I'm the odd duck...
by Lorraine Ayre
(Denver, CO USA)
I love learning about chickens, and maybe one day I'll add some to my flock. My duck flock.
I absolutely adore my ducks. They're just... well if we're talkin' chickens, odd ducks.
I chose ducks because a book I read said they wouldn't scratch up your lawn, didn't get mites, were quieter and more cold tolerant, and gave richer eggs. The author failed to mention a few other things, however...
My beloveds, whom I adore, drill holes halfway to China in any spot in the lawn that's wet enough, so our sprinkler heads now stick up like flagpoles in the middle of little donut-shaped lakes.
They may be quieter than roosters, but my girls quack the neighborhood awake at 5AM in the summer. They want OUT of their pen when it gets light, and so it's really only a problem in June, …and July, …and maybe August. Thank God our neighbors love us anyway.
They do have some things in common with chickens: they bring JOY! They are just so darned funny.
The flock acts like one being, all connected by some unseen magnetic force.
They do everything together, and this made for some funny moments at first. All six would be waddling along toward the end of a fenceline, all in a row, and the lead duck would do a U turn at the end of the fence to get to the greener grass on the other side. As it made its way around the corner, it ended up next to the ducks behind it, and those ducks would just turn around and follow the lead duck, without having gone around the corner, with the fence between them, and then get upset that they couldn't get to the others.
Eventually they figured it out.
There is something about their quacks that resembles human laughter, so when they all get quacking you can't help but start laughing yourself, a bit like that Laughter Yoga guy in India who has that global nightly online laugh-a-thon.
Sometimes the whole flock will freeze completely still, in whatever pose they are in, for a full minute. Apparently they heard something suspicious and maybe dangerous. And sometimes they all turn their heads sideways and look up in the sky. Sure enough, if you look and look you will see that at 35,000 feet there is a microscopic airliner on its way to Europe.
Just watching them waddle into their pen as fast as their little webbed feet will carry them is enough to crack me up. What's even funnier is watching my husband walk behind them imitating their waddle as he takes out a pan of fermented grain.
They make me laugh, they keep me centered in work in a world that has lost its timeclock, their manure has transformed my vegetable garden into a paradise, they have eaten every slug, they have taught me the "duck yoga pose" (stand on one leg while stretching the opposite leg and wing (arm) out as far as you can behind you), and they have inspired the following list of duck wisdoms:
Keep your nose clean.
There’s no such thing as a bad day.
Enjoy the day.
Don’t be afraid of a little weather.
Take a nap after lunch.
Shake your booty!
Stretch your wings, even if you can’t fly.
Trust the field (you’re part of a flock).
When encountering something strange, be still and listen carefully.
Never pass up a chance to go swimming.
Don’t worry, be happy!
Be in the moment.
We’re all in this together.
Shake it off!
Happy Chooks = Happy Human
by Cecilie Christian
(Deming, NM USA)
Afternoon forays outside the run and coop are a special time for our chickens, dog, cats, and us. We’d hand feed them treats shared between all the critters! They have become quite tame and some are more affectionate than others.
I whistle-sing to them and they often will regale us with their own version of I Love You, Too! churrings.
They like to perch on our rocker arms, knees, and in our hands, too.
We taught our pup to howl and the chooks were faithful to accompany her as backup singers. The cats will purr and gently ‘Murrow’ their contentment with slow blinks for us and the chickens, too!
Later they play chase all the different critters together. The cats are usually the instigators as they feign ambushes, the hens and roosters put up a put on clucking and flurry of wings and feet!
Sometimes the chickens will retaliate with their own ambush on a cat.
Just sitting and watching them brings us so much joy and contentment.
With the recent cold, we’ve missed these afternoon-evening times. They will be all that much more joyful when we meet up again...
During our first lockdown in the UK, I was in my potting shed looking across at a very untidy patch of my garden and thought it was a perfect space for a chicken run.
As I already had a small shed (which again was untidy) I thought it would be perfect for their coop, so set about getting in some help to build. Luckily I found a couple of young lads who had experience of chickens via their mother's flock so very soon I had a lovely run and coop, but no hens.
I had to wait until June for them, but what excitement to go and collect them on the appointed day. For quite some time I couldn't sleep properly as I was always worrying about Mr Fox, but now 9 months on I am far more relaxed.
I work from home as a book-keeper, which means I am in front of a screen for most of the day. Having got the hens (all with names picked to reflect their personalities) I have found that I break away from work 2 or 3 times a day and just go and watch them.
In the summer I always had my coffee and cake sitting on a chair - really relieves any stress. They always make me smile and laugh as they hurtle round their run all wanting the one small piece of cabbage, even though there's a huge chunk still hanging.
I give them plain yoghurt sometimes and again that causes me great amusement as it goes all over me as well as them!
My friends have asked if I regret getting them, but always I respond that they were and are the best thing to have done in a lockdown, and I would recommend anyone who works from home, and has a reasonable spare amount of space in their garden, to invest in a few hens - constant smiles, laughs and of course a daily supply of eggs!
Even cleaning out the coop is not really a chore - it provides a sense of achievement and I know that my hens are well cared for.