I hate possums

One managed to squeeze into the duck run and attack a duck.  Duck’s alive and eating, but legs are all messed up.  Hopefully they’ll be back to working soon.  Possum took a lot of .22 to the torso and head.  It’s good and dead, which is good.

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Sokka slaughter and ducklings outside

On Saturday we had to slaughter Sokka.  He’d recovered well from his flystrike, but it made his horn grow back wrong and during the last week or so before his slaughter, he had a ton of new growth…right into his jaw.  We caught it before it could kill him, but he was starting to experience discomfort.  He hung around 90, not unusual for Icelandics and ok for a ram who’d been through what he had.  His carcass was in great shape and he was in fighting trim.

The ducklings are outside in the old run, we lined it against weasels, we’ll see how that goes.  They are very happy and enjoying a diet of greens and bugs to add to their feed.  Looks like only one drake, so we may get a broody girl and some natural ducklings in a year or so.

We have to slaughter all the males Shaft produced.  They favor fleece more than we’d like and aren’t making weight like their sisters.  At least we’ll finally have that freezer of lamb/hoggett.

The duck adventure begins again

Now that we have two kids old enough to do the feeding and watering when they hit laying age, we’ve decided to do ducks again.  We are doing ducklings again for the pure cuteness factor and also because it turns out to be nearly impossible to get 20-30 dollar a bird laying ducks.  Cheaper isn’t cheaper if you can’t get it readily.

We didn’t get any cool colors, just went down to the feed store on Friday for a straight run of Khaki Campbells and Indian Runners, three of each.  Straight run means no sexing was done, so we’ll see how many drake feathers we get.  Last time we had 0 drakes on straight run, perhaps it will happen again.

In sheep news, Shaft is trying to get jiggy with all his daughters and may have succeeded with Ripley.  But she weighs enough to handle a birth, so if it happens, well, that’s sheep for you.  The other three lambs don’t weigh enough to conceive, and have speedy little legs.

The neighbor’s dogs wanted duck sooner than Saturday

After months of what appeared to be decent fence training, two neighbor dogs banded together and rushed our barn to “play” with our last two ducks.  The Khaki did not survive this playtime and the Cayuga hurt a wing and may not survive long enough to be killed and parted out for supper tomorrow.

We did not have the best luck with ducks, clearly.

As I’ve probably already noted, we just didn’t really think about the prep that poultry needs for safety.  It isn’t a lot of work initially, but it’s a different kind of work than we were expecting.  Lining a fence with hardware cloth, for example, wasn’t really on the list, but by all accounts it’s five extra minutes and a lot of saved poultry.

It’s certainly humbling to see how despite growing up “with animals” for much of my childhood, I’m still pretty inexperienced at the basic nuts and bolts of homesteading.  Mostly what is missing is a mindset of ordering the environment to meet your goals first instead of ordering the environment based on minimums of cost or time.  I mean, if we were getting half our food from the old homestead, losing those ducks would be a pretty big deal, and since our goal is to work towards getting foods we like to eat easier, we’ll have to plan better.  Books, the internets and talking to local people with animals are good, but we really haven’t done enough plotting out exactly how to arrange the land we already have to meet our goals.

So that’s the approach we will aim for this coming year.

Gonna kill the ducks this Saturday

This is kind of an accountability post.  Sometimes with animals you need to get rid of you get into a rut of feeding them and changing their water and just putting off the hassle (ducks have to be plucked, after all, and that takes a lot longer than the killing part).  We really need to take care of the ducks now and maybe right before lambing starts pick up a coop and some new laying runners or Khakis and just spend a month or two coasting on store eggs.

Little Shaft is not quite so little anymore and he’s rooing (shedding) some of his fabulous wool, but he and the rest haven’t had the seasonal wool break that is typical for the breed and is some weeks off.  As it turns out, it is possible to just grab the sheep after the wool break and rip off the wool with no shearing involved.  Some shepherds with a small flock collect much of their wool that way.  If it’s possible for us, we may try the crook out to that end with the rams, as they have yet to be sheared and even raw will probably be nice enough fleeces once we get them pulled or sheared.

The ewes are still fine, no signs of miscarriage or trouble eating.  They are powering through the hay and we opened up their paddock to more of what grass is still green.  They were glad of it.

Homesteading Diary, Monday, December 9

Husband and I: doing better on the health front, gearing up for holidays and the new year.

Sheep:  ordered lambing supplies and vaccines, everything should arrive well before Christmas.  Gotta put some more straw down, now that it’s winter they hang out in the barn more.

Bucky and Shaft fought, Shaft lost and his scur is a bloody mess.  I can’t get close enough to check it out at length, but when my husband’s home tonight we can probably catch him long enough to dump some antiseptic and maybe cornstarch on it.  Shaft seems ok and is behaving/eating normally, it’s just messy where it was either torn or broken off.  It was a loose scur in the first place.  I’m checking him and putting out treats to get a little closer every hour until my husband gets in from work.

Now that the goats are gone, we’re down to maybe 10-15% hay lossage.  They just don’t spill nearly as much even still having to use the manger.  The bunk feeder made it all the way to Oregon and should be here this week.  So we’re still at about a bale a week even though they are coming in for hay all the live long day with the increasingly cold, dry weather.

The ewes are fine, they look to be growing bigger, so I guess they are getting enough nutrition to grow their lambs.  I sure hope so.

Ducks: We’re gonna eat the two leftover ducks.  Even leaving the barn open during the day, they can’t seem to lay with the current amount of light, so we’ll just eat them and try again in March or whenever we can round up a few laying Khakis or runners.

Kids: Love going out in the weather, it is quite the challenge bundling them up sufficiently.

Well, it’s off to check on Shaft and hope he isn’t still battling Bucky with that stump/fragment.

Dead ducks.

Out of three laying ducks, two were killed by a small predator, as it crawled under our electronet but didn’t knock it over and it went through a very small gap between two cattle panels.  And it wasn’t a hungry one, since I found the corpses near the door of the run.  Necks broken I guess, very little in the way of bites.  Probably something like a possum, but could be mink or weasel.  I am not sure, I’m not familiar with predators who leave whole dead ducks lying around.  And the bites were small.

Now that my hands have gotten a chance to recover from the cold, I’m going back out and taking some better pictures of the bite marks for my husband to make his guesses when he gets home and after picture-taking, I’ll bury them in the wood chips.