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Archive for the ‘Ducks’ Category

This year has been a transitional year.  In part because I felt I didn’t have the extra it would take to do things well, so I decided to pull back on the farm this year.  I had 3 trios of Muscovy ducks, gave them each their own space and completely forgot about them…well, we cared for them, food, water, clean bedding, but I didn’t manage them.  Muscovy mama’s are the best mama’s I know, especially in the poultry world.  They need very little management, but they do need a little bit.  Let me explain.

1 Drake + 2 Hens

Should have 2 nest boxes so each girl lays her own eggs, until she deems there are enough, then she will set on them, and hatch them.  ummm… I only had 1 nest box in each space, so 2 girls were sharing.  I planned on moving one hen once the first went broody, but didn’t catch when that happened… So eggs were laid in with the broody girl.  That kind of makes for a mess, really.  Hatching at different times, girls fighting over nests, but once the mistake is done, it’s done…and it was done times 3!  So six hens on 3 nests.  I hoped to have 6 eggs hatch from each and figured I’d be lucky, and pleased with the 18 ducklings.

Today I checked in on the first set of sisters to start hatching and there are 32 ducklings!!  32!  That is one nest.  I doubt the other 2 will match that, but clearly I have more ducklings than the hoped for 18.

Muscovy Mamas

I am now glad I opted not to breed chickens this year, because my 11×16 growing pen will be housing some ducklings!

Oh, and you can you tell I learned a new trick with pictures?  Picmonkey.com Crazy cool!  I’m sure I’m late to the party, but better late than never.  This new photo editing option just might help get this blog moving again!

Snuggled with Mama

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Wow.  I can’t believe how long it’s been since I blogged.  This summer was a whirlwind and I just didn’t have it in me to blog. This isn’t good because I use this blog as a personal journal, especially for my farm milestones, so I’m a little unsure of how old some of the animals are.  I didn’t log in the major events of the summer.  So I’ll try to catch up a bit.

Pigs!  We don’t have them anymore.  We had the butchered on August 4.  They were butchered, here on the farm, as peacefully as possible.  No stressful ride to the butcher.  No stress of smelling death in the air while awaiting their turn.  Simply eating grain, in their usual spot, shoulder to shoulder.  Nate Huse, a local 4th generation custom butcher came to the house with his well stocked truck.  Each pig was shot, bled and hung.  Skinned.  Placed in the truck, and brought back to Nate’s shop to be hung, and pieced.  Nate is fast, efficient, a master with a knife, and clearly cares for the animals with a great deal of peace in his manner and respect in his actions.  It was amazing to watch him work.  He processed them to our specifications, and sent them back all vacuum packed for the freezer several days later.  We have been enjoying the meat with such dishes as curried ground pork, pasta sauce, stuffed pork chops, and country style ribs simmered in cherries I put up last year.  My friend built a smoke house, and we will be smoking the hams and bacon over there in the coming weeks.  Check out her bacon!  MMMM.


Cows!  Declan is growing well.  He is still running with mama all day, spending time in his own space at night, and joining her again after morning milking.  We are going to have Nate come to butcher him this fall, before Winter hits.  We decided to try this as an experiment.  We don’t want to over winter 2 cows, that need to be separated, so that the nursing will stop.  We don’t want to have a steer while we are caring for Nellie and her new calf that will come next summer, if all goes well.  The meat should still be fabulous, even if it’s less.  Sort of like veal, but without the mistreatment associated with veal.  It’s an experiment.  We might like it, we might not, but we won’t know until we try.

Nellie is ready to be re-bred.  Truth be told, she’s past ready, so we have an Artificial Insemination technician lined up for the next heat cycle in another week or so.  We hope this takes the first time, so she will calve in early June and not need to be rebred for calving in July.  We’ll see.

The pasture area is starting to fill in with natural grasses and weeds.  I have been weeding it, to try to keep the weeds she doesn’t like to eat, out.  This month we are going to finish raking it, and start throwing down seeds and mulch, in the hopes that next Spring, Nellie will have a beautiful pasture to graze on.

Chickens!

Not a lot to say about them.  We’ve had a lot of loss.  Seems we had a bout with coccidiosis, that took most of one age group.  We were able to control the outbreak without employing any chemicals/medications.  So we felt good about that.  Next year we will keep chicks inside a little longer so they can get past their vulnerable age before going out into the environment.

We also had a coon that was far more successful than coons in years past.  We lost about 20-25 to that before we caught him and disposed of the little menace.

We will be selecting a breeding flock from those that remain, and hope for a better year next year.

Rabbits!

Also a summer of losses.  We lost Mimi and Isabelle to heat.  We lost Clementine to old age, but that is a happier ending.  She was retired, so she’s been lost in the since of one less breeding does, but she’s happily playing with her friend Clarice that she grew up with.  We are enjoying the rabbit ground pens we made.  They are eating grass, laying on the ground, safe, easy to care for.  It’s really the best of all worlds.  The rabbits will be moving around the pasture after Nellie in the Spring.  I’m excited with where our rabbit herd is and the direction we are moving.

