Tree Ducklings for Henrietta
A fairy tale by Helga Parl
Mrs McDonald lived in a little house in a leafy Brisbane suburb. Her front garden looked a picture of flower beds and colourful shrubs. Passers-by couldn’t help admiring it. They often stopped, when they saw the little old lady working hard and then complemented her on her efforts. It made Mrs Mac, as she was known in the neighbourhood, very happy. It made it worth her while to get up early in the morning and do all the shores before it got too hot for her, to be outside.
Though her backyard couldn’t be described as being messy, it definitely was not a show case. There used to be a lawn, but many shrubs and a few huge trees had sent their roots from one fence line to the other and had converted the former lawn into a rather scruffy meadow.
It was an ideal place for the half a dozen hens that foraged in there all day.
They were fed corn, greens and kitchen scraps and they given fresh water every day. At night they roosted in a shed, which formed the border to the back fence neighbour.
On most days five of the hens laid one egg in nests easily detected by Mrs Mac. They cackled very loudly until their egg was gathered into Mrs Mac’s basket. They then carried on with their scratching for worms, drinking or just dosing in the shade.
Henrietta, the sixth hen, didn’t want her eggs to be taken from her. She wanted to sit on them until her chicks would emerge.
‘You silly, girl,’ Mrs Mac scolded her. ‘I need some eggs for cooking but most of them are exchanged for your feed.’
Henrietta kept on hiding her eggs in a corner of the shed and never let Mrs Mac know, when she had laid another one.
One day, Mrs Mac had an idea. She purchased a few fake eggs. While Henrietta had reluctantly left the shed to eat and drink, her eggs were exchanged for plastic ones. Mrs Mac smiled when Henrietta returned to her nest. She reasoned that Henrietta was not a dum chuck and would soon realise that there was no life in those fake eggs and hopefully, she then would join her sisters in their carefree existence.
Some days later, Mrs Mac decided to take a walk along the nearby creek. To her surprise she spotted an abandoned native duck’s nest with three eggs in it. They looked as if the ducklings could hatch any moment. Mrs Mac scooped them up, placed them gently under her blouse to keep them warm and hurried home. Henrietta didn’t object when she was lifted from her useless eggs and Mrs Mac had no trouble replacing them with the duck eggs. They were still warm from being nursed by the old lady and Henrietta sensed that this time she would be successful in breeding her own little family.
Sure enough, the next morning, when Mrs Mac opened the shed she found three little ducklings next to Henrietta. The other hens looked suspiciously at the brood but Henrietta was as proud as Punch and led her ducklings to the water trough.
Mrs Mac had prepared special greens and tiny seeds for the youngsters to eat and was more than pleased to have an addition to her flock. The ducklings followed their foster mother everywhere and soon grew into good looking youngsters.
There was one problem though. Ducks need to swim in more than a little dish of water.
Mrs Mack asked her neighbour to help dig a little pond in between the protruding tree roots.
She lined the pond with a big plastic sheet, put in some soil and planted a few water plants. It looked quite artistic and the ducklings loved to spend a lot of time in it. They looked so funny when they put their heads under water and let their behinds poke out into the air.
But while they enjoyed the swim, Henrietta ran franticly around the edge of the pond. She had never learned to swim and was worried that her children would come to grief. Of course, they never did. When they had enough of the water they hopped out of it, shook their downy feathers and followed their mother to find their food.
When they had grown into adulthood, Daisy, Alf and Debby stretched their wings. They somehow sensed the nearby creek and longed to go there.
One lovely morning, Mrs Mac watched in amazement, as the three young ducks flew out of the yard and turned towards the creek, where their forebears had lived for many years before.
Henrietta was sad for a week. But thereafter she laid an egg every day and cackled happily to announce to the world that she was as good a hen as every other one of her sisters. Mrs Mac was happy too. She prepared the chook’s favoured food, spinach and corn, and they all lived happily ever after.
- Fairfield Writers Group-Queensland
- Fairfield, Queensland, Australia
- Fairfield Writers Group is a mix of beginner and experienced writers who meet the second and fourth Saturdays of the month at the Brisbane City Council Library in Fairfield Gardens Shopping Centre, Fairfield road, Fairfield, Queensland. Our passion is writing and we work hard at our craft. Our aim is to encourage, support and help each other to reach new heights in our writing. New members are always made welcome and usually whisked off to the local coffee shop at the end of meetings for sustenance and socialisation with the rest of the crew.
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