So at the time we went to fetch the three Buff Sussex pullets, the big flock (15 chooks) were all living in the mansion, the ducks were in the brooder on the patio at the back door, the three small Light Sussex pullets were in the portable cage, also on the patio but on the other side of the back door, and the renovated coop was empty, with some chicken greens growing really nicely in its run. The ducks are generally larger than similarly aged chooks, even though they don’t even have proper feathers yet. By day we carried the ducks to the netted peach and apple trees where they had a Tupperware “pond” and we carried the little small Light Sussex pullets to the renovated coop. It was great having all the little animals by the back door, but it was a lot of work moving them around.
It was even more work keeping the brooder clean. From our research, we knew the ducks would make a mess, but we had no idea! Their waterer didn’t last an hour, then they peeped for more water. And even though they drank a lot of the water, the majority went into their bedding, creating a big soggy stinky mess. I eventually created a little water catchment thingy under their waterer – it worked, but it had to be emptied regularly. If I ever build a brooder again, or before we ever raise ducks in this same brooder again, I will first make a few very clever changes, especially around water management, that would make life a lot easier.
Anyway, Micaela and I arrived back pretty late the day with the 3 buff Sussex pullets, so for that night we housed them together with the ducks in the brooder. I was still under the impression that integration of the various tribes was going to be a three week long drawn-out affair, involving a lot of carrying of fowl backwards and forwards every day. But when I phoned Patricia on the way back from an early surf the next morning, she proudly told me that the first integration – of all the younger birds – had been “all done”! What?!!! Her parents were due to arrive for a six week visit, and I was sure she was just impatient to get the brooder and little cage as far away from the back door as possible. Fearing the worst, that the buffs would bully the ducks and the ducks would bully the little lights, and I would find a bunch of maimed carcasses on my return, I stepped on the accelerator, ignored all speed limits and sped home as fast as I could. I had already had my “see what you’ve done by being so impatient” speech ready when I charged up our driveway….
But what did I find? The two groups of older and younger Sussex pullets were happily foraging together amongst the chicken greens in the renovated coop, while the ducks were ignoring them all, happily splashing in their makeshift “pond”, thereby watering and fertilising some of the plants growing in the run. The birds seem really content in the run and coop, and our daily routines have become a lot easier! The other positive is that their coop’s run is right next to the bigger flock’s free range area, so these two group are also getting to know each other in a safe manner, through the fence, before some of them will be moved together a bit later. The big ones are already eyeing out the little ones’ food!
The only drawback, with them being a bit further removed from our house, is that they are not getting the same level of personal attention as the big flock did. They are definitely not as tame as the big flock that was literally hand-reared.
In the meanwhile, we’re working on more infrastructure to eventually segregate the separate breeding “tribes” (to keep to politician type speak) when they get ready and big enough, but more about that in a future post.