by Linda Benson
My husband and I moved to a smaller place earlier this year. I believe it's called "downsizing." After almost half a century owning horses (and donkeys) I now had no equines, and we talked about travel and free time and sitting on the deck sipping mixed drinks. Ha!
After a lovely Spring spent admiring wildflowers and envisioning landscaping our small acreage with more native plants (a satisfying work-in-progress,) I started yammering for more animals. "I want some ducks," I pleaded. "For our canal." Since a lovely meandering irrigation ditch wanders through our place, it would only be more perfect with waterfowl, right?
After many years of marriage, my poor spouse knows that to resist is futile, so in short order we had ducks!
And more ducks!
And of course, after a duck pen, that meant we needed a duck house. And once the duck house was built, it was quite simple to put up a few roosts inside, just in case we might get some chickens.
So, of course, within one more day I found some hens!
Aren't they sweet?
I love all kinds of animals. I could sit outside all day watching the way they interact. A couple of days ago, we acquired one more Rhode Island Red hen, and just like horses (but even more immediately) they established their "pecking order." The little Buff Orpington hen immediately ran up to the older Red hen and bowed her head, saying "Peck Me, I'm younger and subservient." After two or three pecks, it was over. The grey hen (a Silver Gray Dorking) ran up and acted like a rooster, dragging her wing on the ground. In no uncertain terms, she established that "she" was the Boss Chicken of this outfit and no one better mess with her. The funny looking young hen in this picture (a Salmon Faverolles) is a bit clueless, and the Red Hen still pecks her from time to time, to get her out of the way at feeding time. But all-in-all, once the pecking order was quickly established, everyone became friends. I wish that humans could get along this well.
Anyway, so much for relaxation and shopping and travel. If you think horses are a lot of work, these chickens and ducks are ridiculous! They have to be let out first thing in the morning. And fed. And watered, because ducks (bless their little hearts) make a mess of their water dishes. And then the ducks have to be let out to go swimming in the canal. And checked on several times a day. And of course one must collect the eggs. And check food and water again.
And then picture me (with a rake in my outstretched arm) gently guiding my ducks up from the canal back to their predator proof pen each evening. "Go to bed, duckies! Time to go to bed!" Then of course they have to be tucked in each evening, with electric wire around them so no foxes, weasels, raccoons, owls, or coyotes will get them.
But I am supremely happy. After a lifetime spent around the demanding schedule of taking care of horses and other animals, I am programmed for this. Because that's what farm girls do. Right? And once a farm girl . . . well, always a farm girl.