Was it (much recovered) injured hen Jessica? Surely not. Was it mild mannered Lottie? No way.
Injured hen Jessica with a purple neck from the antiseptic spray (left) & the lovely Lottie (right)
Who could it have been?.......
It was all the work of Kitty, Molly, Norah & Oprah our other four ex-battery hens who had recouped their health & strength a lot more quickly than expected & had run riot in my poor garden while I was sick with 'flu! Still, it has been absolutely fantastic watching them go from very sorry looking birds to hens with all the lust for a free ranging life that they should have. The garden can wait until next year. Because they had done so well & the ducklings needed a place to live outside I took the brave decision to try integrating the four vandals into the rest of the flock, leaving just the injured hen & a friend with the freedom of the garden & shed. This would mean the old rabbit hutch was no longer needed as a hen hospital & would be available as a home for the ducklings. So on Thursday Operation Brown Hen commenced & we sneaked Norah & Oprah into the hen house under the cover of darkness. The next day it seemed that the stealth mission had gone unnoticed & they looked, apart from their missing feathers & ragged appearance, as though they had always been part of the flock! So on Friday night we sneaked Molly & Kitty up. That introduction didn't go quite so unnoticed by the rest of the chickens, four new house mates was obviously pushing our luck, but thankfully no serious fighting broke out & the next day, after a few squabbles, all was peace & harmony again. I took a moment to sit & enjoy the scene. Our little field is full of happy looking birds now & is such a pleasant place to be. Just enough room left now for four little Mallards if needs be.
I have emailed the R.S.P.B. to get their advice on what I should do with the rescued Mallards. Should I leave them to them fly away when their wings grow? Will they survive in the wild now? Or are they vulnerable because of their tameness? Should I clip their wings & give them a permanent home? A part of me dearly wants to keep them, but really I just want to do what's best for them. I keep checking my emails in trepidation, but so far no response. So I have just got on with the day to day care of my little charges. Weaning them from chick crumbs onto growers pellets with the occasional treat of shredded lettuce. Giving them a daily splash about in a tray of warm water. Cleaning their bedding daily in a never ending cycle of towel washing & drying. Watching them develop playful little characters. Boo, the smallest, in particular had become rather fond of the game of creeping up behind one of her siblings & pecking them up the backside before retreating rapidly! I have cared for them while I've had 'flu & they have cheeped away to me while I've been lying poorly in bed. So maybe you can imagine now just how attached I have become to them.
On Saturday, in the sunshine, it was time for them to move into their new home in the back garden.
My little 'flu buddies
They were a little scared at first, but only for a short time.
Before long they were exploring their new environment excitedly, cheeping away & foraging in the grass for tasty morsels. I filled two trays of water up for them & soon they were enjoying a splash about & setting about giving their new feathers a good preen. Of the three sets of ducklings we have raised recently they have feathered the quickest. I guess they need to in the wild. They now look like some strange kind of duckling / duck morphed creature, with fuzzy duckling faces attached to mini adult bodies! Their plumage looks to be female, but I have read that the drake only gets his colourful feathers to attract the hen for mating, then moults when the hen is busy laying & goes back to looking brown like her. So I don't think it's possible to sex them just yet. However, two are bigger & their feathering is slightly more advanced than the other two. Are they drakelets? It's exciting trying to guess!
So, that's my news brought up to date & as I enjoy a welcome day's pre-booked holiday from work to recover my strength after the 'flu it's hard to decide which garden to spend the most time in. Five dogs & one fast tortoise, or four ducklings & two hens (not to meantion the 2 rabbits & 3 ferrets!) - never the two shall meet me thinks!!