I'm always nervous when I see my hens and ducks pecking and eating anything green in the garden this time of year. I worry that they won't know if something is toxic to them or not. Then I decide that they must instinctively know what they can eat and can't eat.
I walked past my beautifully draped, Grecian pot of what I call "sedum" because that's what it looks like to me, and realized my ducks, who had been out of their house for the past few days, had pecked it to death. My first thought was, "Well, at least I got a picture of it the other day before they ate it."
Not long ago, my neighbor called, desperately needing ground ginger for her very sick little herd of goats who had eaten something they shouldn't have. My first question was, "Don't they know what they should and shouldn't eat?" I guess not. She was able after a few days to nurse them back to health but wasn't sure what it was they had eaten and won't know the next time either, I suppose.
Nature is funny that way. I remember twice, at two different natural spring parks in Florida witnessing squirrels leap from tree to tree like I'd seen thousands of times, and miss. One landed flat on his stomach a good thirty feet below, looked stunned for a second, and then ran back up the same tree, I guess to try again. It was hilarious to see a wild creature goof up like we clumsy humans do all the time. The other missed the tree he was leaping toward and landed in the water next to me. And yes, he did look just like I'd imagine a drowned rat would look.
Another thing that baffles me is when my female duck lays an egg, then walks all over it. The chickens are extremely overprotective of theirs, taking turns brooding on the day's production, even cackling when one of us collects them to bring in the house. Not Mrs. Bickerson. I did a little research to see if a domestic Pekin would sit on her eggs and care for them until they hatch if we left them. I learned that in the wild a female duck will make a nest near a water source in the soft mud and take turns sitting on them with the male. We let the ducks out of their house overnight to see what they would do. Day one, I actually watched her lay an egg for the first time. I've never seen it happen. I just happened to wake up in the morning and look out the bedroom window that looks onto the farmyard. She was pacing from one corner of a raised vegetable bed to the other. She would hunker down in each corner then move to other. Finally, she just dropped it between the two spots which cracked me up. We left it there to see if she would choose that as her nesting spot. The poor little egg lay abandoned for the day, no one taking the time to keep it warm until the next morning she laid another right beside it. I was feeling hopeful but on day three...there was an egg smack dab in the middle of the path that we all use to get from the sidewalk to the hen house. It was near the pond, so maybe her instincts were working, but that doesn't account for the two neglected eggs in the garden bed.
So I guess Mother Nature doesn't always know. At no other point is this more apparent to me as when on various trips through Great Smoky Mountains National Park, our summer playground, we have seen a crowd of people hovered around a mother bear and her cubs. Sometimes Mother Nature's children are just plain stupid.