Monday, April 29, 2013

Our FREE duck

Went to a local poultry swap this weekend, just to look around. We happened by the booth run by the folks that own our favorite local feed store, and there was a big dog crate under the table. I peeked in, out of curiosity, and there was a sign that said "free duck" and a lovely Muscovy hen inside. Free duck? Heck yeah!

The gal that owned her had made arrangements for a new home, but the person she'd arranged to meet never showed. Lucky us!

Isn't she pretty! Her feathers are in excellent condition, and I think this duck was well-loved. She doesn't really want to be caught, but sits quietly when held. Look at the lovely green and purple sheen of her feathers. 

Merle immediately recognized her as "his kind" AND that it was a "she". He was already waddling our way as we entered the pen, and (so not exaggerating) he "claimed" the new girl less than 5 seconds after I put her on the ground. Poor gal didn't get as much as an introduction before Merle decided she was his new girlfriend! We found it fascinating that Merle knew immediately that this new duck was his kind and a girl (he isn't the slightest bit interested in either Crusty-runner or Olga-blue swedish). 

Other than a little harassment from Maggie, the new addition was quickly welcomed to the flock. We named her FriedaK. Pronounced "freeduck"... Frieda for short. :)

The trio... I guess 'scovys really do flock together. They don't really mix much with the other birds.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Critter musical chairs

We played a little musical chairs this weekend with the birds, as the meaties had enough feathers to go out, and were reaching the 3-week old "omg, they stink, I can't keep up with the volume of poop" stage. But before the meaties could go outside, their chicken conestoga had to be vacated.

So, the 11 pullets were rudely snatched from their chicken tractor and thrown to the wolves moved to the chicken yard. Miss Speckles was extremely mean, and a couple lost some feathers, but the other hens pretty much just ignored the new additions. Deputy Guinea dictated the rules of the barnyard (go to bed promptly at dusk, stay in the yard, no fighting) and herded them around for a while. Other than that, not a whole lot of excitement there. The Fayoumis kill me. They're so tiny, they just run in and out of the fencing, like it wasn't there. Ugh.  The Fayoumis are the ones with the white heads.  They're roughly the size of a Stellar's Jay.  No joke.

The meaties were hauled out to the chicken tractor, where they'll live til Memorial Day weekend, at which point they'll transition to freezer camp.  Can't wait for the day.  Grody birds.  Tasty grody birds. On Tues, 4 BBW turkey poults took over the newly vacated brooder in the shop.  Love turkeys.  Love love love.  Wish I could keep a BBW tom.  They're great.

(pics from last year)

We installed two nucs last Saturday, and the new bees seem to be very happy (knock on wood). They're very local bees, as there's a big bee place about 2 miles away as the crow flies.  I did totally biff it while carrying a frame, and it was nearly a disaster.  But I did my best to control the fall and didn't jar the frame much (but did land on my left arm and totally torqued my shoulder).  Anyhoo, two hives are up and running, and LJ is copying the design of the cardboard nuc boxes to make some swarmcatchers to put around the property.  They'd also double as a catch kit to keep in the car.  If they work out well, I'll post an entry on how he made them.

Hm... what else.  None of the 17 duck eggs in the incubator were fertile, so I chucked em and put 7 of Maggie Muscovy's eggs in there.  We'll see how that goes.  She's currently filling up a nest out in the duck hut as well.  I want cute little waterfowl babies! (that turn into fat tasty freezerbirds).  :)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The things my chickens will eat

I peeked out at the hens this morning before work, and saw them swarming something on the ground. Whatever it was, they were going crazy over it. Then, I caught a glimpse of white/brown fluffiness in the middle of the ruckus. Aw crap. Figured something got one of the hens between hubby letting them out when he got home from work, and me getting up to go to work. Anyhow, I found a pair of shoes and tromped out to take away their "treat".

