This plan worked well for about the first three months with the chickens being happy in their pen and me being happy that the chickens were still in their pen.
However with three ducks having full access to the whole of the garden it was a matter of time before the chickens became jealous and wanted to explore what was beyond the fence. This was alerted to me when on returning home one day one chicken was out and the whilst the other two, as normal were in the run. I opened the gate and he ran back in and straight to the food bowl. He had obviously figured out how to escape but not how to get back in.
Over the next couple of weeks all three of them became inquisitive and would regularly jump over the five foot high fence I had naively thought would keep them in. I came to the what turned out to be a quite poor decision in that rather than reinforce the pen I would also let the chickens free range in the garden.
This worked well for a while but they soon became more and more interested in the veg patch and in particular my courgettes, wiping out entire harvests in an afternoon. Next was the lettuce before they decided the duck food was better than theirs and began pulling rank on the ducks by making them wait while they had their fill.
To top it all off, the state of the art coop that I had lovingly built them was longer acceptable when they thought a nearby Rowan tree covered in ivy was a better place to spend the nights. I spent most of an evening climbing and getting them down one by one by which point the first one down was already making their way back up.
Although once I thought about it, it seemed like a perfectly sensible place to sleep. Safe from predators and somewhere they could make their own up way to when they were ready. Rather than me wrestling with them every night, during this mild summer I let them stay up there.
The event of catching them when they had reached the desired weight was a challenge in itself involving lots of temporary fencing and a lot of chasing around. The two hens were dispatched with the minimum of stress. The cock however remained elusive, wise to the fact that I wanted to capture it, I could barely get within fifteen feet. With his domain now extending well beyond the garden to the fields behind it would be quite rare to see it in the garden to plan a capture.
The intention was never to leave one on it's own, Having the ducks around has softened the blow and now instead of having two rival gangs in the garden the cockerel has tried to befriend the ducks. They are understandably cautious and so far keep a weary eye on him. They still sleep in their coop and he still retires to his tree. I must admit he has grown into a magnificent animal with even the neighbour commenting on his swagger.
However he is now costing money to keep and I have purchased the next lot of chicks to be penned in (more securely this time, and for good) on the vegetable patch over the winter. I have an idea in the back of my mind about breeding some in the future but I'm not sure if it's worth keeping him all through the winter just to sire my hens in the spring. So at the moment I will be purchasing a fishing net and tracking him down once and for all.