Hens teeth and the Ducks That Run You Ragged.

Hens teeth are pretty rare I must admit. Before the great dinosaur extinction, the forerunner of jungle fowl would probably have had teeth to cope with tougher vegetation and tougher insects too. I am glad to say hens and ducks devolved their teeth in favour of just beaks now. Three days ago an event happened that, even if it would not astound duck breeders, certainly wowed me. One of our ducks laid an EGG! An event that seemed as rare as hens teeth.
To give you some background, we have kept hens for about four years, and ducks for about two and a half years. We have had some ups and downs with the hens, particularly with feather pecking. I am sad to say, I have had to ‘dispatch’ four of our first hens due to their seriously disheveled state caused by a black rock hybrid, Henrieta. She really was a top pecking order bird, to the extent of mutilation, which I think may be rare. Any road, our new birds have settled and took to the ducks we later introduced like, well, ducks to water! I gave the ducks a little pond made from a wheel barrow body, then later made from a big galvanised cold water tank I removed from my loft. This pond now having flowing water pumped from a home made filter header ‘tank’ means the ducks can bathe in relatively clean water. That’s them sorted. The hens have their own chicken coop, ergonomically designed to make cleaning very easy. Sue is very fussy about their cleanliness, and the duck’s. To help the hens take their ‘minds’ off the pecking order, I arranged a little assault course for them, and made a second dust bath enclosure. Note, this has to be enclosed since the dust flies everywhere! Same with their indoor one, sheltered by their ‘overnight accommodation’ above. The hens laying bay is attached to this and accessed from the outside by a flap roof. The dear little things are very comfortable on their chopped straw bedding when they decide to lay an egg. Each hen has her own favourite spot; the problem is, they all like the same spot! Constructing dividers worked for a while, until they all reverted to their original favourites. I have seen three hens trying to get into the one division! So, back to plan A.
Night time is a bit of a routine ceremony. I like them perched up, so we can collect their droppings easily (we put newspaper down). Some, one or two, will jump up onto the perch, but the rest (we have 6 birds) won’t. So at dusk, they will wait for me to oblige, but they like to be closest to their door. Which creates a bottle neck of course. If one or two haven’t made it up the ramp before the blockage, well mostly they will hang about underneath. Having arrived to lift them all up onto their perch, I complete the job, being careful to put them in the right order. It has to be right because each may, and have, decide to swop places, nudging their neighbours out of the way. It is so comical to see! So settled, then I stroke each one and say good night.
You may think by now, I have completely lost it, but I ‘know’ they all settle better for the routine. It is easier to determine the character of each bird at this eye to eye level. A warning here, that’s not always true. Never bend down to look at a hen more closely, she may peck you in the eye! It didn’t hurt really, and I wasn’t cross with the bird. My silly fault. I should have remembered Alice Walkers accounts of keeping hens in her book ‘The Chicken Chronicles’. She Did say chickens are attracted to shiny objects, including eyes. After a visit to a fairly close hospital to test my eye for damage, I was declared fit for duty! No more temptations.
Except, that is for treats. Both the hens and ducks anticipate them whenever we are near to where we keep them i.e. the shed, making a complete racket. Dried meal worms mixed with mixed corn,layers mash and Luxury bird feed. It keeps them quiet for a while, anyway. Which reminds me, our neighbours love the sound of the hens and ducks, as do we. There is almost a language there. And they love ‘helping’ Sue to clean their homes out. They will also inspect Sue’s progress too. They are naturally curious about everything, odd noises, odd objects, odd people!
The ducks, well they are unique as far as we know. One didn’t start laying for about three months after we got them, and the other, six months. Although the same colour, I began to suspect one was male, by her/his behaviour. Then suddenly,she/he laid an egg! We enjoyed them for a couple of months or so, and then, nothing. And more nothing. I thought about giving them away, culling even. But eventually, I didn’t have the heart. They Were so engaging, so funny with their waddling. But at times, so stroppy! ‘We’ have a little routine, like the hens, that involves me shepherding them into their little hut. Except when the door blows to, or one decides, well, lets give him the run around shall we! That’s when they can run you ragged. Just like a silent movie with Charles Chaplin. Good entertainment for anyone watching.
But, oh Lordy, I wouldn’t want it any other way. Now, for my patience, one has decided to start laying again. Hence the ‘miracle’ egg. And we can look forward to baking with duck eggs again, unless….
Anyone thinking about keeping hens and ducks, let them check you out first!
Thanks for reading, till next time.
Love from me.

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3 Responses to Hens teeth and the Ducks That Run You Ragged.

  1. Looks like I will know where to come for advice should I need any Andrew.. thanks for this indepth post .. Hope you have lots more eggs to continue baking and for that early morning breakfast šŸ™‚

  2. Much enjoyed this article and it made me laugh. I have no doubt they sleep better when you stroke them and say good night. Who doesn’t, man or beast.

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