Somewhere down the line we seem to have turned into a poultry unit. My first job of the day is to open the shutters on the big barn and let the ducks out. They start quacking the minute I put my key in the door. I let them out of their pen and they come waddling out, greeting me with big smiles and flapping wings. They run, or flap, straight down to the pond and we don't really hear from them again until tea time, unless we go into the manege, which is right next to the pond, in which case, they come and watch me ride, which is very sweet.
Next I let out The Ladies Who Lunch. George now has a separate hutch to himself, as he tries to go in with the LWL at night and doesn't let Roxy in. She is looking a little henpecked, to be honest. They like to be in in time to watch The One Show and seem a bit disgruntled that he gets in there first and takes up all the room on the sofa.
So the LWL come out and I throw some corn down for them. George can see this quite clearly from his cage and starts rattling the bars, because 1) his harem are eating in front of him, and 2) they are getting away. I give the girls a head start and then let him out. I shout, "Brace yourselves girls!" and open the door of George's hutch. He swaggers out, shirt unbuttoned to the waist, medallion glinting in the sunlight. He faces that age old dilemma, 'Breakfast or sex? Breakfast or sex?' But the girls have had a head start and have raced away towards the stables. Breakfast it is then, George. I highly recommend the corn.
Next I go and let the Chickstix out. These are Penny and Peggy's babies, who now cohabit in the big chicken pen. George lets out an almighty crow, that rents the air, and one of the babies valiantly tries to copy him, but it's more of a strangulated squawk, really, you know, like Simba practising his roar. I don't think George has anything to worry about just yet.
In the last week or so, we've let the Chickstix out to take their chance with the older chickens and everybody seems to be getting on splendidly, which is very unusual. The fighting could break out at any day, but I think Peggy has informed everyone that these are her precious babies, and if anyone starts on them, she'll peck their eyes out. (She's the one who sharpens her beak on the paving slabs, you don't mess with her).
Finally, I let Penny out, who is broody once again. We wondered why there were so few eggs in the coop at night, until one night Penny went AWOL. We spent an hour calling and searching for her and were about to give up hope when Mr O found her nestled in a pile of junk in one of the spare stables, looking smug and sitting on no less than sixteen eggs. We scooped her up and put her and her clutch in one of the broody pens, where she sits contentedly waiting for something to happen. I've no idea if anything will this time, but surely out of sixteen eggs, at least one of them should hatch? And could it not be a cockerel this time, please, we've enough of those as it is.
In the evenings the procedure is reversed. I stand by the barn and call the ducks and they come in for tea. Everyone's a bit amazed by this. Missis tries calling them and they don't take any notice. I don't know why they do it for me, but they do seem to recognise my voice and come to me. Son 2 was amazed when I did it last night. As we approached the pond, there wasn't a duck in sight. I started calling, "Duckies, come on!" and one by one their little heads appeared and they started waddling towards me. For some reason, I find it deeply satisfying. I am not a dog whisperer or a horse whisperer, but I do seem to have attained the rank of duck whisperer. Ah well...
3 days ago