Happily, it wasn't a chicken. It was a headless rabbit. I'll spare you any photos. Something must have killed it last night. The hens did not appreciate me taking their prize, and one of them attempted to latch on to it as I gingerly pinched the rabbit by the toe and carried it out of the yard. At least it had been dead long enough that the fleas had all vacated the premises. In case you ever wondered, wild rabbits are COVERED in fleas. Anytime I shoot one, I let it sit for 10 or 15 min before I'll go pick it up. Nasty nasty things. EwEwEW.

So, to conclude, headless rabbit joins mice and small snakes on the list of things my chickens will happily devour.  Ew.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Puppy love

My sweet boys.

Henry may grumble when Gus tries to interrupt Henry's Mommy-time, but they really do love each other. It's loads of fun watching them play tug. Henry will be walking through the living room, and he'll spot one of their tug toys. He'll pounce on it, and tail a wagging, prance over to Gus and hold it still so Gus can grab it. He'll then drag Gus all over the house. If Gus loses his grip, Henry stands very still and lets Gus get another grip. Noisy play, with all the growling and click clack of nails on the floor, but entertaining nonetheless!

Gus keeps Henry fit, as Gus has LOTS of energy and goads Henry into games of tag. Sometimes Gus chases Henry, sometimes Henry chases Gus. Must be working, as according to his last vet visit, Henry has only gained 3 lbs in the last 3 years (he'll be 6 in June!). I wish I had only gained 3 lbs in the last 3 years...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Farm update: Broody hen, duck eggs, Muscovy moving

Angry angry Bellina

Belly is very very broody. We're talking full on puffball, angry, won't leave the nest box, stealing all the eggs from the other nests, chattering like an enraged raccoon, BROODY. At least she doesn't bite. I pull her off the nest every day when I get home, and she growls away as I tuck her under my arm and carry her over to the water/food. We're debating putting some duck eggs under her, just to make her happy.

We're down to, I think, 16 hens and 10 pullets.

Thinking that Broccoli is a dud. S(he) hasn't laid any eggs yet, and Beefy doesn't seem interested in her/him. Other than that, I could swear Broccoli is a female. Looks like a female. Carries herself like a female. Acts like a female. If she doesn't lay at all between now and fall, she'll go to a new home, and we'll buy a sexed African girl for Beefy.

All of the waterfowl (including the 'scovys) got moved to the summer pen this last weekend. I beefed up the fence on the unprotected side to about 8 1/2 feet, and there are more improvements planned for next weekend.

Maggie Muscovy laid her first egg on Saturday, and thankfully they're shaped differently from Olga's eggs so we can tell them apart (Crusty lays green eggs, Olga and Maggie lay white). Olga's eggs are large and very round. Maggie's are a bit smaller and elongated.

Merle Muscovy jealously guards his Maggie. He acts more like a rooster than a duck. Poor Sven got too close to the new girl, and Merle latched onto Sven's wing and dragged him away. Poor Sven.

The geese went over to meet and greet, but Merle raised the crest of feathers on his head, and the geese turned tail and ran away. Lol. The 'scovys have laid claim to the smaller water tub, and they spend a good portion of the day floating in it.

Maggie still hasn't gotten the hang of laying in the duck hut (though I saw her messing around in there in the dark this morning). For the moment, we're collecting her misplaced eggs, and will probably pop em under broody Bellina this weekend and see what comes of that.

I put 17 duck eggs (from Olga and Crusty) in the incubator on Saturday morning. Perhaps this evening I'll be able to see if any are developing!

Muscovy names... Pretty sure we've settled on Merle and Maggie (M&M).

Meat chicks: NOT cute anymore. Stinky, ravenous, noisy... Definitely not cute.

Turkeys: We will be picking up 4 BBW turkey poults on the 23rd.

Last year's poults

Bees: Picking up two nucs on the 20th.

Trees: Planted 7 more fruit trees last weekend. 2 plums, 1 apricot, 2 pears, 2 apples. Planted them all around the property, with 3 out at my deer meadow.

