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.

Chick time is coming early

I got an incubator this year, so that I can hatch some new chickens.  I wanted one that I could hatch 50 eggs in.  I originally was planning on buying a Brinsea – they have a nice 50-egg model, but it’s like $500-$600.  That ended up being out of my budget. I went on the Backyard Chickens forums, and some people were recommending the Hova-bator Genesis 1588.  It ended up being a little over $200 – I bought an automatic egg turner with it.  It’s got digital settings for heat and it’s easy to set the humidity. With the egg turner we can just set it and not mess with it very often.

incubator
Here’s my new incubator. It has the automatic egg turner inside.
egg turner
Here’s the egg turner. You can get different ones for different kinds of birds. This was the one for chicken eggs.

My plan was to start hatching in mid-April, so that we would have warm enough outside temps by the time the chicks come that they wouldn’t be brooding in the house very long.  I opened up the incubator box last week to make sure the thing works, and to set it up.  The incubator comes preset to the correct temperatures, and for humidity you just put water into certain water channels inside it, depending on what humidity level you need. It came with very clear instructions. While reading, I found that they recommend you do a test hatch first, with a small number of eggs, to make sure you don’t need to tweak anything before you try hatching a bunch of eggs, or expensive eggs.  It turns out that we have time to do a test hatch.

I grabbed 8 eggs this week and they are sitting in the incubator. They should hatch April 12th.  Here they are in the incubator:

incubator with eggs
My test hatch – there are 7 varying shades of brown eggs, and one white egg from Escape Artist (my hen who likes to escape all the time).

So far the temp has been hovering in the 99.5-99.8 degree range, which I believe is a good level. We will see if we need to tweak it depending on how this hatch goes. If all goes well I will do my large hatch after April 12th.  I will be hatching eggs from our chickens, and I also found someone near here that has Black Copper Maran (chocolate shelled eggs) and Olive Egger eggs for sale – I spoke with them and they said they should have some in mid April that I can buy.  We also have a friend who has Easter Eggers (blue eggs), and he’s going to save some eggs for me for that week as well.  I’m excited to possibly get some hens that lay other colors of eggs.

I feel like we are a baby bird factory.  With the ducks we are brooding, and now chicks in the incubator, and another (larger) batch of chicks later, we are very busy.

Our ducks are growing very fast.  We’ve had them a week as of today. I believe they have doubled in size.  I have changed their brooder box 4 times – the first two times because they needed more room, and the last two because they are slobs.  We’ve been using cardboard boxes, two taped together, with plastic garbage bags taped around the bottom (to keep the floor dry).  Ducks love to play in their water.  A lot.  I was using a chick waterer at first, and then I devised a waterer using a disposable tupperware container – I cut holes in the lid so they can get their bills in, but not step in the water.  The waterer is sitting on a plastic tray in the brooder box.  The ducks still manage to get everything soaked.  They get water out with their bill, and then dibble it all over each other, and the plastic tray, and then they splash in the plastic tray.  So then their bedding (we’re using paper towels) gets soaked.  And they poop a lot just like chickens. So we are changing bedding a few times a day.  I think I will enjoy the chicks more this time because they are not as messy as the ducks.  Chicks poop a lot but they don’t play in their water nearly as much.

Here are some newer pictures of the ducks, I think they were upset I was taking pictures here, I woke them up from a nap and they were freaking out a little.

Ducks!

We were at Tractor Supply today picking up animal food, and saw that they had chicks and ducklings in.  We are hatching our own chicks this year, but we saw the ducks and decided to get some.  My husband has talked about wanting ducks for a couple years, and I thought it would be fun to add some ducks to our farm. We got 12 Pekin ducks.  Pekins are supposed to be really good for both eggs and meat, but I’ve heard they are very tame and can follow you around the yard like a little cloud of dogs. I like the idea of that. Ducklings peep a lot just like chicks, and brooding them is very similar to brooding chicks. They also eat chick starter, and can be fed and housed with chickens. We’ll probably give them their own space, but time will tell. Below are some pictures of our new little fuzzy flock:

ducks 2

ducks 3

Ducks!
Little cuties.
sleeping but upset i disturbed them
They soaked their first brooder box (a cardboard box) with their water drinking, so they got a new plastic bin brooder box tonight. They seem happier, although they weren’t so happy when I came to take a picture. You can see a couple with open beaks complaining here.