The Safe Place


An Animal Garden Story

The Safe Place

by Anne E Thompson

It was very cold. All night, soft snowflakes had fallen and now the garden was white and silent.

The dogs were very happy. They had leaped around in the snow, eating great mouthfuls of it, leaving big muddy footprints across the lawn.

The cats were cross. They looked at the beautiful white snow and decided it was much too cold to go outside. They had found somewhere warm and curled up to sleep.

The chickens stayed in the coop, they were safe in there. They stood on their perch and looked miserable.

But Annie was worried about the ducks. The pond had frozen, so Mr Fox could walk across it. He could walk across the ice to the island and catch ducks there. He could walk right into the nesting box and could catch ducks there. He could even catch ducks on the actual water, where they stood in an unhappy huddle, wanting to be able to swim.

Annie went to the pond. She took the dogs and her family. Together, they moved the ducks into the big cage. The ducks would be safe in the cage.

Every day, Annie went up to the big cage. The ducks needed clean water. They couldn’t swim in the pond or drink the water. Every day Annie carried big bowls of water into the cage. Some of the little call ducks jumped into it and splashed and swam. The big ducks dipped their heads into it and had a wash and a drink.

The ducks couldn’t sleep in the nesting box. They couldn’t poop in the pond. Every day Annie took away the dirty hay and cleaned up the duck poop. Then she gave them clean hay to sleep on.

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The ducks needed food. They couldn’t catch insects in the pond or eat the plants on the bank. Every day Annie took them duck food and corn to eat.

When Annie went to the pond, she saw fox footprints. They went round and round the cage. They went round and round the pond. They went round and round the island. But the ducks were safe. The ducks lived in the cage for a long time. They were sad. They wanted to play on the pond. They wanted to eat grass. They wanted to swim. But they were safe.

After lots and lots of days, the sun started to shine. The weather grew warmer. The ice began to melt. Mr Fox couldn’t walk onto the pond when the ice had gone and he didn’t like to swim. When all the ice had melted and the pond had turned back into water, Annie opened the cage door. Out flew the call ducks. They landed ‘splash!’ onto the pond. Out waddled the fat white Aylesbury ducks. They stepped carefully into the pond. Out ran little wood duck, she jumped straight into the pond. The ducks were all very happy. Now they could play and swim and find food, and they were all safe.

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In some countries in the world, people are not safe in the places where they live. If there is lots of fighting in their country, sometimes they have to leave their homes and go to a safe place. This is called a refugee camp. The people need food. They need somewhere to sleep. They need clean water. They need toilets. Sometimes they need other people to help them.

People in our country can give money to a charity to help people who have had to leave their homes. Tearfund is a charity that helps people. Ask someone to help you find tearfund.org on the computer, and you can see pictures of some of the people they help.

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Letter to a Sister : 46


You just know it’s going to be a bad day when you put on your wellies to go and feed the animals and they’re full of cat sick. Louise (grouchy old cat) likes to sleep on the boiler. She obviously leaned over the edge in order to vomit. Super. I quickly removed boot, stepped back, and crunched on a dead mouse. It was obviously going to be one of those days. (So glad to read that you have them too. Perhaps we’re just lucky that way!)

Cleaned up mess in utility room and went out to sort out the birds. I was in the aviary, which is empty, when I heard a duck calling. I couldn’t see her anywhere. Wondered if I was going mad. I checked the laying boxes, under the old dog crate, everywhere. No sign of her but I kept on hearing her. Then I spotted her – actually there were two of them. They had crawled inside one of the ‘humane’ rat catchers that were on the edge of the cage. Goodness knows how they had managed it, they must have crawled through a tiny space to even get to the entrance. There they were, two ducks, crammed inside. One was calling to me, the other was very still and I thought she might be dead.

IMG_2221 (The rat trap -complete with rat!)

Getting ducks out of rat traps is extremely difficult. They only open at one end, the end that slams shut when something enters, so you have to try and hold the trap open with one hand. The duck immediately crawls to the other end. There isn’t room to turn her, so you have to detach her claws (which are clinging on to the base of the trap) and pull her backwards, whilst protecting her wings and stopping her feathers from protruding through the side of the trap or they’ll get damaged. All with your other hand. If you release your hold on her for a second, she will rush to the far end of the trap and you have to start all over again. It took ages. Four cats and the dog all came to watch/offer advice.

Anyhow, managed to release both ducks, who seemed fine. As I now had them captive, I decided to lock them into the aviary. This means I can collect their eggs for hatching (they tend to lay them all over the place and I rarely find them.) They were both hens, so I needed to catch a drake to stay in with them. This was also not easy, even with the dog helping. Eventually I shut the two hen ducks into the dog cage within the aviary and left the main door open. Ducks are very nosey. I moved away and the other ducks all wandered into the aviary to see what was happening. I could then shut the door, throw out the ones I didn’t want and leave two hens and one drake safely inside. I got them food and water, then went to clean out the chicken cage.

I lost a chicken last week – the little bantam one. (I bought the hatching eggs on ebay – they were listed as ‘large chicken hatching eggs’ but one egg was tiny and a bantam hatched. The joys of Ebay marketing!) Anyway, I thought a fox must have got her. Mostly the foxes stay out of the garden because Kia chases them off, but the young fox dogs go a bit silly in the spring, looking for a vixen, so I thought one must have decided to be brave. I looked around for feathers, but there was no sign. That was Friday.

IMG_3934 (Kia and chickens.)

 

Today I went into their cage and picked up the bucket I use to collect their poop in. There, underneath, was my bantam. She must have perched on the side and then it toppled over on top of her. I don’t know why she didn’t call to me. The other chickens all ignored her too, because they sleep in there every night. She was obviously upset but seemed unhurt. There were two eggs in there too.

I put her in with the ducks. Chickens are nasty if there’s a weak one, I thought the flock might attack her. She can be a duck for a few days. Ducks are much nicer, very friendly to each other and will even accept wild ducks on the pond. We have a few wild ducks that visit every spring. There are a pair of mallards who nest on the pond (but their ducklings never survive – we have too many crows and magpies in the trees and they pick off the ducklings one by one when they leave the nest. It’s brutal.)We also have a few mandarin ducks who come in the evening. They are beautiful. I think they must visit from a neighbour’s pond. They never nest with us, though we do have big trees around the pond, so I am always hopeful.

I thought raising children was hard, but I think it’s tougher when you’re a duck.

Take care,
Anne x

PS. I love the photos of Iceland. Maybe I will come with you next time.

I always get lost in foreign cities too – we share the same ‘confused’ gene.

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Thank you for reading.

If you enjoyed this, why not sign up to follow my blog?

anneethompson.com

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You can read my sister’s letters at:

 http://ruthdalyauthor.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/lost-letters-to-sister.html