Fewer beak to bill encounters with the chickens
Meet Bombay the duck
This might be a column about chickens, but over the years ducks have intruded. For the past decade our lives have been graced, if that’s the word, by an Indian Runner drake called Bombay, a tall, ungainly and often-randy creature who now cohabits with a blonde girlfriend called Cloud and an as yet unnamed brunette.
During successive summers Bombay’s sap would rise, and he’d war with various freerange cockerels that headed our chicken flocks. We ended up keeping them apart between about April and September.
Bombay also developed weird lusts for big, blond chickens, dragging one into the pond in a fit of deviant passion. He sired several generations of other ducks, so he’s had a good innings and a good time, but age is starting to catch him up.
He’s sitting down when he eats, is getting short sighted and his gait when moving about has become stiff and wobbly. Clearly, we are on overtime with this animal, but his plumage is still sleek, and his appetite for life and food undiminished, so I made some sheltered accommodation-style drake aids.
He sometimes fell off the duck house ramp, so I made a companion ramp to stand next to it. We also invested in a long rubberized plastic bath mat and a role of gaudy, grippy floor covering, attached these to the ramps and rolled their ends into the pond. At dusk they were something obvious for Bombay to aim for and provided more traction than the slippery rubber pond lining when he was exiting the water.
This worked for a bit, but he was still finding things effortful, so we shifted his little duck house into one of the chicken aviaries and bought a child’s plastic paddling pool, accessed by an Astroturf ramp. So far everyone has been enjoying this, and most of the time the big pond is off limits.
Encouraging the old boy to walk more is something we’re keen to promote, and this adjustment has allowed him regular access to the garden where he trundles about sieving the grass with his beak.
This latest change means the ducks are encountering our three big chickens more often, but so far these beak to bill encounters haven’t turned nasty. We no longer have a free-range cockerel to upset Bombay’s aged machismo, and it’s too early in the year for any residual chicken-related lusts to stir in his creaking loins, and with the big pond off limits the risk of his dragging one into it is much reduced, and anyway, we doubt he’d be capable of it now.
During chicken feeding times Bombay in his pomp would sometimes break free from the duck’s fenced off area and mount noisy raiding parties to pinch the hen’s grub, but so far he only seems interested in foraging about on our rather rough hewn lawn.
We shall have to see if any fizzing of residual testosterone and associated animus will return, but we suspect Bombay is now easy to outrun.
ABOVE: Bombay leaves the chickens alone