Ducks!

We had a couple successful hatches of Muscovy.  We crossed our chocolates with blacks, and will be selecting a male from one pairing and 3-4 females from the other, so we can start a solid breeding program with that breed.  I’m excited about how that went.

We had a rough hatching year for the Runner ducks.  They hatched very poorly in the incubator, so I tried using a broody hen.  She did much better, so next year I’ll be using a couple hens to hatch out our replacement runners.  I have not divided males and females yet, but it looks like we will have a good little new flock to join last years layers this winter.

Garden!

Fail!  Seriously.  I am done with a large garden.  I scaled back this year and still found myself too busy during the critical times to maintain the thing.  My summer squash/zucchini all died.  My tomatoes (all 6 plants) were destroyed by hornworms.  I had a good crop of onions, string beans, and peppers.  My plan for next year is to sign up for a CSA and simply gardening with the girls.  I hope to create good little gardeners who can take over that part of the farm.  We’ll see.

Why was I too busy to garden, blog and get the cow bred?  I had a lot going on with my full time job.  I went to a large trade show of sorts in July, so all of June and July was spent making inventory and getting things ready to freight to Seattle WA area.  Upon return I had a lot of orders to fill, followed by my friends wedding!  It’s been a good and fun summer, but now it’s time to settle into a new rhythm.  The rhythm of fall.  Foraging, picking, canning, preserving, organizing, knitting, and all around hunkering down for Winter.

I did my canned good inventory, and am quite proud of my last year canning self.  I canned enough for last year, and for many things, this year!  I have 65 quarts of diced tomatoes and 33 quarts of peaches.  We are looking good on jams.  I will be canning apple sauce on a large scale and a moderate number or of Pears since we are down to 17 quarts.  I am hoping to can up some tomato paste, various chutney’s, a little salsa, mostly fun small batch canning.  I’m very excited to be in such good shape already.

Homeschooling!

Eowyn is now a “first grader”, so we are officially homeschooling.  We have, of course, been educating our kids since they were born.  Hours of reading, and many other hands on activities to help them make connections in their brains.  But with the official homeschooling we are working out what our rhythm is for that, as well.  The girls are excited to do their “lessons” each day, so we are off to a good start.

Bead Making!

I’m back on the torch.  The show this summer, along with some other fun things, motivated me to making spending time melting glass a priority again. It’s been fun, and I’m glad to be back.  I will share some things here, from time to time.  Here is the necklace I made to wear for the show, this summer.

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Breeding season!  I’m working on two breeding programs.  I’ve mentioned the Ancona chickens, but I’m also doing something with my Muscovy Ducks.  My chocolate ducks are great, but a little undersized, so I’m breeding them with some larger ducks.  Still Muscovy, but these are Black, instead of Chocolate.  I picked up a male and a female tonight.  They have come from Yellow House Farm, and I’m excited about the project.

The Black Male will be bred to my Chocolate female.  All these ducklings will be colored black, but will carry for Chocolate.

The Black Female will be bred with “Mister” my Chocolate Male.  This is a sex-linked pairing which means that  the Male ducklings will be black and will carry for Chocolate.  The Female ducklings will be Chocolate.

Next year I’ll cross this years ducklings to bring out the Chocolate color, and hopefully increase the overall size of the Chocolate line I have.

Well, in order to do this I need to new coops.   They don’t need to be large, just enough for two ducks for a few weeks.  I got my hands on the round disks from cable packaging that are 5ft across, and used them to create an adorable round coop.

There are a couple more tweaks, like a border around the bottom to keep the bedding from spilling out, a latch on the door, and a green roof!!  I’ve been reading Small Green Roofs: Low-Tech Options for Greener Living and I’m so excited to give it a try.  I’m going to start with this coop.  Oh, and a little paint on the door and the flower…so mostly cosmetic details, which means it’s done, for the purpose of a breeding coop.

Josie had a stellar litter today.  It was on the small side, numerically, with 5 kits, but they are so chubby!  Healthy, lovely, chubby baby bunnies.

Clementine kindled as well.  Just 2 kits, so I think she’s done breeding.  She is the grandmother, and soon to be great grandmother of my current breeding does, and she’s 4-5 years old.  I’m going to see if I can find her a home as a manure maker, because she probably has a few more good years, just not as a breeder.  I hope she keeps both alive, but they are inside tonight, since it’s so cold and there are only 2, so not a lot of body warmth ti share.

My seedlings are doing pretty well, considering how much attention the animals demand.  These are Loofa gourd plants that have just emerged this week!

