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COUNTRY: Love-hungry drakes look for a bird; How do you explain to three fellas that love doesn't just fall from the sky? Liz Shankland observes a mnage cinque in the making on her smallholding.

Byline: Liz Shankland

I SAID we'd have problems with our drakes. Back in March the boys started to get a bit frisky, and they've gone from bad to worse ever since.

A few months ago they found themselves at the start of their very first spring and started displaying all the typical ``Here I am, come and get me'' signs you'd expect to see as the breeding season beckoned.

The big problem was that they had nowhere to direct their charms because all 10 of the ducklings we reared turned out to be male.

As they all gradually worked out what their hormones wanted them to do, they began trying to foist their attentions on each other.

We couldn't blame them, really. As each discovered his sexuality the next logical step must have been to try to work out which of the others was female. There was chaos on the pond, waves crashing over the sides as each one had his turn of pursuing and then being pursued.

Only five of the 10 had managed to dodge the foxes and make it to maturity, and handsome birds they all were.

Two more have become takeaways in the past few weeks, though, so now it's just like the old Genesis LP ... And Then There Were Three.

All we have left are one Rouen and two Aylesburys, and they are as love-hungry as ever, poor things.

We've given up hoping that some lonely females might drop exhausted from the sky and decide to stay awhile to keep them company.

The only arrival has been a pair of mallards, and oh the problems they've been causing!

I'm convinced it's the same pair that came to visit the old pond at exactly the same time last year, enjoying a brief sojourn in the long grass for a week or so before their peace was shattered by Gerry hiring a mini-digger to cut through the walls of the vile-looking sludge-filled pool, allowing the bubbling contents to drain away.

This year things have been a bit quieter down there, as we've been finishing a few jobs elsewhere before tackling the task of constructing a new, clean, wildlife-friendly pond in its place.

In the meantime the courting couple have been settling comfortably into their temporary home.

Or at least they're trying to.

Our drakes have other ideas. It didn't take them long to sense the presence of a bird of the opposite sex and they were within showing-off distance as fast as they and their overweight bodies could get there.

We did think that their fine physiques - three times as big as the puny little mallard drake - might prove tempting, but the female seems happy with her lightweight beau. There's also the small matter of speed to consider. Our drakes are so fat you'd need to attach engines to them to get them into the air.

Despite all their frantic waddling they just can't get close enough to catch the object of their ardour.

It's a bit like watching a frisky old bloke with a beer belly chasing a smart young woman: not a chance in hell. They keep on trying, though. All of which provides a perverted source of fun for our sadistic puppy.

Seeing they have wandered from their duck pond, Willow springs into action, showing off her border collie instincts for herding.

Unfortunately, she gets so wound up with the excitement that she turns a deaf ear to us, refusing point blank to come when called and continuing to run the boys to exhaustion.

People tell me she's still only a baby, but I've got a sneaking suspicion that those poor birds are going to suffer heart failure before she learns to do as she's told.

We're starting our formal obedience classes in a few weeks, but any words of wisdom in the meantime would be most welcome.

Otherwise it could be duck, duck and more duck on the menu at our place pretty soon.

# You can write to Liz Shankland c/o Country Pursuits, The Western Mail, 17 Queen Street, Neath SA11 1DN
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:May 31, 2003
Words:680
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