More Ducks!

My ducks have been seeming to want male attention. They keep bugging my rooster; they will bob their heads and quack while surrounding him. He has not seemed interested at all, so I figured I should try to find an adult male duck to add to the flock. I put an ad out on Craigslist, and was contacted by someone who needed a home for his pair of Pekins – a male and a female. So we now have two more ducks. Pictures are below of the ducks together, and some updated chick pics:

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Here are all four together.
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The orange-billed ducks in the middle here are the newbies, they are about a year old.
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My older girls have the darker bills – they are about 3.
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Everyone has been getting along well. Yesterday they went in their pool, taking turns – the new ducks went in first, swam a bit, and then the older ladies went and took their turn – the pool only fits two of them at a time. But I thought it was cute that they are taking turns.
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Here they were hanging out their first full day here. We got them over the weekend.
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The chickens were hanging around them as well.
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Here are the chicks – they are getting very big. They are about half the size of the adults now.
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You can see Atat in the background – the chicks were investigating him a little. (The dogs are separated from the chickens by a fence).
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Here is one of the chicks.
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Here they are hanging out on some boards at the edge of the woods.
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Another picture of them in the woods.
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This orange one (I believe a Buff Orpington, but they are all mixes of breeds). 

Everyone is doing well.  We did have an unfortunate event happen with the chicks.  I typically count everyone when I put them to bed.  We put everyone away on Friday night and found that one chick was missing. We counted and re-counted several times, and looked all over. They usually hang out together.  I figured if someone was stuck somewhere they would have been chirping – they are not quiet at all when they are unhappy. We think something, possibly a hawk, came in and got one.  There is no sign of that chick.  So now we have 16 chicks. In my 5 years of owning chickens, this is the first time that I’ve lost any to a predator,  so we’ve been pretty lucky.

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Maple Syrup, and new friends on the way

We made maple syrup this year.  We started collecting at the end of March, when we still had a bunch of snow. We ended our collection after a couple of weeks because we had run out of room in our freezer and fridge for gallon jugs of sap.  The snow had been melting but then this last Thursday we got hit by the end of the Bomb-Cyclone storm that came up through the middle of the country – we only got 5 inches of snow here at the house though, but it made it look like winter again.  Below are some pictures from before that snow hit us.

trees tapped
Here are some of the trees tapped this year. We only tapped three right at the edge of the yard, because there was a foot of snow around the trees when we first started. We collected sap for about 2 weeks. This picture was from right at the end of that time.
wizard
Here is our cat Wizard, venturing outside on a nice day last week.

I planned on cooking the sap outside this year. I bought a big steam-table pan (I just searched for “maple syrup pan” on amazon) that would hold 22 quarts. We have a firepit already set up that I was going to set the pan over to cook the sap on; but then the day I planned on cooking everything up, it was pouring rain.  I ended up just doing it on the stove using two big canning pots. It took a full day on Sunday and then the evening Monday after work, but it is now complete.

sap on the stove
Sap on the stove.
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A close up of the maple sap steam.
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Syrup! We got 6 pint jars.

I also have some exciting news about chickens! Last April we got Bertram, our Russian Orloff rooster, from an ad on Craigslist. I was planning on ordering some chicks this year, but then I was contacted on Facebook by the lady I got Bertram from – she found me through this blog. She asked if I was interested in trading hatching eggs, since she still has another Russian Orloff and then we both get chicks from these roosters.  So we traded eggs – I saved pretty much all our eggs for a week, and gave her 1.5 dozen, and saved 11 for us. I received a dozen from her chickens, as well as nine eggs for Partridge Chanteclers that she got from another lady. So I have 32 eggs in the incubator, they started on 4/6.  I’m possibly going to end up with way too many chickens, but I didn’t want to waste any of the eggs I’d saved, or the ones I had gotten either.  I looked at the 3 previous hatches I did with this incubator in 2016, and we usually get about a 50% hatch rate from the original set put in – typically I candle and end up taking out about 25%, and then at the end another 25% don’t make it, so I’m figuring that is about what we’ll end up with – approximately 15 or 16. We’ll have to figure out what to do with any extra roosters, but I’ll worry about that later this summer.   We do need more hens since mine are becoming slackers – the youngest of my hens are 3 years old, from our 2016 hatches. From 16 hens currently, we are getting about 5 eggs per day if we are lucky.   I am excited for new chicken friends – Fingers crossed we don’t get mostly roosters.

incubator 4.6
Here are the new chicks on the way! We have 32 eggs in here – I expect after candling we’ll have 20-25, maybe. I will candle the eggs this coming week (after 10 days in the incubator). The left 2 columns are Partridge Chanteclers, the middle two columns are mixed eggs from Bertram’s old home, and the 2 right columns are from my hens.

