Tag Archives: Ducks

Duck Dramas (or Quack-Operas)

Prasad held one of the ducks...

...while the other two sat in the back seat of our truck.

the light blue and black girls..

..enjoying what ducks enjoy most, a morning swim.

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…

Mortimer (right) living in harmony with the new girls

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.

Chameli & Adelaide, our fawn & white babies are free to roam the run now and seem to be our most avid swimmers.

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.

Ermengard saying "hello" from the duck house

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!

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Saying Goodbye to 2 Hand Raised Ducks

Jethro & Ellie Mae

This evening we said goodbye to these two 14 week old ducks. We’ve raised them since they were just a few days old, and it was an extremely fun and memorable experience. Sky even wrote a story about them in his 3rd grade class this year. They’re Khaki Campbells, and always seemed more aggressive toward our younger chickens than the Indian Runners. Our main concern was with tiny Mirabel, our Silkie Bantam. They have targeted her often. The Runners, on the  other hand, are very peaceful with our hens, so we’re planning to add two more Runner females to the bunch (giving Mortimer a nice assortment). It will actually be an ideal ratio of males to females, and we’ll have a lot more eggs.

Ducks consume a large amount of feed in comparison to chickens. If you choose to keep ducks, you have to weigh the expense with what you’re getting out of the deal. Practically speaking, having a 2nd male/drake in the flock meant feeding another duck who didn’t produce eggs. We could have kept Ellie Mae, but couldn’t imagine separating them. Another downside is cross-breeding. Between two different breeds, we’d never know which eggs were what breed or if they crossed. This is important if we decide to incubate eggs or sell them for incubation in the future. Simplicity- that’s the word that comes to mind. We’re choosing to focus upon one breed, and it’s one that we really adore.

How did the kids handle their departure? The ducks went to a large, rural farm with a very nice family, but it was still tough to let go, especially for Sky. He spent about six weeks nurturing them and bonding quite a bit until they left the house for the outdoors. Since then, he hasn’t had much contact with them, but he always felt they were his ducks. He has a terribly difficult time letting go of anything, a pair of shoes, school papers, etc., but these ducks were dear to him. I think it’s a good lesson in farmsteading, impermanence, and life in general. We never know how things will go, and with farm animals we shouldn’t ever get too attached. We never know how animals will get along, or what our plans may be for the future. We discussed this when they were small, but that didn’t make it any easier. Personally, I’m looking forward to having all Indian Runner ducks (they are unique and hilarious, after all), and seeing Sky with his baby bunny in a couple of weeks. That sweet girl should be a life-long keeper, and I did reassure him of that. He received a lot of hugs and comforting this evening.

Bye-bye, Ellie Mae and Jethro. It was truly an honor and a joy to raise you!

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Farmy Foto Friday, Part II

These pictures were meant to be included in the last post, but I accidentally hit “post” before they were added.

Sorin's Black Australorp, Broom Hilda on the right (14 weeks). She's super sweet, friendly, and enjoys a gentle petting

I love this boy! Our male Indian Runner, Mortimer, is such a gentleman and always looks out for the flock's safety

Mortimer bowing to his sweetheart, Phoebe. She's been an egg machine this week- 7 eggs the last 7 days, mmmm!

Mirabel & Sky's Buff Orpington, Maria (11 weeks)

Mirabel & Sky's Buff Orpington, Maria (11 weeks)

 

free-ranging, handsome Forest, our growing Flemish Giant baby. He enjoys hopping all over the grass while we follow him. His doe companion, Meadow, will be home in two weeks. He's 11 weeks old

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Farmstead Harmony

Today I’m feeling especially struck by the perfectly harmonious relationship we have with our animals. I was pulling weeds around the roses this morning (which have their first blooms of the season and the fragrance is to-die for) and threw all the weeds into the chicken run. It was a large pile, but they were all devoured in less than thirty minutes by both the ducks and chickens. Instead of tossing them into the garbage or compost heap, they disappeared into a perfect cycle… we’ll basically be consuming the weeds through our eggs. There is something primal and beautiful in having that symbiotic type of relationship with other living beings.

