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.
ducks 1
Enjoying the pond.
duck pond 2
As you can see the low spot / pond is quite large.
ducks 2
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:

ducks
Some of the ducks in the yard.
twin-barred-rock-roos
Two barred-rock-looking roosters. (They have feathered legs, so we’re not sure what kind they really are).
short-butt-general
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.
no-butt-general
Here’s the General with his tail-featherless butt.
easter-egger-roo
This is the Easter Egger rooster.
copper-maran-roo
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.
red-and-brahma
One of the Brahmas (from last year) and a production red hen (who is 2 years old).
older-ladies
These are some of the older ladies. They like to hang out in the front room of the coop.
021
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.
seeded
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:

garden 7.16
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.

Springtime with ducks

Yesterday we finally got the ducks outside. Phew. My house now smells a lot better.  They really like their new home.  There is an old dog kennel that my Dad built many years ago, and last year my husband was converting it to a clubhouse for my son.  It was still in transition, and we needed somewhere to put the ducks, so my son said he doesn’t mind if we use it for them temporarily.  We want to set up something more permanent, with a fenced yard/run, and a kiddie pool for them.

Also, our snow is melting!!  We have had temperatures in the 70s today and yesterday.  And I’m seeing signs of spring. It was waiting patiently for the snow to melt.  Take a look at our spring time yard and ducks:

my silly family and the duck house
The duck house, along with my son on the roof and my husband on the right, both doing silly poses. We were working on reinforcing the house last night (to keep out hungry raccoons, etc).
ducks in the house
The ducks in their new digs.  They have a heat lamp to keep them warm at night, and a bunch of pine shavings for bedding.
duck bed
Inside the duck house, on the other side from where the ducks sleep -this is the food and water area. We are trying to keep their water away from their bedding, as much as we can.

While we were working on reinforcing the duck house, I realized I saw some green over near the woods.  And other surprises as well:

daffodils
The Green I saw in the woods was little daffodil leaves.
croci
Because I saw the daffodil leaves, I came over to check on our usually-first-to-flower flowers, and I found what I was looking for – these crocuses were all bloomed.

Today was in the 70s and my son was very anxious to get his pool filled up.  Like the ducks, he is also obsessed with water. The water was too cold for him to swim – it takes a few days to warm up when it comes out of our hose. But he realized after filling it awhile that it was situated on a hill anyway – it wouldn’t have been very evenly filled.  So he said we could let the duck use it today, before dumping it out to move it to a more level spot.  They were very happy about that.

duck pool
Ducks in the half-filled pool.
duck in pool
My son watching the ducks.
ducks in sun
They were having so much fun.  It was nice and sunny also. I don’t think they care if the water is cold, but the sun helped to keep them warm.
happy ducks
More ducks.
baldy
They are mostly feathered now, with the yellow fuzz almost gone. One funny thing I noticed – you can see it in the middle duck on the bottom of this picture – some of them look like little balding men. They have a flat white head (feathers) and a little sticking up ring of fuzz, like the fuzz is balding.  It’s pretty funny.

The ducks had a blast in the pool, and then we had to force them out so we could put them away for the night.  We got them out and they sat in the grass, preening.  We had carried them over to the pool. But after their swim, they were soaked. We wanted to see if we could get them to walk back to their house, which is about 40-60 feet away, across the front yard and our driveway.   We tried luring them with food, which didn’t work. We tried calling them, but they didn’t want to follow us.  I finally realized that I could get them to move (in a group) if I walked behind them, kind of shuffling them in the direction I wanted them to go. They got the hang of it after a bit, and got half way or so across the yard.  It was a long walk for them, compared to what they are used to, but it worked pretty well. It was a little slow going.  Then we realized that if they were to walk across the driveway they would get really muddy. So we carried them across the driveway back to their house.

Super busy day!

We had an extremely busy day (well, evening). First I worked all day at my job. Then I drove for an hour to meet with this lady to buy some hatching eggs! For our large hatch we are using some from our own chickens, but I saw an ad on craigslist for hatching eggs of Black Copper Marans and Olive/Easter Eggers.  I went and met with her today and got a bunch of hatching eggs. She threw in some Bantam eggs. I’m not sure how that will go, since bantams are so small. Their eggs are very tiny. She said they should do fine mixed with regular sized chickens though. Here are the cool hatching eggs – you will see why I wanted them:

new eggs
See how dark brown the Maran eggs are? The larger carton is not full.  You can see the small whitish eggs are VERY small – those are the bantam eggs. She labeled the eggs- I guess the marans have two varieties. Some with feathered legs, and some without.
new eggs 2
This top carton has the olive egger and easter egger eggs.  Easter eggers (usually Auracauna chickens) can lay blue or green eggs. If you cross them with a maran, the next generation will lay dark olive eggs. You can see some of these eggs are more green than blue.

