Duck herding

Just in case you might have forgotten that my life is a good part farce, I will share this afternoon's adventures. As you read yesterday, we are now starting to let the chickens and ducks out of their pen in order to meander around the yard in order to eat dandelions and bugs. The chickens, once we herded them out the first time, quickly caught on, and enjoyed their freedom immensely. The ducks on the other hand, couldn't figure out what was going on. The first day, B. went in the pen and encouraged them to move towards the door. Actually, only one was encouraged to exit, the others required being picked up and put out of the pen. Once outside, the little amoeba of ducks happily quacked and waddled and nibbled their way around the yard. Then it was time to put everyone back in. I bought a bag of cracked corn and dried meal worms to encourage the fowl to come home. On Sunday, this was not quite successful. It took a multi-person effort to heard all the animals back into the pen.

Today when I opened the pen door, the chickens knew immediately what was happening, and were quick to flutter out and enjoy the yard. The ducks... not so much. I decided to just let the ducks be and see what they would do under their own power. Well, that looked like all the chickens outside the pen and all the ducks inside. The ducks would see the chickens on the other side of the wire and quack loudly. Eventually TM could not take it anymore and herded the ducks outside. He even filled up their wading pool, which filled their little ducky hearts with joy.

And then it poured.

The chickens all retreated into the coop where it was dry. The ducks? Well, they don't seem to mind the rain. It doesn't seem to matter where the water comes from, they like it. After the rain stopped, the chickens were more than happy to resume their wanderings. This is where the true hilarity begins.

It was just about time to begin making dinner, and I thought it would be good to get in the habit of putting the birds away in their home at this time so they weren't out at dusk. Even though it took several days of chicken and duck herding for them to figure out to go inside their coop at night, I kind of hoped that with the addition of treats, they would have the return home-thing figured out on the second day.

They didn't.

Well, most of them didn't. Some of the chickens upon hearing me call and shake their bag of treats came wandering over and happily started eating. Other chickens just continued to mill around. The ducks were oblivious. In the end, if any of our neighbors happened to be watching, this is what they would have seen.

After it was evident that just calling and putting treats inside the coop wasn't going to be 100% successful, I realized it was time to take action. A had been outside walking Olive, and was watching my attempts of chicken and duck corralling. She took Olive and started to walk around, herding the poultry towards the pen. Olive thought this was great fun. The chickens did not, and it was quite effective for most of the hens. The amoeba of ducks was not paying any attention at all, so A. and Olive went to herd them next. They would come waddling towards the pen, and then take a sharp turn and be heading away from the pen at the last moment. Over and over.

Eventually, with Y. at the pen door to push in any bird which came near and to keep the ones inside from exiting, I started herding birds in tandem with A. Olive got a little too excited at one point, and thought the better way to herd the birds would be to pick them up in her mouth. She managed to grab a duck, who understandably quacked loudly, causing Olive to drop her. In Olive's excitement to continue the duck chase, she lost her footing and ended up sitting on the duck, who managed to get away and went waddling in the other direction as fast as she could. So, just imagine, me running around and around the coop, trying to herd the loose birds towards the door. I didn't expect to be doing this, so I wasn't wearing the most appropriate footwear. It has also rained a lot over the past two days, so everything is more than a little muddy. When you are wearing definitely-not-mud-shoes while chasing birds, you have to be a little careful about where you put your feet. I'm sure I looked ridiculous. With the efforts of three people and one dog, all birds were eventually shut back in the pen.

Since we are all just making this up as we go along, I am pretty convinced that experienced poultry owners are more than a little amused at our efforts. Oh well... it's how you learn, right? Hints for calling them home and having them pay attention are welcome, though.

I will also add that the sound of duck feet on wet pavement as they waddle along is hilarious.


Anonymous said…
I have no poultry as I live in a large apt. building for
senior citizens. You had me laughing so much with your
amazing way with words. I could just picture the child
and dog "herding" the duck, then mouthing it, then sitting
on it....and you chasing around the pen after the duck, in
the wet, muddy ground.

I am recovering from a trauma of my own regarding my special little
cockatiel. His name was Spirit, and he owned up to his name. I
invited a lady who I knew for 4 yrs. come stay with me for a few
days...she got used to Spirit climbing around on her. I left the
small apt to go up to the computer room, came back an half hour later
to find my precious little Spirit huddled on the floor, gasping for
breath thru his wide open beak.
Behind him a few inches was a 4 in long, pool of blood. There were no
visible cuts or bites on him...She told me my other two small parrots
attacked him!...My assistant manager, when he saw Spirit, said 3 words
i will never forget, "blunt force trauma"...she did not admit it but
i think she stepped on Spirit and crushed his breastbone, lungs and heart.
I wrapped him in a washcloth , and was holding him as he took his last
breath. I am so sorry I did not protect my Spirit by locking him in his
cage...he had a little wooden ladder and would climb up and down to the
floor and his cage.
The lady had been with me for 5 days, as she searched for some kind of
temporary housing. The next morning, all her belongings and food from
refrigerator were gone. No note, nothing.

So your beautiful writing really helped me today...thank you so much.

mary m, age 71

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