I slip on a dark green rain coat, and step into my Uncle’s rubber boots, which are at least 3 sizes too big, and trip out into the night with a lantern. Earlier this evening, I hunted eggs at the coop and decided to let the chickens out to enjoy the summer grasses and clover. It’s now past 10, raining hard, and I realized I never shut the gate. When I arrive at the top of the hill, I see they are already cozy at roost – 1 red hen, 2 black sexlinks, 1 duck, and 2 roosters. I shut the gate and loop the chain around a nail before turning to trudge back down the hill. I spot a rabbit dashing off to the woods, and follow the small rivulets of water back to the house.
I’ve taken to letting the flock out and walking ahead of them to overturn tires, boards, rocks and beams to expose ants, worms, and grubs. The hens cluck with enthusiasm and scurry over to peck at whatever bewildered insect that has been so suddenly exposed, while the roosters proudly stand guard. Even the duck likes ants. It’s been raining most of the afternoon, which didn’t bother our mallard in the slightest, although we are all convinced he believes he is a chicken. It’s good for the garden, but not good for the flower beds we recently cleared – which quickly fill up and spill over to the sidewalk.
Yesterday, I filled the plastic blue pool we bought when the single mallard had 3 friends, and watched him bathe for almost an hour. The cat tried to stalk him, and was met with splashes of cold well water when he rose to fan off his wings. I’ve thought of getting him some more female friends, but I also wonder how many ducks are willing to give up a perfectly good pond and a life by the water to go and follow some hens around the yard, quacking when they cluck. I scattered some grain around the pool to keep the chickens happy, and they pecked around him, not bothered that he bathes in water rather than dust.