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Rediscovering AnimalsĀ 

Conversations with Ms. Khaki

Ms. Khaki and Mr. Campbell are expecting August 5. She has a beautiful nest, a perfect circle of straw and eight handsome green eggs in the nest box, where they are safe from everyone but my daily spraying with a fine mist from the outside-pen access door. (The humidity in the southwest has been very low lately, so the inner membrane on the eggs can be too tough for a chick or duckling to break through.)

I've had to pen up Gwendolyn the hen, for she is determined to contribute to the nest and can hop a four foot chicken wire divider. Ms. Khaki moves over without a struggle to let the hen lay, but she stays a bit longer than the duck would like, so she's happy when I remove her friend, who also lays eggs of green. (Good thing they're smaller and a different shade, since Ms. Khaki supplies eggs for a young girl allergic to chicken eggs.)

We don't have many insects here in this dry country, but somehow the red worms find the spilled water under the water dishes, which become an occasional treat for Ms. Khaki. When she hears me doing the morning chores, she comes out of the nest box and heads directly for the chicken wire divider to look me in the eye and ask for some red worms, please. It's a quiet but insistent series of eighth-note quacks. "Okay," I say, and I lift off the water dish to see if any worms have dug themselves into the wet soil. Sure enough, if a few days have gone by, there they are, so I dig some up and toss them to the waiting mother-to-be. (This is her first brood.) She and Mr. Campbell gobble them up, and she comes back to the divider asking for more. I look. "No more today," I say, holding my hands open to confirm the English, and Ms. Khaki turns around, takes another drink of water and heads back to the nest for the day--until she hears me again in the afternoon, when she comes to the fence to ask politely for a snack of her favorite treat, iceberg lettuce. (She was raised on it, but I've convinced her that Honey Dew melon rinds are nearly as good.)

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