Our ducks are excited that it is finally spring – they’ve been searching for snow-melt puddles:

ducks in a puddle
Our ducks wandered to the puddle at the edge of our property last week – you can kind of see them in the middle of this picture here – (the houses are our neighbors behind us). This area is low and it tends to fill up in spring. The ducks love it.
ducks in woods 2
Here they are heading back through the woods to the coop. They didn’t like that I came to take their picture.

Coming out of winter into spring

It’s officially spring, but here in the U.P. we are just starting to come out of winter.  We still have a lot of snow, although this week we’ve had decent temperatures during the day (above freezing) so the snow is melting and turning driveways into mud. They freeze at night, luckily, so I was able to go to work this morning – my car wasn’t stuck in my muddy driveway. We are supposed to get a little bit of snow this week (3 inches, I heard) which is typical. Spring is usually like this.

This winter has been really hard – we lost both roosters. Big Red died in January, and The General died just a couple days ago. They both got really bad frostbite this winter – Red had it so bad his waddles got really swollen.  General’s toes got it really bad. I’m not sure if they eventually both died because of frostbite complications, but it’s possible. They both seemed to recover (and be feeling better) before they died, so I’m not sure. With chickens it’s sometimes hard to tell.    The frostbite came when we had a really bad cold spell in January.  The ducks sometimes make it hard to keep the moisture out of the coop as well, which can contribute to frostbite in the chickens. Roosters with larger combs/waddles are really susceptible, and both of our boys had them. We are very sad about losing our roosters.  Now we have 19 chickens (all hens), and three ducks.

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Here is General on the right, with one of our hens a couple years ago.
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Big Red – our Black Copper Maran rooster, this picture was from last year.

Today we let the chickens out into the yard for the first time this year – there is actually a bit of grass/muddy driveway for them to hang out in, instead of just snow. The ducks found a big icy puddle to dabble in – they loved that. Here are a few pictures from today:

happy hens
Here are some of the hens out in the yard today.
chickens spring
There was really only a little bit of yard and the driveway for them to go in, but they enjoyed it.
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Another picture of hens in the driveway.
remaining pile
This is what remains of our snowbank in front of the coop.
ducks heading home
Here are the ducks heading back home.
sap buckets
We also tapped trees this week! Usually maple syrup time is earlier in March, but we didn’t have the necessary warm daytime temperatures till this week.
sap buckets 2
We’ve been getting just under a gallon a day of sap, with 8 buckets out.

Spring is on its way, luckily. I’m glad to see this winter mostly behind us.

 

Ducks in the woods

We’ve had a lot of rain (with snow intermixed here and there).  Today was a nice day, so we let the chickens and ducks out of their run.  Our yard and the surrounding woods are made up of some rolling terrain – we have some lower spots that have recently filled with water because of the large amounts of rain we’ve had.   The ducks found one of these spots (and I swear they made it a little larger with all their dabbling).  Here are some shots of them enjoying their temporary pond in the woods:

duck created pond
Here is a muddy spot that leads from the yard to the puddle/pond they were enjoying.
duck prints in mud
Here are duck-prints in the mud.
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Enjoying the pond.
duck pond 2
As you can see the low spot / pond is quite large.
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I wonder what they’re eating – probably worms.
daffodils
Here are the daffodils that were right next to the duck’s pond.

A nice spring evening. The ducks really enjoyed it, and so did we.

 

 

September in the Coop

We’ve had a lot happening in the chicken/duck coop lately.  The ducks are doing well in there with the chickens. It has been a little more humid when I open the coop in the morning, but some of that could be the fact that we are constantly getting rain – this summer was abnormally wet, and it has continued into September. Luckily the temps are more autumn-like. We started with straw bedding a couple years ago, which turned into cob on the floor – thanks to the ducks, the humidity moistened that cob layer so I was able to finally get it all off the floor today. They now have a super-clean freshly cleaned coop floor. (We switched to pine shavings and it’s been really nice – it doesn’t turn solid on the floor and it smells nice when you lay it down).

We have been getting eggs from the 2nd batch-hatch hens,  and are up to about a dozen-plus a day.  My third batch chickens are only 2 months old, so they will start laying later.

