The hens and ducks have enjoyed our delicious watermelon harvest. Lucky for them, we had several huge vines in the front yard garden, and we ended up buried in melons. They were so happy this evening!
Category Archives: Chickens
Here’s a little peek at the chicken run. Prasad points out his hen, India, a Light Brahma, and hand feeds the hens grass. These animals are such a joy every day.
Part I, Three new ducks: Three. That was not planned. I’d contacted Jenn at her local Revolutionmama Ranch where we’d gotten our first Indian Runners to see if she had any females available. We wanted just one to replace the incorrectly sexed fawn & white females we ordered several weeks ago- one is female, but one is actually male. Big *ugh*, considering when you don’t buy them local, the shipping costs are high. Jenn informed me she had three Runner girls left from her baby stock for the year. They’re on the verge of laying age, probably by September.
During the drive out to her property, I told myself we’d take just two home. Nice try. By the time Prasad and I arrived and saw the three very bonded and attached ducks, I gladly took all three. They’re gorgeous in person- the pictures don’t even come close to showing the richness of their colors. One is shiny black with white speckles on the chest and iridescent green feathers in the sunlight. Another is a darker grey with bluish and black flecks, while the smaller girl is a brilliant, rich light blue. I’d been hoping for a blue Runner, and there she was. That seems to be how it goes before an animal joins us- I imagine the color or type I’d like, and they just happen to be exactly what we find. Now, onto the Mortimer/drake ordeal…
Part II, Aggressive Drake: Before bringing home these beauties, Mortimer was in the slammer (the pen pictured at left). He was harassing the fawn & white babies constantly… just super rude and aggressive. He had to be quarantined both day and night, and I placed an on Craigslist ad to sell him. Last evening we brought our new girls home, and he went after them, too. So, we quarantined him another night. This morning I went out to clean up his pen and let him loose in the run. That time he left the new girls alone. He did an occasional nip or two if they came too close, but no aggressive chasing or pinning down. He went after the new fawn & white babies again, but today it’s been way less than before. He’s pinned them down a few times, but then walks away and gives them their freedom to swim and eat (unlike before). We’re hoping this is a trend, and that he’s merely asserting his dominance in the pecking order. Maybe there’s hope for Mort after all. That’s our hope, considering he’s such a gorgeous boy and we’ve had him almost a year.
These two cuties are the ones Mortimer has been targeting. We’ve seen a 75% reduction today, and hope that continues for all their sakes. Adelaide is on the right, and Adelaide is a male/drake. He doesn’t quack like Chameli… drakes squeak. His markings are more distinctive, too. He’s going to be another gorgeous drake to have around, and yes, we’re planning to come up with a new name.
We’re hoping that we’ve simply learned something about drake behavior; flock behavior. Introducing new members can be stressful, but it’s natural and inevitable. If Morty adjusts and is able to maintain his standing as the Supreme King of the flock, I think things will calm down.
Last, but not least, is Ermengard. She’s our very calm and sweet Buff Orpington, and the first of our Spring chicks to start laying eggs last month. She never lays eggs where the other chickens like to lay. Instead, she seeks out new and exciting places (a really cool non-comformist). What I love most about her, is that she doesn’t mind being picked up. After this picture was taken, Phoebe, our duck came along and sat down beside her and they laid eggs together. I ended up eating Ermengard’s egg for breakfast.. thanks Ermie!
I couldn’t resist sharing a picture of the first egg laid by a hand raised chicken. Hens are not called “hens” until they are one year old. Until then, they’re known as “pullets.” We weren’t expecting pullet eggs for another month, so Ermengard is an early bird!
The scale isn’t apparent in the photo, but her little egg yolk was the size of a quarter. Pullets start out laying small eggs, and become larger as the pullet grows. As adults, the bigger hens lay larger eggs. From Prasad’s review, this tiny delicacy was “very nice, supreeemely delicious.” Not bad for Ermengard’s first egg. Sorin wants the next tiny egg, so I guess we’ll have to create a waiting list.
Posted by: Jill
This morning I was so awe struck by our pair of ducks that I was in tears. We watch our ducks and chickens every day from the large sunroom windows, and it’s a perfect view. We can entertain ourselves for hours there. We’ve learned a lot about animal behavior, their intuitive connection to the earth, as well as their caring and compassion for one another.
