The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

New life and hazards

Photo: Duck and some of her ducklings

Photo: Duck and some of her ducklings

Today I was creeping gingerly up a roof to paint a gable. I looked up and spotted a collared dove sitting on a slim nest of twigs. If she was comfortable at this height why not me? I sat on the ridge and surveyed the view. A duck hatched out eleven ducklings yesterday and the brood were having fun on the pond. The moorhen’s chicks are growing fast. Unlike the ducklings they are kept well away in the reeds so seeing them is rare. But she still has three.

After school three young lads (about ten years old) appeared by the pond with a fishing rod and a lot of equipment which they left on the road. This meant that cars had to slow right down as they passed the gang. Sometimes people would stop and alert the gang to how dangerous their activity was. Their response was angry and abusive. As I was painting a bargeboard barely fifteen feet away from them I finally crossed the road to ask them to stash their gear on the grass. They were stunned. I moved their gear three times onto the verge before they let it stay.

What was more unsettling was the fact that I suspected that they were trying to catch the day old ducklings. They would throw bread to attract the mother and ducklings and then dangle a tempting piece of bread on the end of a hooked line. The reflection on the windows of the house revealed all. I didn’t tackle them on the point as I reckoned that it would encourage them to try even harder. I watched their endeavours with a heavy heart.

If they had caught a duckling I would have leapt from the ladder in an instant. In the end I couldn’t bear to watch so went to work on the back of the house.

The ducklings proved to be more intelligent than their pursuers. When I eventually climbed into Jalopy’s front seat I counted 11 ducklings so today all was well.

My client returned from work and told me that he’d stopped them stoning the Moorhen chicks. Their response was bitter and nasty. But when he swung into the drive today they vanished.

Why do some kids feel impelled to torment and kill wildlife? Are they growing up in homes where they feel so small that they need to destroy and abuse anything smaller than them?

This afternoon’s experience sickened and depressed me deeply. This was not high jinks it was three angry and disturbed children letting rip on the world. Perhaps growing up in a pretty yet isolated village is not the rural idyll that we imagine that it is for children. Maybe they feel trapped and confined when the school bus dumps them back at the end of the day.

And do their parents have any idea what they are doing? I doubt that they even care.

Tomorrow the new laptop arrives. Meanwhile I’ve borrowed Danny’s so just have time to dash off this post. Emails and comments will be answered at the weekend if all goes well.


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15 Comments

  1. Belinda

    I wonder if this is more common in kids who dont have pets? My kids have a dog(with pups for now)a cat & some chickens. They have been raised with the animals & know how to be gentle & loving.

    We had no pets growing up & I “adopted” every cat I could find until Dad made me take them back to where I found them. My brother on the other hand was quite mean to animals, he changed my cats pesonality completely when we flatted together as adults for a short while.

    At school in the 70′ & 80’s we caught insects – spiders, caterpillers, cicadas & bees etc, in jars, not to harm just to study really. Feirce was the competetion to see who could find all the different varieties of cicadas.

    Kids are different today for sure though. 3 kids walking abreast on the path near our village shops today saw me coming on my bike & didnt move over, when I rode quite close to the eldest girl on the far right she yelled the F word “in surprise” just how she was surprised is what Im still wondering about.

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Bridget

    I agree with you this is the behaviour of unhappy unsettled children. Two of the gang had some warmth but the leader horrified me – totally focused on destruction.

    Hi Jopan

    I think that you are absolutely right. If the parents aren’t there the kids are almost forced into gangs to survive. But children usually create really conservative, dictatorial gangs – which sadly they think are liberal and wild.

    Hello katyvic

    The local monthly mag report is a good idea, I reckon.

    Of course children have been cruel from time immemoriam. To other children, animals etc. Strangely conservative the leaders attack any child that doesn’t fit in. Survival of the fittest in its most basic form.

    I couldn’t ignore their dangerous behaviour. One of the gang could have been killed. Or an innocent member of the public taking a shortcut through the village, tired at the end of the day and driving a bit too fast.

    Hi Linda

    That’s interesting. I have a friend who used to leave the telly on all day in the playroom and noticed that her children were getting more obsessed with violence. When she turned the telly off they gradually settled down.

