Friday, July 04, 2008

"You're not a chicken!"

Benny and Carlin, our pair of Campbell ducks, are settling in to daily life at New Vitality Homeland. The first night was the worst; it always is, as the newbies aren't sure where they're supposed to roost, and it takes some effort to get them to go into the coop.

That first day, the ducks kept approaching the Wyandotte sisters for reassurance only to be violently rebuffed. The ducks would flee the pecking chickens, crying and sobbing, over and over again. The cats, who have so far shown almost zero interest in attacking, went completely feral over the ducks. Why? They're not as fluffy-large as the chickens (although they're meatier) so they look like easier pickin's, but mostly I think it was the duck's baby-cries. Nothing says "good eatin'!" to a predator like the distress cries of a young animal. Vivani and Gina both spent the day slinking along the fence, stalking the ducks, who would see the cats and run screaming to the chickens. Who would flare up and attack the ducks, who then ran screaming....yes, a fun pet day.

A little after 9:00, when the ducks finally hopped into the chateau, it was almost fully dark. I stood outside their closed coop door to make sure the chickens wouldn't attack these strange, clearly-not-chicken newcomers while they waddled around looking for a spot to settle in. I listened until the ducks stopped crying and fell asleep, then went to bed.

They're much better now. Benny, whose head is slightly darker than Carlin's, is the bolder of the two. They're still young—about three months old—and are still growing out their feathers. When they're fully feathered I'll get them a kiddie pool, but in the meantime I put a cat pan with a couple inches of water out there so they can bathe and splash around. (It gets so dirty I have to change the water twice a day!) The chickens have decided that the cat pan is a superior watering station and now ignore their speciality chicken-watering bucket.

I also got a wide, flat, galvanized pan to feed them in, as the ducks definitely like to scoop their food rather than peck it as the chickens prefer. The chickens no longer fear the ducks, but they're still not completely down with Benny and Carlin's enthusiam for their company. Since mealtimes are high-octane events, I'm feeding them out of two dishes: the flat pan and an old Tupperware bowl. The ducks have caught on that when I come home from work they get dinner (more poultry kibble and a load of fresh greens) so as soon as I run the gantlet between the front door and the back, they start squealing with anticipation.

It's nice, this coming home to squeals of anticipation from family and pets. I recommend it. And if, for some reason you can't have ducks or chickens or cats, I recommend you squeal with delight and anticipation every time your sweetie comes home.

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