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I’ve Definitely Got The Poultry Bug!

Cockerel

New cockerel, not full size or fully feathered

Perhaps proving that some people never learn, I returned to Aidan, my poultry supplier, last September (I know, I’ve been lazy about keeping my blog up to date) to buy six young point-of-lay pullets to supplement and refresh my flock and came home instead with ten layers, two Ailesbury ducks and two cockerels! The layers looked so nice and the ducks so cute that I just could not resist. My friend, Gary, accompanied me and he got four layers and two ducks. When I dropped him home with his birds, he offered me two cockerels that he had bred from a Rhode Island Red and a Welsummer. So, instead of coming home with six birds, I came home with 14. And then the fun began.

Ducks

Duck and Drake

The new cockerels, which are large birds, did not take very well to the existing little bantam cock and they fought like hell. I’m afraid they were equally inconsiderate to the hens and attacked them too. So there was bedlam in the normally quiet and calm coop. I had no choice but to separate the birds and send the cockerels to Coventry until they got some manners. They were going to have to learn some respect before I would let them near my poor hens and small bantam again.

Ducks 2

Ducks sticking together for comfort!

In the meantime, the ducks did not know what to do and were squirming in a corner of another coop, a little scared at the mayhem next door and somewhat overcome by their new surroundings. I began to suspect that one of my ducks was, in fact, a drake as he made a different sound to the other duck. I would subsequently be proven right in this assumption.

I kept the cockerels apart from the other birds for about a week, but in a place where they could see each other through wire and get to know each other a bit. When I let them all out together, and finally let them share the same coop, they had all calmed down and everything is now quite peaceful again.

New layers

New layers scratching about in the pen

I was delighted with my new arrangements and had the ducks in a large pen, which I originally let them share with the hens. The hens and cocks were in two smaller pens which opened out to the ducks pen if I wanted them to. My intention was to keep all the birds in the new pens, which, altogether, are about the size of a modern small suburban garden. This would enable me to start a fruit and vegetable patch in the garden without having the worry of the birds destroying everything. However, in no time at all, the ducks had the place destroyed and had all the grass eaten up and turned to mud in much of the pen. What damage the ducks didn’t do, the hens did with their scratching.

Laying

Birds in full production

So I had no choice but to let all the birds free range in the garden, which is how they are managed today. The ducks still stay in the big pen at night and the other birds in the coop, which I also had to enlarge to accommodate the new stock. What seemed like a small and insignificant addition to my flock certainly caused me some headaches, a lot of added mucking out and many new chores as well. But I am still enjoying the birds and find the ducks particularly amusing.

Finally, here’s a little tip when you have a lot of birds that appear almost identical, which is the case with my laying hens and cockerels. Ring the birds on the leg to be able to identify them, either individually or by year.
I ringed one cockerel to discriminate him from the other and ringed each of the new hens on the left leg to identify them as new stock. Next year, I will ring any additions on the right leg. This helps you to decide when birds are getting on a bit and might need to be culled from the flock. Also, if a bird is sick, you will also know whether it is an older bird or a younger bird, which might help you to decide on treatment or culling.

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