Warning: Today's post is not a happy one. If you are offended by blood or the way nature works, this might not be the post for you.
This morning as I went out to feed the quail I noticed one of them - the big one I assume is the male - just siting on the floor of the cage. It is quite unusual behavior for him - especially as all other quail were doing their usual hop dance as I put my hand in. I reached in to grab him and turned him over, only to find his entire great plucked clean of feathers.
It is the only explanation. There is not a single feather left on his breast (fortunately, there appears to be no other punctures than that). I had thought I had cleared them out and had not seen any sign of them (I thought). Apparently I was just fooling myself.
The quail is now in our homemade hospital suite, a large converted tub with sawdust and some food and water and a friend (who, I now suspect, also had a run-in with the rat). He has food and water and will be (hopefully) spending an extended time there healing (I have no idea how long it takes feather to regrow).
I feel awful. I feel like I should have seen this, should have done more to protect them. I should have been more suspicious. They count on my for their survival and protection - and I let them down.
Off to the store, of course, to get ready. I am delving into an area I do not typically dwell in in my world - the conscious preparation of killing an animal. It unsettles me greatly. But then I remember the words of Gene Logsdon, that wise sage of country living, who says that "Mother Nature could just as easily be called Old B**** Nature."
And I am angry - angry perhaps without cause, but angry none the less. Angry at this animal that has attacked a harmless bird - no, a harmless bird under my protection. Yes, someone can make the argument that it is merely doing what rats do in the wild.
Fine. Go do it somewhere else.
It is at these moments I think sometimes the entertainment industry does a great dis-service to us all by anthropomorphizing animals. People think of things like rats and they thing of The Rats of Nimh or The Tale of Despardeux or The Great Mouse Detective: animals that speak and have feelings - maybe a little evil perhaps, but none the less that are conscious, sentient beings that act rationally.
The sad reality - the one I find myself painfully reminded of this morning - is that this is not the case at all. The rat is acting as it is wont to act in nature: find and secure a food source. Not sing, not find a way to co-exist - find a food source.
As the Ents said in The Two Towers "We go, we go, we go to war to hew the stone and break the door."
But I am none to happy about it.