Last night I let my 22 Muscovy ducks in their yard around 4 pm (normal time) and did a head count, coming up 3 short. I went back out and found 2 more taking a nap (and hoping to evade notice) under the camper trailer. The last one, Ethel, I just couldn't find anywhere. I searched our 2 acres twice; it took 45 minutes to do a thorough search. Nothing. I remembered seeing her at around 3 or 3:15 in the afternoon but by 4 she had disappeared. In my search I found no evidence of a struggle or lost feathers. I assumed we had a fox and he snuck in and nabbed her and took off. Naturally, I was upset. She was such a sweet duck and she was also starting to lay again. So far she's given my 4 eggs!! And so early in the season. So I was doubly bummed. In the duck yard, several of her sisters, Emmie and Agnes were pacing the fenceline back and forth, making small discontented noises. They knew she was missing and they wanted her back. It broke my heart to watch them as they continued their vigil into the night. By now I was really mad and wanted that fox. I got online and found a really good recommended bait attractant. And I ordered some scent block so I could spray everything down and get the human scent off of the trap and supplies. Both of these are essential to catch a fox in a live animal trap. This morning my husband and I were talking: we concluded that it will take a week for the supplies to arrive and another week for the fox to get used to the trap being there before it lost some of it's suspicion. And in the meantime, my ducks are at risk. So Rodger suggested I call our trapper, Ethan who had caught 3 foxes previously and have him set up the traps again. I hated to because it costs so much, but I hate even more when my ducks get killed. So I relented and called Ethan this morning. He said he'd be here tomorrow morning. That made me feel a little better. In the meantime I went out to clean the duck house and yard. We have our cut wood for our wood-burning stove stacked next to the garage and as I was walking past it I heard a distinct thump in between the wood and the side of the garage; it was a large thump, I was sure of it. So I got my flashlight and peered in at the end of the stack and saw something black and white. It could have been Ethel, but I didn't want to get my hopes up. Whatever it was, it was 10 feet down the stack of wood from where I was peering in. I called her name but there was no movement. I went to that approximate location and started pulling wood out of the stack (it's stacked up to almost 6 feet high). I had a few avalanches on each side before I got the to bottom but it did not endanger whatever was black and white down there. I finally made it to the bottom and there she was!! Ethel!! I was so happy to see her. Normally Ethel doesn't like me to touch her, but her feet, I'm sure were asleep and she was all cramped up not to mention dehydrated and hungry. I picked her up and hugged her while walking her to the water bucket. She snuggled next to me so happy to be free!! She was shaking, poor thing. I put her down and she wobbled a bit but started walking on her own, slowly but surely. First place she went was in the duckyard and house to check out everything. Then she came out and took a few sips of water. I noticed she had torn off a claw on one of her feet from trying desperately to escape her prison. I have to explain that there are spiders and other bugs in the woodstack and she probably thought she was going to find something tasty in there: bugs hibernating for the winter. Although there was room for her to sneak in, there was no room for her to turn around and her feathers, all laying down in one direction, would prevent her from backing out. About now Agnes, my alpha girl and one of Ethel's sisters, saw her and came over. Normally Muscovies will wag their tails and spread their wings out to make themselves look bigger and bob their heads back and forth in greeting, but Agnes could tell Ethel was not herself so she just followed her around for about 15 minutes (Agnes doesn't follow anyone around, normally they follow her). Ethel kept going into the duckyard and house periodically to check to see if everything was as it was supposed to be. She must have missed that most of all: being warm, fed and secure during the night. In total, she probably went in there about 10 times within the next hour or so. The last time I saw her in there, she was in the small dog houses we have set up in the isolation pen taking a nap. Later, after she left the house, about an hour after her release, Squeak, another sister saw her and the tail wagging, head bobbing and such commenced again, but Ethel was a little better this time, a little more hydrated and returned the gestures to Squeak. In the meantime I had been restacking the wood and tidying things up. After that I went into the duckyard to finish cleaning for the day. When I popped my head inside the isolation house Ethel had managed, somehow, to hold onto her egg until her release from the woodpile. There it was nestled in the shavings! Currently, Ethel is with the rest of the flock. She has taken several naps. I'm sure she is very tired but doing well. I just heard some splashing and looked outside and saw that she is in one of the kiddie wading pools taking a bath looking chipper and well. All's well that ends well. Postcript: I shudder to think that if she had not struggled and thumped I would have never known she was there and she would have died with me walking by her repeatedly every day--and so close. I like to think there is no such thing as coincidence and she was signaling me when she heard me walk by. Also, while taking the duck grain to their feeding station this morning, I noticed numerous dig holes, probably from a raccoon last night. If Ethel had managed to get free in the dark, the raccoon would have killed her. Another coincidence? I think not.