Anne Fitzgerald: 'Crying foul after daft drake and black hen create chaos in the farmyard'

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Stock image

Anne Fitzgerald

At a recent social function, my husband, Robin, turned to his neighbour and said, "I'm having terrible trouble managing stock this year."

"What, the young bulls?" interjected a staunch steer man a few places down the table. "No," said Robin, "the ducks."

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"The what?!"

He had opened the door to a saga with more twists and turns than Game of Thrones.

We have had hens for years but we decided that it would be nice to hatch some fowl. The obvious approach would have been to get a rooster but the run is close to the house and I felt the novelty of his cock-a-doodle-do-ing could have quickly worn thin.

So a friend, Pat Hennessy, landed on with a black crossbred drake and two ducks, one black, one white. They joined our three hens, two Rhode Island Reds and a Blackrock.

In preparation, Robin had knocked a hole into stable adjoining the run, to give more space and shelter. He also made a two-up, two-down nest-box, amidst nostalgic stirrings of farmyard bliss, busyness and plenty.

I love the sound of hens clucking, while the ducks quacking and the drake's honking soon added to the pleasing chorus.

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However, we soon started to hear a different sound, of distress. The drake had started to chase and jump on the black hen.

We thought he was mistaking her for a duck, so we decided to give her away.

Big mistake! It was like rewarding a child for bad behaviour.

The drake then starting chasing the red hens, with even greater gusto.

So we divided the run, separating ducks from hens.

Even at that, for several days, the drake managed to squeeze his way through the bars of the dividing gate and continued his campaign of intimidation.

The red hens don't help themselves either as they occasionally hop over into the ducks.

This inevitably results in a kerfuffle, accompanied by the sight of a fleeing flapping hen, which draws us to the kitchen window, when Robin will inevitably say, "that drake is making life-changing decisions".

But, somehow, he - the drake, that is - still hasn't been given his marching papers.

However, the real sickener is that it looks like we might not end up with any ducklings.

Soon after they started laying, one of the ducks went about hatching, so we left some eggs for her. But, for whatever reason, she came off the nest.

What's more, we keep hearing that the exiled black hen is laying a big fat brown egg every morning.

Speaking of such things, we've more craic there.

You might think egg hunts are just for Easter; well, we have one every day.

The two red hens are straight-forward. They have their own coop and both lay in it, daily.

The ducks were laying under the ramp from the stable but now lay in various parts of the run. We sometimes even find an egg on the straw in the stable.

The only place that we never find an egg is in Robin's nestbox.


But a strange thing happened recently, when we bought a replacement Blackrock hen and an orange coloured Orpington.

We put them in with the other hens but - unsurprisingly - they started pecking the new ones. So they hopped over into the ducks where - surprisingly - they are largely ignored by the drake.

We don't know why, but harmony seems to have broken out.

Now that a more pleasant atmosphere has been established, maybe a duck will go about hatching again?

Where there's peace, there's hope.

Indo Farming

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