I’m noticing we have the most ideal mulch now. Every month we clean and rake out the entire chicken run. All the old straw and manure goes into the compost pile. Chicken and duck poo breaks down quickly since it’s dry and grainy, so we’re able to stir it around a month or two and see the most ideal mulch appear for our garden beds– rich, organic straw. We laid a heavy layer over our tomato bed, and they’ve been taking off like crazy. (**PLEASE NOTE: The compost we put on the beds was from the Fall/November. Compost should be aged at least 3 months for above ground crops, and 6 months for ground/root crops**) My point- we fed the chickens our scraps, weeds, etc. and they produced fertilizer resulting in mulch that both protects and nourishes our plants while at the same time saving us a lot of money on mulch. Then we’ll  consume the most amazing tomatoes we’ve ever eaten (if all goes well). I’ve been so excited about the mulch, we’ve been putting it everywhere. Note: we have to be sure to use the very broken-down straw compost since it can burn plants if it’s too fresh.

I should add that we have a new type of Dandelion control going on within the yard. We consume it ourselves, but never from our back yard due to the dog waste. Prasad walks around every day picking Dandelion and Violet to feed Forest, our growing Flemish Giant. The Dandelion that was taking over the cellar door is trimmed way down (sometimes he even gets the whole root out), and this week he’ll be pulling out the plants behind the air conditioner. Would Prasad be so willing to weed without his bunny? Probably not. Once again, it’s a sweet example of the natural harmony that takes place when you have the right animals around.

There are so many other examples of this in our lives, and I’m wondering if I’ll ever get used to it and take it for granted… it is, after all, the most natural of things.

Posted by: Jill

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Weekend Barnyard Pics

Mortimer & Phoebe, now 5 months old

Mortimer has been losing his darker brown feathers and will become a soft, lighter cocoa color. We love his green neck and head… Sky calls it velvet green, and it’s becoming more green everyday. It sparkles in the sun.

Our ducklings outside with Broom Hilda & Ermengard. Growing!

the 4 baby chicks spent two afternoons outdoors, too. Clockwise from left: Maria, India, Dot and Mirabel Muppet

Ermengard (6 weeks old) was sunbathing and doing dirt baths. We were surprised to see 3 week old little India doing the same

Jasmine, our smallest but most spunky adult hen

Petunia

Marigold watching me clean out her coop

Yes, I know, I post far more pictures of our flock than our kids. It’s funny how they take hold of your world like that! The kids are having a great time with them, though.

We had an excellent weekend of warm and sunny weather. I planted one peach tree, and Daniel planted the other one.. they’re both on the South side of the chicken run so they have more shade.

POTATOES: We drilled holes in our large, oak whiskey barrel planters (they were actually rum barrels) for drainage. Then we filled them with rocks on the bottom for drainage, then half organic topsoil and half peat moss. You’re only supposed to fill them about halfway because when the plants stand about 5-6 inches tall you’re supposed to throw on another 3-5 inches of soil to bury the plants, leaving only a small bit of leaves at the top. When the plants flower we can dig in and grab a few small, new potatoes. Then when it’s time to harvest (the plants age and yellow), we can tip the barrels onto their sides to dump out our large supply of mature taters.. no digging required, and no concerns about moles or other pests. We have seen evidence of moles! We’ve never even tried growing our own potatoes, so we’re super excited. As for seed potatoes, I looked into them at the local garden center, but decided to go with our store bought organic russets because we know they’re organic. The seed potatoes at most garden centers are not. I have ours wrapped in newspaper, stored in a dark drawer for sprouting. They’ll be ready to cut up and plant by early May.

LAUNDRY LINE: I haven’t been able to hang laundry for a couple of weeks now due to expanding the chicken fence, and I’ve missed it. Yesterday I finally got the poles re-assembled, and all I have to do is reattach the three lines today. We have been buried in laundry all Winter, and for some strange reason laundry is more difficult without the laundry line. Somehow, hanging on a line breaks down the steps in a more manageable way… at least for me. Especially when it comes time to fold- I just walk outside, unpin and fold everything into the basket. I come inside and have no piles lying around to fold. It’s all done, and I just put it away. Plus, it smells incredible! I especially love having line-dried sheets and pillow cases.

