Excerpts by Henry Lane Hull

This year has witnessed a profound change in the overall ambience and dynamics of our barnyard. Gladys and Henry have established a platonic relationship in which she has acquiesced in ceding her role of ombudsman to him. Perhaps in this situation I should say “ombudsfowl”? 

She clearly recognizes that he is in charge. His personality is more serious and directed towards having a good relationship with humans. His honking is far more purposeful in that he only speaks to humans, whereas her incessantly loud jabbering always seemed to be undirected.

Over the course of my many years as an untrained amateur in the field of animal husbandry, I have found that geese are by far the most human-oriented of all fowl. In Henry’s case especially, having been hatched and raised for his first year by Lewis and Mae Shelton, he looks to us not only for food and water, but also for companionship. 

When I am present, he pays no attention whatsoever to the other fowl, constantly staying by my side, politely honking in a mild tone of voice. When I speak to him, he answers quite happily.

Clarence the rooster clearly recognizes that whatever alpha-male role he may have thought he had among the flock has become subsidiary to that of Henry. He might try to boss the hens around, but he does not challenge Henry. He is not given to any form of fellowship with humans, and his main concern is when he is going to be served his food. He understands that Henry takes precedence in that area as well.

Also, this year saw the arrival of Quack the Duck and Quack the Drake, the pair of Khaki Campbell ducklings that I have raised from being day-olds to fully mature specimens. After they feathered out, and the weather warmed, I gradually introduced them to the other fowl, who initially saw them as potential food competitors, but now leave them to their own devices. 

Like Gladys before the onset of Henry, both Quacks are big talkers. They have learned how to fend for themselves when the meals are served, always getting their fair share. Despite having been hand-raised, they do not see me in a familial guise, but rather merely as the food dispenser.

Quack the Duck is an excellent egg provider, rarely missing a day. Her eggs are slightly smaller than those we receive from the chickens. They cause me to agree with the opinion of my grandmother, who preferred duck eggs to chicken eggs, both as to taste and appearance. 

As with the chickens, the ducks will eat food that I drop on the ground before eating out of their serving containers, which might be a legacy going back to prehistoric times before humans actually began feeding them. They will drink standing rainwater before drinking from containers as well.

Our aging Rhode Island Red hens are well on the way toward becoming pensioners. Their egg production is in a state of rapid decline, although their food consumption is proceeding along full force, all of which is causing me to look to spring and the arrival of replacements in the form of some Dominecker chicks. 

Assuming the acquiescence of my Good Wife, I am planning on ordering a batch of chicks in March. Domineckers are the optimum breed, excellent layers and friendly to humans. They are docile and polite. Their roosters are mild and friendly. This year, despite her heroic efforts, Esmerelda set for weeks on her eggs, without a single one hatching. 

The barnyard is an ever-changing milieu. Fowl are not that different from human beings in forming friendships, expressing likes and dislikes and wanting things their own way.