    I think that guidelines are quite important. They encourage conversation.

    Hello Steelkitten

    These boys frightened me. Yes some kids have always destroyed pockets of wildlife (can my potato gun really kill!). But I was disturbed when I thought that I could ‘safely’ say.
    “Please move your fishing gear onto the grass. There is plenty of room on the grass. You might cause an accident and someone else could get killed if you leave it in the road.”
    But not say.
    “Stop trying to kill the ducklings.”

    Hello Amelia

    Good point.

    We were brought up with pets. They had to be fed and watered and cleaned out before we ate. It’s so ingrained that I can’t eat breakfast before the Min Pins and chickens have been fed. Danny thinks that this is odd but clearly his parents looked after the animals on his smallholding.

    Hi Clare

    I’m not offended by your comments. Unfortunately I couldn’t have children. But this doesn’t mean that I’ve romanticised the experience. Children are generally a joy.

    There are loads of happy children out there. Yesterday I spotted an unhappy, destructive mini chief. The experience made me shiver as I could see a cruel adult in the making

    Hi Martyn

    I so agree.

    Hello Maria

    When I was growing up I called every mother Mrs XXX. I wouldn’t have dreamt of calling them by their first name. But then I was born in 1953! I’m not saying that things were better back then (no fitted carpets or central heating ?). I was a naughty and wild child but wouldn’t have dreamt of abusing an adult.

    I do hope that ducklings survive too.

    Hi Michelle

    I think that you must be loads younger than me but over the last 20 years things have change fundamentally.

    Most parents both have to go out to work (rent and mortgages are far too big for just one person to be able to pay) along with the telephone, internet, electricity, gas and weekly food bill. Sadly, the latch key kid is now normal in the UK.

    The people left behind to supervise are a few workers (like me) and a handful of retired people who wouldn’t dare confront these kids. The children might target them and make their lives hell.

    You were so right to take the time to follow those kids home. Well done.

    Hi Penny

    Thanks for your input.

    Really interested in your project.

    Much appreciated as I was a victim of abuse many years ago. Anything that could avoid abuse in the future gets the thumbs up from me.

    Hello Sebbie

    Of course loads of underage kids are great. In this article I’m just writing about three primary aged children in a very small village in East Anglia. I’m not talking about all children under the age of 18.

    90% of children around here are fine. Sparky, sometimes a bit cheeky but not displaying the anger of this little gang.

    I know that it’s not their fault but it frightened me as it was so raw.

    Well done to those kind sixth formers. Glad to hear that your mum is O.K.

    Hi Leah

    Yes, I agree with you. Empathy can be nurtured.

    Yet it can be hard to be gentle and respectful if everything in your home life is out of kilter.

    Schools are not just about grades. This is a place where you have to learn how to get along with others. It’s also a place that children can thrive away from the stresses and strains of family life.

    Loads of kids have a good family life but so many do not.

  3. I really do think it’s how children are raised.

    My sons are “all boy.” However, I took the time to teach them to respect people, animals, and nature — and they still do to this day.

    And I refuse to entertain that some children can’t be taught to behave. Even my son who has significant intellectual disabilities knows it’s important to be gentle and respectful.

  4. sebbie

    Just to put another persective on youngsters these days. My mum collapsed at a bus stop earlier today and two local sixthformers looked after her and called an ambulance. The nice ones get less publicity but they are still there. (Mum is fine now by the way just dehydrated because of the hot weather).

  5. Penny

    I know that this won’t help you much in your particular situation, but I thought it might make you feel a little bit better. I work in a Childrens Centre and some of my colleagues have set up an animal nuture group for young children. It is aimed at vulnerable children who are unhappy, been in situations of neglect or domestic violence or who are showing inappropriate behaviour towards animals. The group was started in response to research that adults who are violent to adults often start with cruelty to animals as children. The group develops children’s understanding of animals needs and how to care for them. It has been enourmously successful both in developing the children’s emotional well-being and in their relationships with people and animals. It is an approach that is being nationally recognised and many other groups are starting across the country. Please believe that children’s cruelty to animals is an issue that is being taken very seriously by some people.

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