I got home after my egg-adventure, and the ducks, who are STILL in the house for tonight, needed a bath very badly.  We are planning on getting them outside tomorrow – my hubby is off so he said he’d start getting their temporary outside housing set up, and I’ll help get them in there tomorrow when I get home.  But with this bathtime, I finally got some pictures of the blow-drying ducks:

fluffy ducks
Look how massive they are – we’ve had them 3 weeks now. They are the size of full grown chickens, I swear. They are getting most of their feathers and starting to sometimes quack.
fluffy ducks 4
Ducks getting blow dried, and preening while they dry off. I keep telling them, while blow drying, that this is how we get fluffy eggs. 
fluff ducks 2
Another duck picture.

One other thing, actually kind of frustrating, that happened today – I ordered a bunch of trees and fruit plants this year (raspberries, strawberries, elderberries, etc) – I got a notice that they already shipped last week – We still have snow here, although it is supposed to warm up this week and stay warmer (fingers crossed).  My plants came today. Which means I had to figure out what to do with them/get them set up.  I’ve been saving milk jugs for most of the winter, so that I didn’t have to buy buckets or large pots.  I plan on keeping most things in pots for a year or two, so we can keep them safe from deer and the lawn mower. Some things were dormant but most said to plant right away. Here are my new plants, all dressed up and nowhere really to go yet:

trees
Larger trees in milk jugs.
more plants
Poppies (on the right) and a peony on the left – I got the peony for free. I will leave them in pots till I know it’s safe to put them outside. I got a bunch of bareroot strawberry plants too – just behind the pots in this picture. I think I will put them out this weekend and cover them with mulch to keep them safe. If the snow melts off my strawberry patch, that is.
gnarled filbert
Here is my “Henry Lauder’s Walking Stick” – also called a Gnarled Filbert. I’m very excited to have one of these. They are really cool trees, with gnarled branches.

Oh, and also – an update on my test hatch.  It turned out that of the last 4 eggs, 2 were duds (I candled last night finally, and they were completely empty).  The other two had chicks that never came out. I opened them tonight and they were dead. I gave them till tonight to start pipping but there was nothing.  So, of the actual fertile eggs, I ended up with about a 2/3 hatch success – 4 out of 6 eggs hatched. Those 4 chicks are doing very well.  I cleaned and disinfected the incubator and set it to dry. I am not sure if I will start the “real” hatch tomorrow or Friday night.  I will have to see how much work moving the ducks tomorrow night is.

Duck Updates

Our ducks are getting huge.  We’ve had them for three weeks already.  I swear they have quadrupled in size. We have gone through I think 5 brooder boxes.  The ducks ruin the boxes after awhile, so they have had to have replacements. Here is the last box we made for them:

duck box 4
A large duck box

Here is my son posing in a weird pose, and Downey checking out the box, so you can get a sense of scale:

silly d and duck box
The duck box with my son, Daniel, and Downey

We had the ducks in a spare bedroom, and then that got too much. They are slobs, as I’ve said before. We want to get them outside, but the weather is not cooperating yet. Here is what our yard looks like today:

blegh
blegh. That is all I can say here.

So the ducks are in our shed, which has a cement floor and is on the way outside, anyway. Instead of making them another box, my husband created a duck corral of sorts:

newest setup2
The duck corral.  The baby gate is to keep Atat from putting his face in the duck corral.
newest setup
The ducks enjoying all the room they now have to move around.

The ducks get really messy – they play with their water and then they stay wet and then they poop, and they stink. So we like to give them a bath (plus they LOVE the bath).  We started in this little tub (which is actually a cat litter pan):

duck bath

We had a leak in our bathtub so we had to use the pan the first time. We now use our actual bathtub – they all fit in at once, and we have been making the water a little deeper. They will dive under and swim around and splash – they love it.  The last time, instead of trying to dry them just with a towel, I put them on a pile of towels after the bath and then ran a hair dryer over them. They loved that.  I was dealing with a pile of ducks upstairs without a  camera, so unfortunately I don’t have pictures of that.

Today I gave them some pine shavings – we’ve been just using paper towels over the cardboard floor of their corral, and we are changing it every 2 hours or so, it seems.  I thought at the very least, the pine shavings will keep the smell down a little.

ducks with pine
You can see the pine shavings on the right in the corral here. On the left, the brown floor is their paper towel bedding after about 20 minutes.  A bunch of slobs.

We are supposed to have warmer weather this next week – they are calling for temps in the 60s next weekend.  So we will be able to get them outside then. We have an old dog shed, that was actually being converted to a clubhouse for my son.  Our plan is to use that for temporary duck housing until we can get them something built of their own.   We have a heat lamp we can set up if needed for if we get colder temps. The ducks are getting white feathers growing in under their yellow fuzz, so they should be ready to go out soon.  That is the plan as of now – we will have to see what happens on the weekend. Our weather has been so schizophrenic this spring that you never know…

Oh, and we have chicks due to hatch on Tuesday!  So bird-in-the-house season is in full swing.