I’ve been asked by several of you to catch you up on the chickens and ducks so here goes …

If you didn’t already know, we had 15 chickens from spring 2019: 13 hens and two roos. They’re a mixed lot of Comets, Isa’s, Australorps, and Silkies. The two roos, named Goldie and Blue, are Silkies.

We also got three Pekin ducklings last spring. All was well until we put the ducks outside and one disappeared the first week. Afterward we started herding them into the goat pasture at night, and we still have the two, Daffy and Daisy.

Daffy and Daisy love water. They have tubs that they get in and splash like kids. Problem is, we have a big pond, and those two girls wanted nothing to do with it! They eventually got where they’d waddle down to the edge and “shovel-bill” in the mud, then they’d run like they were being chased back up to their beloved tub!

Egg laying began last fall and we’ve gotten enough eggs each week to share.

Fall and winter went peacefully in the henhouse, except when Goldie and Blue began to understand they were boys and they both wanted to be in charge. Now, Silkie roos don’t fight like other roos. They “gentleman fight,” which means it never gets ugly, so the daily agreement over dominance usually ended with Blue running off.

Fast forward to this February. Once again we were in the baby business. We got nine what were supposed to be pullets (that means they were all girls), and all bantams. One of them had been injured and she was given to us. We also got four ducklings, and our basement turned into a brooder again. Right off, we lost three tiny chicks. Don’t know why. So we’re down to five.

Things proceeded as expected, with lots of litter changes and water fills. We got lucky and a very dear friend and neighbor, Laurie, fell in love with the critters too. Boy, she’s been amazing with all the daily attention to all our animals! She’s the “snack lady.” Anyway, one morning I was on my way to begin mucking duties and I heard a very distinct juvenile yodel/crow.

No way! They’re girls!

Like it or not we had a roo. He was tiny and feisty, and was the first one to figure out how to fly straight up, out of the box. So, ok, we’re down to four hens. I guess we can live with that.

Then once again I was on my way to tend them and a different voice — it sorta sounded like a strangling peacock — that was definitely a boy.

Good grief! Two more roos?! Someone will have to go!

We had noticed chicken coops in a yard down the road from us, and one evening we pulled into the drive. After introducing ourselves and assuring her we weren’t there to sell anything, we started talking about chickens. I asked her if she knew anyone who might need a couple roos. Lo and behold, she did! Goldie and the first lil new crower were adopted, plus she found a home for Hoppy, the little crippled hen.

I felt like things were leveling out. We were back to two roos and, now, three hens. All Silkies, which are cute, but not very dependable layers.

The ducks and chicks graduated to the pasture and henhouse and we cleaned up the basement mess. We were glad that was done! In my barnyard duties I began to notice something. We’d assumed that the four ducks, one mallard and three khaki Campbells, were hens. At least that’s what we hoped. I noticed a curled tail feather on three backs. No way! And those three Silkie hens? One of them was getting a comb, wattle and coloring of ... a roo! No crowing yet, but I knew.

Dang! Too many boys around!

Well, in the last two weeks Blue and the young white roo have died, separately and of unknown causes. The Silkie roo has begun crowing, and we’re down to two new hens out of 9! The three drakes are wearing my Pekins out and have seriously interrupted egg production. I’m gonna have to catch two and send them packing. The good thing is the Pekins have finally learned how to swim in the big pond.

Next time ... I don’t know if there’ll be a next time!

Sherrie Ottinger, a.k.a. “The TN Dirtgirl,” is a regenerative Earth thinker, teacher, columnist, author and speaker. Her passion is all things “dirt.” She may be reached at velokigate@yahoo.com with comments or questions.

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