Friday, 25 May 2007

If you're Hoppy and you know it...

We saw a fox on the school run this morning (we were on the school run, not the fox!) It was thin, unkempt and, alarmingly, when I stopped the car it made as if to come towards me. This is alarming for two reasons: 1. it could be a dumped urban fox, in which case it is out of its comfort zone and could get into mischief, and 2. we’ve just ordered six fwuffy ducklings and I don’t really want them to become Mr Fox’s dinner.

The ducks are to help tackle the slug problem (well, that’s the official line; unofficially I’ve been after getting some more ducks for ages!) The last time we had ducks was 22 years ago when we moved here. There were six of them, all Khaki Campbells, picked off one by one by the indigenous fox population – all except one. ‘Hoppy’, as she became known, had a close encounter with a fox while we were still living in rural Worcestershire. The ducks were penned in at night, but there was a gap underneath big enough for a fox. The silly snoring ducks used to dangle their flippers through the bottom of the pen.

So, imagine the scenario: Foxy, out for dinner, sniffs out yummy ducks. He has a quick peek under the duck pen and lo! Lots of ducky feet sticking out. He grabs one, and pulls. Lots of quacking, in fact a whole “quackophany” of panic. Humans emerge sleepily from house, fox dashes of with dinner – but only part of dinner. Oh dear, poor duck. (And, perhaps, poor Mr Fox. Can you imagine the reception Mrs Fox and the cubs gave him when he returned home with dinner? Mr Fox, laying down a duck’s webbed foot: “Here you are, dear.” Mrs Fox: “What do you call that?! How do you expect me to feed us all with that? You useless waste of space! Mother always said you were no good…” etc)

But, these particular humans are soft, so duck is taken to the vet, given painkillers and stitched. It was actually a very clean wound, and the duck wasn’t terribly distressed. So, one-legged duck is returned to the pen, the pen is modified and the ducks live on happily continuing their daily routine of waddling out to the pond, followed by the hapless Hoppy. She managed well on one leg, but tended to swim in circles and she laid wonky eggs.

Then we moved to Pembrokeshire (on Live Aid day, July 13th 1985 and I’ll never forgive my parents for making me miss U2 – but that’s another story). The ducks went to live with friends of ours in Lawrenny (South Pembrokeshire, in the English bit below the Landsker line) and were really well cared for by their daughter Judith who had what is now called ‘learning difficulties’ but was – still is, presumably – a delightful person. She looked after the ‘clack clacks’ until we had their new home ready on the Preseli Hills. Then we moved the ducks up here and the local foxes joyfully took them, one by one, all except Hoppy, who lived on to a ripe old age. Hoppy knew a thing or two about foxes – it’s a pity she didn’t educate her mates!

So we have ordered six new ducks, this time a mix of Silver Appleyard call ducks and mallard. Brian is building Fort Knox to house them at night and they will not be able to dangle their feet. Perhaps ordering them is a triumph of hope over experience, perhaps we have had an urban fox dumped here, but I’m not getting into the rights or wrongs of that argument in this blog!

PS: Maisie, the Exmoor pony, is doing fine. No more mischief or damage to herself or others – yet!


  1. Just caught up with your lovely blogs. Nice photos too. I love Pembrokeshire, we stay there sometimes.

  2. good luck with the ducks. we are just about to get chickens the day after the announcement of an outbreak or not so serious but serious enough bird flu in north wales. oh dear.

  3. Its been traced to Chelford. Dont buy chickens from Chellie!
    Wouldnt mind some eggs to hatch from the Appleyards if they ever happen!

  4. Catching up. We had KCs and Cayugas, only to become fox fodder in much the same way - except he managed to remove all their heads and left the carcasses on the inside of the run

  5. Do you put your ducks in t6he vegetable patch? Do they eat the veg? Just wondering as I have a real slug problem here and use the pellets, but ducks sound much more fun.

  6. Good luck with the ducks I want two indian runners to solve my slug problem unfortunately I know they are going to do untold damage to the boys wildlife pond but hopefully they will like the ducks too much to fuss.
    Thing is we have a redundant bird avairy and it seems a shame not to make good use out of it.

  7. Good luck with the ducks. Hope the fox won't show up ....

  8. Best of luck with the ducks. Ours are heroic slug eaters and just plain fun to watch.


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