In a recent study, chickens have been found to have empathy for one another, and after today I’ve no doubt that’s also true for ducks. Phoebe lays eggs every single morning, but she was let out of the duck house very early this morning. Daniel rose earlier than usual, and let the whole flock out. After the ducks are released they never ever return to their house unless it’s sunset. Phoebe hadn’t laid her egg yet, but by 7:30 I could hear her honking loudly. I rushed to the window to see what might be wrong. She was inside the duck house honking and quacking away in a more distressed tone than usual, and pacing around nervously. Mortimer, our drake was inside the house with her. He began caressing and entwining his neck with hers. They do this affectionately while sitting quietly together, but I’ve never seen it done during times of frantic activity before. Phoebe kept honking, and Mortimer kept going to the door to make sure she was safe, and that no one else came in. After a few minutes, Phoebe sat down and got comfortable, and Mortimer went back to the doorway. He used his body lengthwise to block anyone from coming inside.
Mortimer’s behavior was so touching, so intelligent, supportive and caring. That alone had me awe struck, but the chickens amazed me, too. While Phoebe sat down, releasing her egg quietly (which can take 10-15 minutes in some cases), all 9 chickens were huddled outside the duck house, looking in. They were curious, staring, all 9 of them. After a while, the younger chickens moved away, and the three eldest hens were left standing there, studying Phoebe while Mortimer guarded her sacred duty. It was as if they all knew what she was doing and had a curious concern for her. They kept tilting their heads toward her, and were standing unusually close to Mortimer. Phoebe is new to egg laying- she laid her 12th egg today. Maybe the older hens, being experienced layers themselves, felt some kind of empathy and understanding. Whatever the case, it was one of the most beautiful scenes I have ever witnessed in my life.
Posted by: Jill
Our potatoes are taking off like crazy. We have two experimental barrels this year. Prasad & Sky chose to grow some in their own little garden plots, and those are doing great, too. We’ll get to experience ground versus barrel potatoes, and decide what to repeat for next year. When the plants are towering above the barrels like this, it’s time to add more soil, burying almost half the existing plants. We’ll wait for blossoms to appear, and do a partial harvest of baby potatoes.
Our snow peas were started much later than the snap peas, which is why they’re so small. We started them directly in the ground with seed from a generous neighbor friend, Kristen. We thought we wouldn’t be able to find snow peas this year, and were thrilled when she contacted me. Thanks so much, Kristen! They took off pretty fast, but we noticed something started nibbling on them. They must be pretty tasty leaves, because nothing else in the garden was being nibbled. Daniel put a little rabbit wire fence around them, and they’ve been doing much better ever since. These are my favorite peas for salads, so we’re hoping they continue to do well.
The tomatoes have gone insane! If you look back at our Early Spring post you can see how much they’ve grown. We’ve had a lot of rain, followed by sun and heat so they’re very happy so far. We’ve had no problems with staking, but when they’re taller we plan to add wood poles for extra support. Our tomatillo plants don’t have any cages, just poles, and they’re doing great, so far. They’ve got blooms, and so do all our peppers!
We thought this little guy was history a few weeks ago. It was tiny when we planted it on a small hill, and it got trampled a few times before the fence was up. I think it was down to two small, very sad look leaves. Now it’s thriving and blooming. I am a zucchini fanatic, so cannot wait!
Our front yard was tilled, and we planted a large strawberry patch, watermelon, and Russian Giant sunflowers. All three are taking off like crazy. Despite living in the Sunflower State, we’ve never been able to grow Sunflowers from seed. Our front yard plants are taking off, and we’ll have to post pics soon!
Summer heat is coming. We’ve had several humid days in the 90’s. The challenge in our climate comes during the intense heat & drought periods of Summer. We’re hoping the loamy soil helps significantly, and that we don’t have to irrigate excessively. It’s something we have to pay close attention to, or we could lose all our yummy crops. If all goes well, I’m pretty sure we’ll have enough food to feed several families!
Complete List of what we’re growing this year:
Potatoes (barrel & ground), 14 Tomatoes, 9 multi-colored Cherry tomatoes, 2 types of peas (snow & snap), Green Beans, 2 Blueberry bushes, 50 Strawberry plants, 1 Zucchini, 2 Cucumber, 1 Bush Cucumber, 4 Jalapeno peppers, 6 mixed pepper plants (red, yellow & green), Garlic, Onion, 9 Eggplant, 8 Tomatillos, Kale, Broccoli, Sunflower, Watermelon, 2 Peach trees, 1 self-pollinating Apple tree, Cilantro
Plus, don’t forget we have a duck & 3 hens laying eggs every day. By August we’ll have 6 more starting to lay. It’s a wonderful feeling when your food comes from right outside your back door.
Posted by: Jill