SEEDLINGS TRANSPLANTED: The seedlings tray of tomatillo, eggplant, tomato and cherry tomatoes was transplanted into the greenhouse yesterday. We were hoping they’d make it in the trays until being planted outdoors, but they just got too big and needed to move before the last frost date. Daniel did that, considering the greenhouse has become primarily his territory. Today I’m starting some organic tri-colored pepper seeds for Liam (a huge favorite of his), and some pumpkin seeds for Sky. He kept begging for pumpkins this year, so we’re going to attempt a large bed of them.

PLANNING: I’m not a planner, so I don’t garden from drawings of elaborate plans. I’ve tried planning out my gardens in the past and always end up scrapping them. I wait for the earth, or the tree, or the plants to tell me where they want to go. I guess it’s a form of intuitive farming, or Shashwat. I was sitting down, taking in everything yesterday, and received a strong impression of the garden to come. I love it when that happens because I can stop thinking and trying to plan it in my head, logically. I can just see it, feel it, sense it and know exactly what needs to be done. It’s going to be wild, woodsy, elaborate yet very casual and native. I could see a crudely built border of tree branch fencing along a curved edge that enclosed a lush mass of green- wildflowers, some edible and some not, along with endless veggie beds and tall grasses and ornamental trees. I saw my rusty old vintage Schwinn leaning against part of the twig fence with a flowered basket in front. Why get rid of it when it could be used as a garden decoration? I saw all kinds of song birds, butterflies, and I even saw the little house we’re planning to build for Sorin… I saw/sensed the exact location, shape and size. Because it’s so clear in my mind now, it will be easier to manifest. The drawback of seeing it so clearly is that no one else can, and I have to wait so long to convey and express what I’m seeing. It’s a little oasis of peace, and now all I have to do is close my eyes to see it. Of course, it’s not something that will appear overnight, or in one or two growing seasons… the end product is not what matters, anyway. It’s the process of getting there that is most enjoyable and fulfilling.

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Pics: New & Old Feathered Family Members

We adore Marigold! She's our Matriarch

Rhode Island Reds are known as slightly more aggressive chickens, so I didn’t expect such a sweetheart in Marigold (aka Large Marge). She’s quite docile toward both humans and her flock, but appears to be at the head of the pecking order. I don’t think I posted about this previously, but that lovely right toe on her right foot was lost several weeks ago (she still has it in this picture). The top two joints got stuck inside the cellar door somehow, and she’d been struggling to get free for at least an hour. By the time I got outside, it was mangled and had to be amputated. I bandaged it up and she’s healed nicely. Her only problem was soreness for a few weeks, and she stood on one foot like an ostrich during that time. Anyway, the incident proved all the more reason for moving over the chicken run so they can’t get to the house or cellar door! The permanent posts are set, and we’ll be completing the project this weekend.

Sorin and Jasmine (Barred Plymouth Rock)

Sky with Petunia (Barred Plymouth Rock)

Sky holding 5 month old Mortimer (Indian Runner duck)

Sorin and 5 month old Phoebe (Indian Runner duck)

Last weekend, Sky and Sorin chased the hens and ducks around the run. They caught each one and held them a while. It’s one of the most fun spectator sports imaginable. Running chickens are pretty entertaining, but running ducks are hilarious. Amelie even got in on the action. Sky is quite skilled at catching all the birds… so skilled that we’ve asked his assistance several times. The chickens have become so trusting that they don’t run away too quickly. They’re actually more apt to run up to us, squawking, saying hello and hoping for some table scraps.

Now, for the new crew-

Look at how they've grown!

You can click here to see how tiny they were last month. I’m not kidding when I say that every morning we wake up they appear to have grown substantially. They came home almost a month ago, so we’re guessing Broom Hilda (the Black Australorp) is about five weeks old, and Ermengard (the Buff Orpington) is at six weeks. They don’t appear to need much heat, so we turn off the heat lamp during the day, and turn it back on at night in case they get chilled. We’ll probably stop their low 150 watt heat lamp entirely by next week. We moved them to  this larger floor pen yesterday to make room for the new babies. Eventually, they’ll all be in this expandable pen together, and will be taking over our kitchen!

meet Ermengard's twin, Maria, and my little Blue Silkie Bantam.. isn't she adorable?!

