3 chickens and 1 duck

Three chickens and one duck.

As of last week, those are the creatures living in my garage.

Finally, I did it. I got fowl.

After all, fair is fowl and fowl is fair. That's especially true in this town, with its mix of Shakespeare actors and hippie farmers.

We're still working on naming the chicks and duckling, which we're keeping for their company and their eggs.

I keep going in the garage to study them under their heat lamp, trying to figure out which name suits which bird. The duck, a Swedish blue, is either Ingrid or Penelope.

All of the chickens are different breeds.

There's a red-brown Ameraucana, who looks like an owl. I thought of naming her Artemis, after the Greek goddess of the hunt, but I'd like to find a more owlish name. Suggestions?

There's a Plymouth Rock chick, whose black feathers will become speckled with white as she grows. Her name, I'm pretty sure, is meant to be Beatrix.

The last chick is a little blond Bantam, and since I wasn't able to go to Big R in White City to pick the birds out, I'm not sure what breed she is. Her name, unless I'm convinced otherwise, is Shirley, or Shirls for short.

Side note: My boyfriend said he got quite a few strange looks walking into the hunting and farming supply store to pick out only three chicks and one duck. The Grange Co-op in Ashland didn't have ducks at the time.

He's been trying to get the duck to imprint upon him, taking her out of the cardboard box, where we're keeping the birds until they're old enough to live outside in the yard, and teaching her to follow him around in the garden.

I think the duckling may actually be imprinting on the chickens and may grow up believing she is one of them. She seems especially fond of Shirley, the Bantam. The two blond birds are always sleeping beside each other.

That's another thing — we think she's a she, but Ingrid/Penelope may be a he. Apparently it's nearly impossible to tell the sex of a duckling.

No matter. We didn't get the birds solely for their eggs, although they will make our household more sustainable. If Ingrid/Penelope is female, we estimate our birds will yield more than 1,000 eggs a year.

Chickens and ducks also make great pets, if you have the space for them.

Before you get a chick, duckling or any other animal, be sure you'll be able to care for it well for the rest of its life.

Also, depending on where you live, check the city or county codes governing poultry for your area.

In Ashland, raising poultry is allowed, under these conditions, according to the city's website:

"They cannot be closer than 75 feet to a neighboring dwelling; the environment they are kept in must be kept odor and debris free; they cannot run loose; and the chickens cannot cause a noise disturbance to neighboring properties."

Did you know you can also keep one small pot-bellied pig on your property, as long as it's not taller than 18 inches at the shoulder and doesn't weigh more than 95 pounds?

We already have one dog, one cat, one duck, three chickens and an uncountable number of goldfish and koi fish in a pond — maybe next year will be the year of the pig.

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-708-1158 or hguzik@dailytidings.com. For past columns see dailytidings.com/ecologic.

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