fred was a survivor, he was a warrior, and while he is no longer with us, he will always be a part of my heart. He taught me that even through the loss of his first mate, he could love again………………. and so can I.

36 thoughts on “Farewell to Fred

  1. 🙁 I am so saddened by this news, I still remember reading the account of the loss of your female duck and bawling. I am sorry for your loss of dear Fred (and of course your ladies). I know what an imprint these critters can have on a person as a fellow chicken and duck owner. I just wanted you to know my thoughts are with your family at this sad time.

    1. Thank you Elsie. It has been hard adjusting, but we are. The new normal is not as happy as it all once was but their is joy and smiles returning to our family and flock. Maybe one day, we will get a new drake to watch over our girls.

  2. Beautifully written. I remember your posts the day that it happened and I was so sad for you. Thank you for sharing your story. Chris – The Eggs and I

  3. Wow, having worked as a spec. ed. asst. with kids with Aspberger's they can really come thru at the most unexpected time. I'm so attached to my chickens, since I raise them from babies and only have a few at a time. I cried for days when I had to give my sweet little roo away to a stranger… Bless Fred's heart, hopefully he's being as gentleman up in heaven 🙂

    1. Haa ha Nancy…. I hope so too! But he was such a horn dog when he first "grew up." He spend many an afternoon in duck jail for his naughtiness!

  4. I'm so very sorry for your loss. You've written a beautiful tribute, and you know Fred and gang will be with you always.May you find peace in your memories, and sweet joy in the marvel of your eldest.

  5. I have to add- I cried going to sleep lat night thinking of all the wonderful creatures I loved, dogs, cats, chickens (and more) and their passing. It's just never easy, that's for sure. I just think- I gave them a wonderful, happy life where they were treated very well, loved and cared for. You did a great job too….I'm glad Betty is still there and has a feathered pal 🙂

  6. I can definitely understand how you could love a duck so much. If I had a duck, I would love him that much as well. All creatures great and small are capable of capturing our hearts in their paws, or wings. Actually this is why I am not sure I will want to have ducks and chickens when I get a house, even though I have always wanted them… because I'm too scared I won't be able to protect them, and I couldn't handle losing them. So sorry for your loss. But Fred was a LUCKY duck for having been loved so much!

    1. Our love, you hurt, you love some more. I think to keep loving no matter how much hurt your heart goes through is an amazing thing. Always be open to that love.

  7. Mindie, I cried as I read this moving, heartfelt tribute to your beloved Fred. I followed the sad events on FB and felt for you and your family (feathered and not). I taught special ed and worked with many kids on the spectrum from those with Aspergers to severely autistic children. It always amazed me how they could rise to the occasion when the chips were down. The compassion is there. Its just not always easily expressed. What a triumph for your son among the wreckage of that terrible morning. Of course, he has grown up with a beautiful example of kindness and compassion; you.

  8. So sad for your loss of Fred and the others Mindie. Your post brought tears to my eyes as I don't have ducks, but 3 dogs and a cat and I would hate for anything to happen to them. I live backed up to the woods so I get woodland critters and coyotes through my yard too. Just today I had to nurse one of my dogs for a suspected opossum bite. I understand what you're going through and I hope the rest of your "babies" stay safe!
    [email protected] Sweet and Spicy Monkey

    1. When you open your heart to critters, you open yourself to loss. But the rewards of that love outweigh the heartache.

  9. Mindie,
    So sorry for your loss. I never thought I would be attached to our backyard chickens but when one became ill and we found out that she would be chronically ill, I couldn't put her down. We're still waiting to see whether she will be okay.
    I hope your remaining flock stay safe.

    1. I wish you all the success with your girl. It is never easy to see a critter that your responsible for have anything wrong with it. It is the helpless feeling when there is nothing you can do that sucks.

  10. Reading about your son's courage touched my heart so much! Tears…but in a good way for how proud you can be of him.

  11. Thanks for sharing, even of this was a sad story. I'm definitely an animal lover and can understand how hard it is to lose them! I am proud of your son, too.

  12. I'm so glad I clicked on this post at the Turn It Up Tuesday linkup today. Your writing, your story, your ducks and your son all had an impact on my heart. Fred was undeniably a very special duck!

  13. I am so sorry about Fred, Molly and Jessie! So sad. Hopefully whatever got to them won't be back. I used to teach (retired now) special ed – mostly autistic with a sprinkling of Aspberger's, and know that your son was the hero that day! Give him a high-five for me!

  14. If you felt about Fred the way I feel about my "Baby" (a black Lab) I can certainly understand your sorrow. We had another Black Lab we called "Cleo" and we had her for 17 yrs. and the Vet said that if she lived this long it was because she was so loved. Labs just don't live that long. So I know I cried when we had to have her put down, so my condolences my new friend. HUGS….

  15. What a beautiful tribute to your special friend! It is so hard to lose a beloved animal, and the new "normal" takes a while to become comfortable with. I'm truly sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing such a personal account, and thanks for linking up at Wake Up Wednesday!

  16. So sorry for your losses ;( That's sooo sad!

    Thanks so much for linking up to Teach Me Tuesday last week! You are very much appreciated! Hope to see you again tonight!


    Have a great week!!

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