You know, many times a person develops this beautiful sentimental image in his (or her) mind about how things are going to go.
Like raising chickens and ducks, for example.
You just think it’s going to be this beautiful thing. A rooster waking you up in the early morning with his beautiful crowing. Going on a treasure hunt every day gathering chicken and duck eggs. Looking out at your chickens and ducks free-roaming over your property eating grass and bugs. Everything peaceful and soothing and beautiful.
Then reality shatters our beautiful imaginings.
We discovered that the adorable, beguiling ducking we named “Cuddles” has become a perverted sex maniac who rapes chickens…potentially to death.
EJ had read that in addition to mating with the female duck(s), a male duck will also go after the hens and can end up hurting or killing them. “We have to watch for this,” EJ warned. “Ok,” I agreed solemnly. But when it first began to happen, I was usually giving the chickens some clover I had picked, and the greedy ducks crowded in and there was a conflict. I thought it was just squabbles and boundary setting incidents. Then yesterday evening it escalated. Cuddles jumped on a little hen and the Rooster rushed to defend her. He leaped on the duck who turned and attacked him. It happened several times.
Dag-nabbit! My peaceful soothing coop was becoming a dog-gone soap opera.
This was unacceptable. We thought about leaving the ducks in the outside pen all night, but we couldn’t bear to make them vulnerable to predator attacks. But something had to be done. I figured they’d all probably be safe in the garage because they’d be sleeping but I hardly slept all night trying to figure out how to protect the ducks and chickens from both predators and each other.
Last night I read that if a duck goes for the hens, they have to be separated or the duck must go. I got up just before EJ left for work. I went outside and opened the garage door to release the ducks and chickens into their outside pens. And, dang it, Cuddles immediately chased after the hens!!! The chickens were all upset. I used the rubber-footed cane I call my “rooster whacker” (which I use to herd my flock or to gently “poke” any rooster who tries to get sassy with me) to steer Cuddles away from them and I got him shut up by himself in the coop while Peeper stood forlornly outside. Then I turned the coop so it divided the garage pen in two, with the chickens getting the bigger half because there are more of them. I made it so the chickens had access to the coop but not the ducks. Then I dragged in the large dog house that was in the outside pen and added it as a wall divider, turning it so the ducks could access it at night as their coop. In this way, I can keep the ducks and chickens both shut up safely in the garage at night, and divided from each other.
But I had to still figure out how to divide the ducks and chickens during the day. We are planning to enlarge the pen, so I thought that I could divide the outside pen, making it so that the ducks go one way and the chickens the other. I drove in metal posts. I have fencing, but I don’t know where EJ keeps his wire cutters so I had to postpone setting it up.
We had originally intended to let our chickens and ducks free-range but then we thought we couldn’t bear it if they got killed by the many predators in our area. A neighbor told us that the previous owner of our house had guinea hens, but they refused to return to their coop at night and the coyotes picked them off one by one. And one of JJ’s co-workers told him that her flock of chickens were all killed by raccoons. So we changed our minds about free-ranging. However, since I have to separate the ducks and chickens, I figured this day was a good one for the ducks to begin their free-range adventure.
I let Cuddles out of his coop-prison. He immediately went after the hens. I used my rooster whacker to guide him and Peeper out into the main part of the garage, intending to guide them to freedom outside. Another image shattered: You’d think that the ducks would be overjoyed to get out into the beautiful world where they are free to wander and eat grass and bugs to their heart’s content. Nope. Cuddles and Peeper wanted back in the pen. I nudged them with the Rooster Whacker and they went and hid under a table. I tried to guide them out, but they refused. Finally, I grabbed one duck (I can’t remember which one) and carried it outside, setting it on the grass next to the pool that I had carried out and filled with water. Then I went into the garage, grabbed the second duck and carried it out and put it next to its mate. They were not happy.
They ended up waddling over to the outside pen and huddling there and forlornly looking in the pen. I sighed, emptied their pool, carried it over near them, and refilled it. A couple of times they went swimming in their pool, and then they returned to their spot outside the pen. “It’s your own fault,” I told Cuddles. “We had a good thing going and you ruined it with your sexual proclivities. You just had to be a Don Juan!” Outwardly I was very unsympathetic but inwardly I felt sorry for them. Unlike humans, Cuddles is not behaving with evil intent. He is only behaving as a duck behaves. Still, we can’t have him harming the chickens.
I haven’t decided whether to free-range the ducks permanently or not. If I can get the outside pen divided so I can keep them separated, I may pen them back up. Although, given time, they will probably adjust to free-ranging and enjoy it.
To add to the stress of the morning, I didn’t shut the door of the house well enough and Luke and Little Bear got outside. Luke was easy to catch, but I had to bribe Little Bear with canned cat food that I put next to the Suburban that he was hiding under. When he went to eat it, I grabbed him. I was concerned that Danny would chase the ducks when he went outside, but I told him to leave them alone, and he did. He is such a good dog.
Anyway, so much for peaceful, beautiful, sentimental images of how things will be. I think I’m so not cut out for being a farmer/homesteader type of person. I have too much empathy. Sigh.