We have a whole lot of roosters, and more coming up. I gave one of our youngest, from the third batch, away to a friend who needed a rooster. With some of the youngest chickens it’s still hard to tell which gender they are, so we’ll have to see. We will have to cull some roosters, and I was planning on doing that a couple weeks ago, but I ended up waiting –  they are still with us for the time being. We’ll probably start culling some when it gets a little cooler. I sold our lone bantam hen to someone who had other bantams. One of our large roosters mounted her and I was afraid he was going to kill her, so I rehomed her quickly.

Here are some scenes from the coop:

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Some of the ducks in the yard.
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Two barred-rock-looking roosters. (They have feathered legs, so we’re not sure what kind they really are).
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The General perching with some of the ladies. He’s missing his tail feathers (just went through a molt recently) so he looks really short.
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Here’s the General with his tail-featherless butt.
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This is the Easter Egger rooster.
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Our black copper maran rooster.
big-white-roo
Our white rooster from the first batch (our test batch) this year.  He is on the short-list for freezer camp, but he’s actually a really decent rooster, so we’ll see. That’s part of why we’re waiting to cull anyone: indecision.
coop-perch-gang
Some of the perch-gang. Most of these ones tend to hang out in this room of the coop. There is our frizzled chicken (who is ALSO a rooster, we found), on the right. Our brahmas and speckled sussex from last year are on the left, and the others are Easter Eggers and some kind of crested hens. The black chicken in the front is a Black copper maran.
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One of the Brahmas (from last year) and a production red hen (who is 2 years old).
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These are some of the older ladies. They like to hang out in the front room of the coop.
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Eggs! On top are the chicken eggs, and the bottom are all duck eggs. We are not getting any blue chicken eggs, just olive. We are not supposed to get blue duck eggs (we have pekins) but we do get them. So at least we get blue eggs from somewhere.

The coop is a very exciting place!

Clucks and Quacks… and chocolate eggs

Yesterday, my plan was to harvest all 10 ducks.  Their pen was a big muddy mess, and we’ve been planning on doing it for months but things get in the way. Early yesterday, I got everything ready. I culled the three males first, and then one of the seven females.  We decided to skin them because it’s (supposedly) easier than dealing with duck wax and everything to get the feathers out, and then you don’t have all the duck fat to deal with.  As the day wore on, and I was working on the fourth duck, my husband thought maybe we should stop at the four we’d done. He said “why don’t we try putting the rest of them in with the chickens?”  I agreed to that – doing all 10 was a daunting task – just the four we did wore us out and took a big chunk of the day. The big reason I wanted to harvest them all was their horribly messy pen – they make lots of mud, and slogging through that each day to feed and water them, and to get their eggs, was really hard. The house we built was really low also, and they loved to lay eggs way at the back, so we’d sometimes have to crawl in there to get the eggs.  We would put new bedding in each night and by morning it would be sopping wet, so you’d be kneeling on sloppy old mucky bedding to get the eggs.  The remaining ducks, now in the chicken coop, are not getting a pool.  I may fill a small one (not in the pen) and let them play here and there, but they are not getting one in the run.

So far, the ducks are doing well with the chickens.  Their pens were always right next to each other;  they’ve been neighbors all summer, so they were somewhat used to each other already.  We were worried the chickens may pick on them, but the ducks are larger than even our largest rooster, so the chickens are mostly keeping their distance.

Tonight, the ducks were starting to get the hang of the bedtime routine, and it was easier to get them to go in the coop with everyone else.  We collected the chicken eggs and found that one of the Black Copper Marans is now laying eggs! We got a small, chocolate colored egg.

chocolate egg
A normal sized chicken egg on the left, and our first chocolate egg on the right.

The old duck pen is going to be reclaimed back into the yard.  It’s a soppy mess right now, since we drained the pool and then it rained last night, but I piled up all the “furniture” on the duck house, and then seeded it with a “chicken forage blend” which has clover and other stuff that will do nicely in our yard.  Our yard is a little bit of grass, and a whole lot of other stuff anyway, so this should work fine.

old duck mess
The old duck yard, after I seeded it and put on some straw to keep the seeds in place.
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Here you can see there are some big puddles. We’re going to have to fill some of the holes the ducks dug with some top soil. We’ll eventually take the fence down and use it somewhere else.

We’ll see how this works with the ducks and chickens together. So far it’s going ok.  If it doesn’t we’ll start talking about taking out the rest of the ducks. For now, they lay a lot of eggs, so they are “earning their keep.”