Non-Farm related, but something I may want to look back on (as this blog is my way of keeping track of stuff).... As of today, I've gone 30 days without smoking. Woohoo!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A pile o' meaties

- this year's Cornish X chicks- 

They're so darn cute... For like the first week. The pic was taken just after they were brought home and installed in their brooder. They pretty quickly piled up and went to sleep under the lamp. An hour or so later though, they were exploring their new home and kicking bedding into their water *sigh*.  As they approach the two-week mark this weekend, they're getting decidedly less cute. Another 10-14 days, and these little balls of fluff will go out into the chicken tractors. They'll be in the tractors til Memorial Day weekend, at which point we'll have our annual butcher party.

I'm a tuly attempting to keep track this year of how much they cost us to raise. We'll see if I can manage to keep up with keeping records!

Monday, April 1, 2013

They're so ugly, they're sorta cute. Muscovy ducks!

So, how does a trip to the feed store end up with us driving 45 min in the other direction to pick out a pair of adult ducks? Well, I'll tell ya.

Headed to town for our weekly trip for groceries, feed, etc. LJ mentions he heard a rumor that our local feed store has Muscovy ducklings. So, we had the entire trip to town and back to ponder adding Muscovy ducklings to our menagerie. Plenty of time to discuss how we could critter-shuffle... the rest of the pullets could go out in the chicken tractor with the others, ducklings could go in the little trough in the shop... and so on. We hit the feed store on the way home, and the gal that runs the place basically said, "Where'd you hear that we have Muscovys? We've never had those. We have some tufted ducklings, though!" (No thanks... freaks of nature) So, as chick and chicken chow was loaded into the truck, I could see that hubby was very disappointed that they had no warty little mud-demons. In that short ride to town and back, he'd already imagined a life with Muscovys.

Soooo... I suggested he check craigslist. He found a guy with ducklings and mature ducks and we set a time to head out. Ran the feed home, did a couple chores, and headed out.

The place was... Interesting. There were chickens free ranging, a huge house full of doves (or pigeons... I dunno), and a huge pasture full of geese and ducks. I'd driven by the place a hundred times and never knew it was back there.

Turns out the guy only had two ducklings... Yeah. That wasn't gonna work. So we went out to take a look at the birds in the field, followed by the bird-dude with a huge salmon net.

This is where things turned into both a new stock and a rescue operation. A number of the birds out there were gimpy. All of them were a bit ratty. There was plenty of shelter and feed, but if they had a pool or pond to bathe in, I didn't see it. We'd come this far, so we picked out the healthiest male and female we could find, both chocolate in color, with white heads. The guy netted them, and we carried them back to the truck. A little ratty, but bright-eyed, quick on their feet, and no bumble foot (we checked). $45 later, a pair of ducks in a dog crate in the truck bed, and we were headed home.

We were told that the female was about a year old, and that the male was about two. In both pics, the female is on the left. She's much smaller than the male, and has a smaller mask. The male is HUGE. I'd guess he weighs around 12 or 13 lbs. the female is maybe 2/3 his size.

These birds are like no ducks I've ever seen. They sorta remind me of turkeys, with their long tails. They are super quiet, hissing at most. They also raise the crest of feathers on their head when spooked. The meat is supposed to be outstanding, and I've read a number of articles where it was compared to veal.

Muscovys are also supposed to be excellent mothers, and that's our hope, as we'd like to have this pair produce meat birds for us.

For now, they're quarantined in one of the chicken tractors. We'll observe them for a while to make sure there's no obvious signs of illness or bugs. Eventually, we'll integrate them into the flock.

I gave them a tub of water, and they were in it within about 30 min, and turned it black with dirt. I think they spent most of Saturday preening/cleaning. Poor guys. One good sign... I saw the male mount his new lady-friend more than once. They settled in pretty fast!

Still debating names. Considered going "chocolate" themed, since they're both brown. KitKat (Kit and Kat) is in the running, as are variations of M&M (Mick&Maggie, Merle&Molly, etc).

For now, they're "the new ducks".