Compassion in World Farming

Saturday, 18 July 2009

The loveliness of ducks & the darker side of hens

This weekend started off very well. Hubby & I were up early for a Saturday as we wanted to get the new goose house built. All the panels had been standing in the garage waiting for the weather to be good enough for the job. After all the rain we've had recently it also seemed like a nice day to move Tom & Cherry, our Cherry Valley ducklings, up to the field to join the rest of the ducks. Tom was relatively easy to catch, but it took a while to catch hold of Cherry & in the process I managed to give my head a good whack against the edge of the ferret's big cage - OUCH! However, when we finally had hold of the two of them they were as good as gold & were very calm as we carefully clipped their wings & then carried them up to our little field. We set them down on the grass close to the other ducks & then stood back to see what would happen. Well, Tom & Cherry are talkative little ducks at the best of times & certainly made enough noise to let the others know they had arrived! Straight away my sweet little Chalk, the female Muscovy ducklet, ran over to greet them hotly pursued by Cheese the male. She made a very peculiar noise - it wasn't a quack, more like an excited little crying sound. At first Tom & Cherry were a little alarmed at these slightly odd looking ducks & the noise level increased even more! But as tends to be the way with ducks their friendly & inquisitive natures soon took over & before you knew it they looked like best buddies who had always been together. Chalk & Cheese seemed to take them on a tour of their new surroundings, introducing them to the other birds as they went. It was very sweet! Daisy & Seymour the Aylesbury ducks took to them especially well, maybe because they are so similar looking. When they came across the ponds Tom & Cherry couldn't resist diving straight in & having a good old dabble. All -in- all it was a very successful introduction & we had two happy looking ducklings enjoying their new surroundings & new found friends. (Of course I had a few tears, I always find these moments very emotional!)

Tom & Cherry with new friend Chalk

Although it was the duckling's day, I couldn't resist taking this picture of Cheese. He is starting to get the trademark Muscovy caruncling around his eyes now & I think he looks gorgeous!

My handsome boy Cheese

The new goose house flew up a treat. We bought it from Steve Fisher Woodworking, the same place we got our large hen house from. I'd definately recommend him for well thought out, well made, good value for money poultry / waterfowl housing.

So the weekend continued in the same successful vein.

Until it came to the ex-battery hens. I knew they had been squabbling a bit, but they hadn't seemed to be hurting one another so I had let them be to establish their pecking order as hens must. I had tried letting them out into the garden each evening to give them more space, but they hadn't been brave enough to venture out. However, when I checked on them this afternoon, one poor girl had a nasty wound on the back of her neck where one of the others had obviously had a go at her. Because the wound was bleeding the hen had to be separated to prevent further bullying. I was so upset! I have only witnessed the odd squabble with hens - nothing like this! It does warn on the BHWT care sheet that they can be quite savage to one another, perhaps due to the savage conditions they have spent their lives in, but I still felt responsible for this hen's suffering. Fortunately, with the Cherry Valley ducklings up in the field the old rabbit hutch was free again so the injured hen is in there while we treat the wound. She seems quite OK in herself, considering the nastiness of the wound, so I'm hoping she will recover well.

On a more positive note, the rest of the ex-battery hens finally ventured out of the shed today. I can't be angry with them for what has happened. It's just a darker side to hens.

They didn't venture very far, they stayed within about a five foot square area just in front of the shed, but it was enough for them to wreak havoc! The totally stripped the leaves off some raspberry canes I had growing in a large pot & then set about shredding the leaves of my rose bushes! Oh, those naughty hens! If only they would venture a bit further onto the grass they would have all the grazing they could possibly ask for without destroying my garden. But I have to say it a joyous thing to watch them. They had very wide open, blinking eyes as they enjoyed all the new sights, sounds & sensations of being out in the fresh air. They looked so contented as they trashed my rose bed that there was no way I could get cross. They really are coming along very well & their feathers are even starting to re-grow. I'm hoping with the whole garden to explore they will now have enough to distract them from any further nasty bickering.

So, if it hadn't been for poor injured hen it would have been a perfect Saturday really. Let's hope she makes a full recovery soon.


  1. hens can be terrible bullies can't they?
    and when they start sometimes they dont stop until a hen is dead.
    lovely pics by the way

  2. I think the seperate hutch sounds a good idea right now.Rain stopped play on our plans but we should be back to speed on Monday!Dxxx

  3. Yes I agree that hens have a darker side - and cockerels even more so. I had two cockerels who lived quite happily together - they had lived together since birth - then one day the whole brood set on one of the cockerels and he disappeared. We found him a week later in the middle of the wood pile - still alive but very much the worse for wear and not daring to come out. He lived in a separate pen for the rest of his life, while the others roamed freely. We gave him a couple of elderly bantams who couldn't roam far as companions but I always felt very sad for him.

  4. Sorry to hear one of your hens got injured. Unfortunately the 'pecking' order being established can sometimes result in this. If you can make sure the injured girl can still be seen by the others it will make introducing her back again a little easier.

    It will settle down eventually! Your ducks are lovely, I would love some Indian Runners at some point :)

  5. hi, first time here for Going Gently, great blog you have going here and what a wonderful job you do! an old timer told me always to put new birds in with old at night, and when they wake in the morning they will get along - i always do this, and it works, coincidence? peace for all