 

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I let a Muscovy hen hatch out a clutch late last year…silly me.  So today we butchered them.  I’m excited to butcher them during a little slower time of year.  In the fall all the butchering happens at once and there is so much to process and so much else to do, canning, closing down the garden, getting ready for the holidays, all on top of the rest of life (I do still have a full time job and a family that aren’t put on the shelf during the harvest season).

All this to say that my butchering season is bare bones.  Get them done, and safely packed in the freezer, leaving no time for a little fun…like sausage making!  I always figure I’ll get to it when life calms down, but really, I don’t.  Butchering these ducks, at this time of year has given me a fine opportunity to follow through!  They are resting in the refrigerator tomorrow, and Saturday, I’m going to debone, grind and season.  I’m going for bulk sausage, because that is what I like to use (I always strip sausage from the casing), and because that is one less step in the making.  I’m definitely making some with sage, but I’m still researching options for the rest.  There are 6 ducks, so a fair amount of meat.  This is going to be fun!

The rearranging has begun.  There is Winter house and summer housing for the ducks and chickens.  I pulled out some of the non breeding birds and put them in broody houses.  I’m hoping to get them to start setting before my incubator crew hatches, so they can mama for me.  We’ll see, but at any rate they do not need to be in the breeding coop.

The duck breeds will be separated, and a new rooster is coming to spend time with a section of the hens, so he and his gals will get their own coop, too.

I think one of my favorite parts of farming is the blank slate/open possibilities.  There are many ways to do things and I love all the choices!

Nellie finally got brave enough to go introduce herself to her new neighbors…

http://www.facebook.com/v/10150727161491171

Thank you Christopher (husband) for the video!

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The bad news first.  My experiment with the two sister rabbits didn’t go as I’d hoped.  The one with three left had her nest box full of litter and all the babies were dead.  Not sure if it was an issue with them sharing a space, or if she’s a bad mom, or what, but I decided to pull her out today, leaving the other sister in the housing with her one baby…Considering what to do next.

My broody hen finally got some real eggs today and she is on them like a pro.  So in 21 days we should have baby chicks.

So there was a bright spot to ease into more bad news.  I have now lost all but 3 of the 10 Muscovy Ducklings.  I have no idea why the last group all stayed alive and why these little ones are dropping left and right, but the next hatch will be put in a brooding cage for 2 weeks, or more so they are stronger.  That way, I might end up with some duck in the freezer for winter!

Ending on an up note.  Nellie got her new lead today.  She was so pleased.  It was longer than her older one, by a few feet, giving her access to new grass.  She was super friendly tonight, and gave a little moo-ish moan when I gave her neck a little scratch.  Nellie and I are learning to understand each other.

Tomorrow night after the animals are in bed, Nellie is tucked in, and our girls are off to dream land, Grammy is coming over so we can go out to the Brookford Farm Movie Night!  Two cool documentaries about farming, some local farm made goodies, under the stars, on a nice cool night!  If you’re free around 9pm tomorrow night, head on over!

Free Outdoor Film

The Plow That Broke the Plains & The Greenhorns
June 4th – 9:00 PM
On the Farm at 278 Sligo Road, Rollinsford, NH

 

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Ducks are creatures of habit.  This is what makes them easy to care for, and it is also what makes them very hard.  If they get in a routine that works for you, too, ducks are almost too easy to keep.  Let them out in the morning.  Feed them around dusk, shut their door.  So easy.

If you decide to put a cow in their barn, and move them to a different house, a few feet away from the barn, well, forget it.  No amount of herding will work, and you will likely end up covered in mud, realizing you should have just let them go in their normal house and taken them from there…I give you this lesson to learn from the easy way.  Sometimes I just get in my own way.

The end of the story is the ducks are in their temporary home, but their final destination will be built where the temporary one is, so I think they will be pretty easy to convince the next time…we’ll see.

Tomorrow I am cleaning out the “barn”, reinforcing the floor, and putting down new bedding for Nellie.  I can’t believe we are getting a cow!

Leading…

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All three Muscovy Hens have attempted to hatch a clutch, this Spring.  The first Hen hatched 3 of 14, the second hatched 0 of 14 and the third hatch 11 of 13, with one not making it out of the shell all the way, for total of 10.  Last night I saw she had hatched a bunch, but couldn’t tell how many.  I didn’t want her leaving the nest in the night or early morning because I didn’t know if everyone else in the coop would play nice with the ducklings, so I secured a net over the front of her box to keep her in.

This morning we took the girls out to watch the ducklings leave the nest.  They jump from a 2-3 foot high next box so it’s pretty funny to watch.

We waited, and waited, but they did not come out.  After we gave up and left, I went back to check and she took them out when there wasn’t an audience.

Mama is proud and is sticking close to her little ones…

…except when she leaves them with their papa.

Not much is cuter than a duckling.  There are 10 from this hatch and Mama 1, with the original 3, already has a nice size clutch started, so there will be another round starting soon.

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