Chicken Crazy

Fewer beak to bill en­coun­ters with the chick­ens

Your Chickens - - Contents -

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

Mar­tin Gur­don

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