It’s difficult to take decent close-up pictures of such small, constantly moving creatures. Sky named Maria after his birth mother (so sweet!) and she’s a Buff Orpington just like Ermengard. The Blue Silkie hasn’t been named yet, but it’s coming. She’s the exact color of Silkie Bantam I was hoping for, and I cannot wait until she looks like this. She already has furry feet. My kids say she’s going to be a Muppet!

meet our little Light Brahma

Terribly out of focus, I know, but look at her furry feet! I didn’t notice the feet at the time of our order, so it was a surprise bonus. I love it! I ordered her because of how Winter and Summer hardy they are, and their origins. Light Brahmas are of Indian origin, and Prasad will be naming her. It’s hard to tell now, but she’ll gradually become all white with a black collar and tail. Sky and Prasad each have their very own chickens, which is pretty cool!

**UPDATE** after school today, Prasad decided to name his little hen India. Beautiful!

meet our survivor

Again, horrible focus, but this is Dot (aka Dottie). You can see that she’s all black with golden specks because she’s a Golden Laced Wyandotte. I can’t wait to see her pretty pattern come in. She has really bounced back after yesterday’s brush with death.

Okay, that was a total of six baby chicks, right? That’s all we planned… until yesterday. Believe me, I’ve made a pact to stay out of the feed store this Spring. The next time we need anything there, Daniel will be making the trip! This is why-

meet our simple Khaki Campbells

What heartless fool could ever resist such cuteness? One look into their eyes yesterday, and I became transfixed. Something about a duckling’s gaze is beyond blissful and content. They’re so serene it’s magnetic. Ducks stay outdoors quite well with no need for extra housing, and we have room in our run, so why not? An impulse buy, I know, but we’re all under their spell in adoration!

These are a very common domesticated breed that originated in England for their extremely high egg production. We’re praying that we don’t have two boys, hoping for at least one girl but will have hit the jackpot with two. Ducks don’t show gender until they’re a few weeks old. If they honk/quack, they’re girls. Let’s hope for A LOT of honking soon! These Khaki Campbells can exceed most chickens with an average of 300+ eggs laid per year. Right now, we’re thinking the larger duckling on the left is a girl, and the one with the lighter bill is a boy. Daniel and I cuddled them last evening in our bed until they fell asleep in our hands… one has a much louder squeak than the other. If they’re both a boy & girl, Daniel has named them Ellie Mae and Jethro.

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Kitchen With a View

Mortimer & Phoebe sitting side by side this morning

They stood up for a bite of breakfast (they always do that together). Marigold in the foreground

These pictures were shot from inside. We love having a constant view of our flock from both the kitchen and sun room windows… oh, and the bathroom window next to the toilet, too, that’s fun! It’s the next best thing to having them live inside with us, and can be very entertaining. We end up spending a lot of time standing at the sink just staring at them. Who needs rolling hills, lakes, or mountains to gaze at for inspiration when you have a glorious view of chickens?

If you look closely, you can see the beginning of a new fence post hole to the left of Marigold. We’ll be taking out the temporary fencing and placing wood posts with more secure fencing… hopefully by the weekend, weather permitting. In a previous post I mentioned that we’ll be fencing them off from the South wall of our house to prevent pecking at it. Not to mention they keep pooping on the cellar door and perching on the a/c (poop there, too!) We still have a lot of painting and light construction left to do on the coop. Despite the time and labor required, I’m so glad we chose to build one ourselves because this one is solid and should last a lifetime if maintained. The wooden coops I checked out at the feed store were no where near as solid or secure. If you have basic (and I mean bare bones) construction skills, we highly recommend building one yourself. You can see the tiny house in the background that we purchased through Craigslist. It’s an old dog house that was meant for the ducks, but I’m saving that new info for another post. Let’s just say we’re learning a lot about ducks, but the house will come in very handy!

It’s warming up a lot here, so I’m looking forward to getting the flower boxes on their coop (front and side), bird houses installed on fence posts, an herb border, and a small ornamental tree planted for them inside the run- possibly a Wisteria, one of my favorites. They’ll have their very own mini paradise, and with how much they give us it’s the least we can do for them.

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