Stephen Kahn

Tricking the ducken

In Good news, Humor on April 4, 2011 at 9:10 pm

My scheme for tricking the chickens will take months to develop, and one or two readers seem eager to get in on it, though by now the intense ADD/HDD of the Internet has already lured them away to fresh pastures of diversion. So I rush to joke the punch line, or punch the joke line, or something like that, and we can all see if works together, right here in real time. Just don’t tell the chickens, even Little Peep, even if she promises silence. As an old hen told her chicks,”Loose lips—I mean beaks—crack eggs, even if you are laying them in the ferns.”

For gardeners in the Pacific Northwest section of the United States, the pests, the scourge, the plagues beyond all others, are slugs. In his infinite wisdom, God (for those who detect His presence in the universe), said, “Let there be mosquitoes; let there be viruses; let there be starlings; let there be bird droppings; let there be slugs to eat your onions, your potatoes, your broccoli, lo even your cancer-alleviating ganji plants [I assume, never having grown any].”

Well, maybe it was Satan who invented the slugs, not to mention the other pests, though God let him get away with it. So God said, “Let there be ducks!” Ducks gobble slugs with sacred enthusiasm, quacking piously and shitting enthusiastically and splashing merrily as they fulfill their divine mission.

Our friendly neighbors have ducks and chickens. They have a larger poultry house, with two compartments, one for ducks and one for chickens,with a connection so the ducks can visit the chicken compartment to share poultry gossip. They have a larger garden with a separate orchard so the ducks can gobble slugs without eating all of their garden sprouts, though occasionally a hawk gobbles a duck, just to keep the food chain working. They have a pond (actually a big plastic tub) where the ducks can splash. They enjoy the constant quacking, whereas my wife moved to the country for quiet.

We are not so poultry ambitious, nor are we so tolerant of quacking, so we have no ducks to eat our slugs.

Chickens, by human standards, seem not that finicky about what is good to eat. They gobble earthworms with enthusiasm and delight (so I dig some fresh ones for them every morning). They gobble caterpillars, and worms, and sow bugs, and beetles, and a variety of other “creepy crawlies” that seldom slither into my diet. As little chicklings, they were not that enthusiastic about earthworms. They stared at them in dismay as if asking, “You want me to eat THAT?!”

Just as humans have to learn what tribes are proper to prey on and persecute, our chickens had to learn to eat earthworms with the carnivorous enthusiasm they now display. However, for the most part, chickens turn up their noses (beaks) at slugs. “Ducks eat slugs. They are inferior poultry. What would you expect from a bird that swims?” they ask me scornfully.

However, my wife and I have noticed a gap between puck-puck and practice. Sometimes, the chickens eat LITTLE slugs. Gobble, gobble. Well peckle, swallow.

It’s just the big slugs they won’t eat.

I am reminded of an old joke about two roommates, Joe and Walt. Joe hates dogs. Walt loves dogs. In every other respect they are perfectly compatible and agree about everything.

“Just a little dog. I’ll keep it outside,” entreats Walt. Secretly, Walt wants a giant dog such as a Great Dane or a mastiff.

Finally, Joe breaks down. “OK, you can have a dog. Just a very little one. But it has to stay outside and it has to be small.”

Walt hatches a plot with the aid of a kennel. Each night he borrows a slightly larger dog and leashes it outside.

After a few days, Joe becomes suspicious. “Boy, that dumb dog of yours is growing fast,” he grumbles.

“No, no, you are imagining things,” Walt tells him.

Well, let’s cut to the punch line. Eventually, Joe comes to love Walt’s Great Dane and even lets it in the house.

You can see where I am going. Slug season has just started. Right now I give the chickens little tiny slugs with their morning earthworms. I am about to go out and open their house and dig them some worms. I will throw in a tiny slug. However, each day the slug will be infinitesimally bigger.

This acclimation or tiny chicken brainwashing will take a few weeks, if not months, if not an entire growing season to slither in. But just as mighty apple trees grow from little seeds (OK, grafts on root stock), if a chicken starts by eating tiny slugs, eventually it can learn to eat giant honking slimy slugs without realizing it has turned into a ducken.

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  1. This post made me laugh so hard I’m getting odd looks from my colleagues.

    • I hope there is not an extradition treaty between the US and Australia. While I am gratified beyond words that my posts incite such merriment, I am sure I am violating some international law and your colleagues by now are complaining to the authorities. If you want, I can send some of the slugs that are too large for the chickens to deal with yet to your colleagues. Thereby putting Australian customs into cardiac arrest.

  2. And then you’ll let the slugs into your house? Is that the point of the story? 😉

    Speaking of dogs, have I told you about our dog Heidi? I wanted a dog for so long, & finally my husband surprised me with a puppy in Jan. 2010. She is half Pit Bull & half Miniature Schnauzer. (Quite a combo, huh?)

    Heidi is a cute, scruffy-looking little sweetheart of a dog. Not only is she allowed in the house, but she also sleeps on our bed, with her body cuddled against mine & her chin usually resting on my leg somewhere.

    I know this is not relevant to your post, but…oh well.

  3. BTW, Pit Bulls have a bad reputation, but can be wonderful companions. They are very, very loyal & loving. It’s the jerks who train their dogs to attack that give the others a bad name.

    • My optometrist adjusts my glasses without charge. Last time I was in, I said, “I appreciate the free service. I will donate $5 to your favorite charity.”

      The pleasant young lady behind the adjustment counter said, “I assist with an agency that rescues abandoned and mistreated pit bulls.”

      No doubt they are training these dogs to adjust my glasses when they start sliding down my nose.

  4. No doubt!

  5. Maybe it will work but I have my doubts. Beer in little tin lids has always worked on slugs for me. Of course for you that could be bad if the chickens got into the beer. Hmm, wonder what a drunk chicken is like?

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