Late August around the farm

We’ve been very busy this month. I had family in town for a week or so, and we just have had a lot going on.  Here are some pics of what we’ve been up to:

carrots and beets
My carrots and beets. I picked all the carrots, may plant more and see if I can get them before we freeze. (Carrots that go through a freeze are sweeter anyway). I still have some beets to pick. This is the best carrot crop I’ve ever gotten (the most I have had at once) so I’m happy.
lots of eggs
Lots of eggs! Our ducks are laying – we have 7 females, and they almost are laying better than our chickens. The eggs on the left (blue/white) are all duck eggs. The ones on the right are chicken eggs.
duck butt egg
Some of the ducks are laying like 2 eggs a day. We find the regular, hard-shelled ones, and then strange soft shelled things. We found this butt-shaped egg. It was very soft, but I still would not have wanted to be that duck, trying to get that thing out.
newt
Here is a newt my son found one day.
roma
I’m getting some ripened tomatoes now. Yum! Here are some romas.
pumpkins
Our tiny pumpkins. These are “Wee-be little” – I did not realize they would be THIS small, but they are very cute. First success I’ve had with pumpkins.
tiny olive egg
We are starting, in the last couple of days, to get eggs from some of our olive/easter egger hens that I hatched from the hatching eggs I bought. We’ve gotten a smallish olive-tinted egg each day for the last few days, and today we got 2. Here is the first one we got, next to a white egg from an older hen.
watermelon sling
I have this watermelon growing, I was worried about it falling off the vine, so I made it a sling. If they come unattached they won’t keep ripening. It’s about the size of a large grapefruit now.
daniel corn
The ears on my son’s corn plants are getting big. He only has about 6-7 plants, but he should get enough corn to make him happy.
sunflowers
My sunflowers. These are the first two to bloom.

Mid July on the farm

We have been very busy.  Last week I went camping.  While I was away, it seems that my garden has exploded. (It tends to do that when you don’t see it every day).   I hatched hatch# 3 of chicks a couple days ago, and we found our first duck egg today!  Here are some pictures of the latest happenings:

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Here is my garden. I get to do some weeding today.
greens
Here it is, growing away. The red bits on the right are some beets.
tiny artichoke
A tiny artichoke. It’s about an inch tall.
sunflower
A sunflower. This is only about 2 feet tall right now.
roma
Roma tomato.
pumpkin
My pumpkin plants!
kohlrabi
Kohlrabi. First time growing this – we are not sure if we like it yet. We will be trying it when it’s ready.
daniels garden
My son’s garden. His corn is doing well. There is a zinnia blooming.
early girl
Our Early Girl tomato. This was a grafted plant I bought. I somehow forgot to plant seeds of my Early Girl tomatoes.
hatch 3_2
Here are the newest chicks! We have 14, they all hatched on Thursday, and they are from my own chickens’ eggs. We now have 57 chickens all together. That total will go down once we cull the extra roosters.
hatch 3
A chick’s eye view of them.
hatch 3_3
Another chick’s eye view.
barnyard
Here is the bird yard. You can see we have Pekin ducks here.
blue duck egg
We got our first egg from the ducks today. It’s about the size of a chicken egg. Not sure why it is bluish. Pekins are supposed to lay white/cream eggs.
duck egg
Here is the egg again. Like a large chicken egg – I figure its a starter eggs for the ducks, so they should get bigger soon, and probably change to the cream/white color. Not sure if we’ll eat this one since it’s a weird color. I know it was laid this morning / last night, so it’s fresh, but it’s still not the color they are supposed to be from the ducks.

Exciting times!

Busy Springtime

There has been a lot going on lately around here.  After my last post, no more chicks hatched. We ended up with 22 hatched out of 42 for that batch.  I candled the remaining eggs – 10 were empty, and 10 just didn’t hatch. And then a day or so later one of the chicks who had hatched died.  So we now have 21 small chicks, and 4 larger chicks. I’m done with hatching for the year – we now have 43 chickens including our adults.

Here is one of our larger chicks, Escape Artist’s daughter:

esky daughter
Looks like her mama. Also tries to jump out of the box just like mama did.

We vaccinated the chicks for Marek’s last weekend. The older chicks were given it at the same time – may be a little late but it’s better than nothing. We only had the one vial and didn’t want to try to split it up, especially since this was the first time we’ve ever given it.  My chickens from last year were all vaccinated at the hatchery. I don’t know if my 2-year-old chickens were vaccinated. Either they were or we don’t have Marek’s disease here, but I have heard that it is all over the place.  I’ve read that it takes 2 weeks for the chicks  to build up any immunity after being vaccinated, so next weekend we might move the older chicks outside.   We were going to add another little chicken house for the youngsters, but we’ve decided we will do a split coop again – we have the room in the chicken house, with two separate rooms, and fenced runs on both sides, so we can keep them separate but all safe and comfortable.  The smaller chicks will have to go out later – they are still too small.  I’ll have to integrate them with the larger chicks when they do get moved, but there are so many smaller ones I think they’ll be able to hold their own against the 4 larger chicks then. Here is one of the smaller chicks:

red head maran
I think she’s one  of the Marans (or came out of one of those eggs), but she is black with a red head. I noticed her feathers growing in stick out a little bit, like a frizzle chicken. We’ll have to see what she ends up looking like. She’s one of my favorites from this batch.
frizzle wings
Here you can see some of the feathers on the top part of her wing stick out, away from her body. I’ve never seen that before, but hers are doing that symmetrically on both sides of her body so it must be what she is supposed to have happen.

We lost one of our ducks this week. We had a male (we think) who had some trouble with his feet – he wasn’t really able to keep up with the group when they were moving around, we had noticed.  In their pen that didn’t matter so much, but earlier this week I was outside and noticed he seemed to be stuck in the pool. I don’t know if he got sick, or just got stuck in the pool and got too cold. I took him out and set him on the grass in the sunshine, and dried him off a little with a towel. I hoped he would get better, but he died a little while later.  Here are our remaining 11 ducks:

ducks
It looks like someone had a pillow fight in our back yard, with all the duck feather dander everywhere. 

The ducks always run away when you get near them. The chickens, much smarter, come running because they know people=food. Here are my chickens out today:

got snacks
“Did you bring us some snacks?”

Our trees are starting to fill in.  Springtime is in full swing, except we are in the U.P.  So we got snow flurries today, and it didn’t even get in the 40s.  It’s supposed to warm up in the next few days though. Here is our cherry tree in bloom:

cherry tree
Our cherry tree. My son’s pool and Slip’n’Slide are under the tree – we really haven’t had warm enough temperatures for either of those, aside from a couple days here and there.

Since spring is here, I’ve been planning the garden.  We are using the same spaces as last year, and I’m making a new space for my son. He had a little flower-bed area last year but it didn’t get enough sunshine. I gave him a big square, about 8×8 or so, that used to have weeds and asparagus, and some old rhubarb. The rhubarb and weeds were the only things that really grew there. So he’s helping me clean it up. And we started our garden plans:

garden plan 2016
This year’s garden plan

And we started seeds last weekend:

 

more seedlings
Here is one of our two trays. I figured out we don’t need to start as much in the house as I used to.  Last year a lot of things did great just sown directly in the ground.

My strawberry patch is doing well. I put some new plants in this year. The old ones are growing well and spreading, and the new ones are doing ok.  I need to make a cover in the next few weeks or so, to keep tiny creatures from stealing my berries this year.

strawberry patch
This whole mulched area is strawberry patch, except right against the house is for raspberry bushes. I only have one in the ground right now;  a few others that I just bought this year are in pots waiting to go in.

My son and I were taking a walk last weekend and came across something extra delicious. I have been telling him and my husband about morels since we moved up to the U.P. and have not been able to find any.  We found 4 in the woods last weekend. Not many, but it’s enough to show them what I was talking about, and let them have a taste.  We haven’t had much rain this year, but now we know where we might be able to find them – I have been checking in that area again but haven’t seen much else, either because of the lack of rain, or because forest creatures are finding them first. Here are the morels we found:

morels
The four morels we found this year. They were delicious.

The ducks are home!

We finished the ducks’ pen and house.  They love it! They are not so excited to go inside their house at night, but we’ve found some ways to corral them into it. Here are some pictures of them in their new digs:

duck house
Here is the house – there is a door that goes on, it’s not pictured here. But we close it at night to keep the ducks from being eaten by raccoons and other creatures. The extra fence posts in the foreground are the beginnings of our new dog pen.
duck house 2
My son inside the duck house.
duck pen
Here is the duck house, and on the right you can see the pool. The ducks LOVE their pool.
ducks in pool 2
Here they are, swimming and playing. We need to get a hard pool, with some kind of ramp.
ducks in pool 3
The ducks push the sides in so they can get in and out, which spills the water. We’ve put in steps and a ramp on the outside, but they don’t understand those very well.
ducks in pool
Here is a view of the duck’s pool, facing the chicken coop.
nosy neighbors
Here are the nosy neighbors. They were not sure what to make of the ducks when they first moved into the neighborhood, but they are getting along ok now.

Our ducks are HUGE. Larger than I expected them to get.  My uncle saw them and called them our cow-ducks, since they are so large. They are a lot of fun to watch,  now that they are in their permanent spot in the yard.