Tuesday 5 June 2018

On Not Getting Your Ducks in a Row.

Our 3 young ducks prior to yesterday's dramas. 
Ducks. A sore subject round here at present and definitely not our strong suit this month. Not only have we only produced 3 hatchlings from the first 2 sets of eggs in the incubator but now we have had a total fail on 14 eggs set, due to hatch last Thursday.

Badly mauled duck in the sick bay. It did
not survive the night.
To add to our tale of woe, our attempts to introduce the 3 new birds to the old-hand drakes have resulted in a load of bullying and rape and now a youngster chased into the jaws of terrier, Poppea. That unfortunate bird was rescued to the sickbay but was badly mauled and died during the night.

Enormous poppy.
The eggs were a motley collection of our own plus some gifts from Sue and Rob. We are not at all convinced by the fertility of our drake/duck combination(s) and all the gifts were from untried, very young birds including Sue and Rob's new Muscovies; these were the first ever eggs from those ladies.

At least we are good at chicken chicks
The complete lack of action despite having candled them at day 12 and found the majority to be under way, has me wondering whether we have overheated and 'cooked' them in the incubator during that hot spell. The incubator is a Covatutto, so a low-price model. We know they are good at keeping things warm, but how good are they at not producing any heat when the ambient temperatures approach 27ºC.

On the left the little grey chick I saved the life of on hatch day,
now 2 weeks old.
One part of me was going to keep them going till Help-X Laura's last day to give them every possible chance to make a late showing. The more pragmatic half says this is a waste of time, and I might, instead, break the duds open in her presence so she can see them part-formed. Maybe I'll leave it up to her.

As to the dog-attack, I'd been doing the standard thing when trying to introduce new birds to established ones. The youngsters had been in a rabbit run in full view of the very interested drakes for most of their growing up weeks thus far. They are now 12 weeks old and plenty big enough to take care of themselves.

Elizabeth is delighted with this self-seed aquilegia.
What I expected to happen was the usual flurry of mad excitement while they all sorted out who the boss was, plus a bit of 'rape', which is normal for ducks. What we got was several days of the drakes making nuisances of themselves and giving the new birds (male and female) no peace. The drakes kept coming into the yard, where cowered the new ducks, hunt one down and chase it about till it submitted to being 'jumped upon'.

The hot spell has given us some lovely sunsets. 
Sadly, on one of these hunts, the frantic youngster tried to escape into the dog-pen where sat a very excited Westie, Poppea. The dogs have been good as gold and can now move among the calm chickens without anybody getting eaten but this squeaking, flapping, terrified runner was all to much for Poppea's 'red mist' instincts. She fell on it and bit it badly across the pelvis and 'saddle'.

Thriving on neglect? This climbing hydrangea,
stuck in by the dustbins and the water butt,
has finally started to look the part and is
producing flowers.
I rescued it's limp, wet-with-dog-drool form and we quickly did all we could in terms of hospitalising, checking it over, cleaning it up and bandaging the wounds. Sadly, it died during the night.

We went all Moroccan at supper - slow roast lamb, tomatoes
roasted with goat's cheese, aubergines with onions, flat bread
and hummus. 
After all these duck-failures we are left with only 4 living ducks - those horribly aggressive drakes whom we may never trust again with our youngsters, and the 2 slightly traumatised 12 week olds who are back in safe custody. I am not sure how this will end. Some tough decisions needed here over the next few weeks.

Round and round and round she goes. When she'll stop,
nobody knows. Loves her mowing, this one!
Meanwhile, in most other areas, all is well. Our current Help-X volunteer, Laura, who earned (above and beyond!) a third week with us is continuing to delight with her hard work and her dessert cookery. We've had her back at the mowing and the nettle-pulling. She has helped me strip old rotten wooden panels out of the stock-trailer, then make up replacements using all the carpentry tools and a tin of varnish.

Laura at work on the trailer.
She has come with me several times when I have been helping a friend repair fences. She has helped clean out the geese even with a broody goose in attendance, and has since done those ducklings and our geriatric hen Doris. She has also walked some more of those huge walks she loves doing.

A very careful coat of Yacht Varnish. 
On Sunday I was at indoor archery, so we were in a different part of Castlerea but not to be outdone, Laura worked out a route home on her smart phone up through the 'Demesne' (park with river) and back through the lanes of Cloonboniffe and Lough Glynn. Most evenings she takes herself off upstairs to watch a movie on 'NetFlix' through her 'tablet'. She is absolutely no trouble. We will miss her when she leaves. That is currently likely to be this coming Saturday when she is off to her next posting in Kilkenny via a weekend off with a friend.

Easily our most used book these past 3 weeks.
That is probably enough for this one. Hopefully a more upbeat, happy, positive post next time. Apologies for the sad tone at the start of this one.

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