Duck (and Chicken) Tales

IMG_2550Every morning I let the ducks and chickens out of their coop before heading to work.  I coax them into the front of our yard (away from the garden) with their morning breakfast.  The chickens will keep eating and ignore me as I leave, but the ducks always follow me--quacking loudly and in "V" formation--to the gate.  The other day, just to see what they would do, I purposely walked in a zig-zag line to the gate instead of a straight line.  In unison, all three stopped moving or quacking, tilted their heads to the side, and looked at me like I was drunk.

IMG_2557  

A new neighbor moved into the house behind us recently.  Last weekend she stopped Sweet Husband and asked, "Are those ducks you have in there?"

    "Yup"

    "I love to hear them quack in the morning.  They're always so happy, it just makes my day."

Ducks  

Tori the Chicken hopped into my lap the other day and let me pet her.  There was bribery involved--a precious, garden-fresh cherry tomato--but she didn't seem to hate it too much once she was there.  The other five birds are much more suspicious of me.  They'll all come up and greet me in the afternoon.  And they're happy to accept any tidbits or scratch I might offer.  But if I make a move to touch them they quickly scamper out of reach.

IMG_2571
No eggs yet, although we're checking every day.  I know they'll all start producing on their own time, but I wish that time was now.  Each morning I go out and open the nest boxes hopefully, thinking "Today is going to be the day!"  And each morning so far, it's not.  The little freeloaders!

But alas, the girls aren't the only ones getting a free meal around here.  We're about to declare war on all rodent kind.

They can't get into the food that we store in our shed--it's sealed up tightly--but once we put food out for the girls it's fair game for mice and squirrels.  The mice just leave droppings, which is bad enough, but the squirrels are getting eerily bold.  

The problem is making sure the chickens get enough food while the other critters get as little as possible.  Traps and poison are just as likely to hurt a bird (or a terrier) as a mouse, so they're of limited use.  Right now, we're thinking the solution is to be scrupulously clean, giving the girls only as much food as they can eat in a day and putting all food away at night.  I know there are a few other chicken keepers who drop by occasionally--what do you do to keep the rodents away?