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.

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.

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.

 

 

 

Duck Tales, egg update

We now get 2 eggs a day most days out of 3 Khaki Campbells and 1 Cayuga.  Sometimes one of the eggs is a double-yolk.  Twice, about four weeks apart, we’ve had a paperthin-shelled egg, perfectly formed as an egg, but with a shell of leathery thinness.  We didn’t eat either of those.

 I thought it was a bad-pass from one of the Khakis and that between the 3 of them they aren’t laying daily, but maybe it’s early efforts from the Cayuga.  Hard to say.

The ducks just continue to make nests in the grass of their run as we move it around the yard, except for most of the double yolks and those two paper thin eggs.  Those get laid in the mud by the water.  And the ducks continue to not damage their own eggs, even the very fragile misstep ones.

 I got a cool tip on how to figure out who’s laying (it involves food coloring!), but I am not sure I want to narrow the field just yet, since this is the time of year laying slows down anyhow.  I’ll likely give all four another month, and maybe just not worry about it until spring.  We’ll see how late fall and winter laying goes, especially once we have to bring them into the barn.

Homesteading Diary Thursday, September 5

We’re heading into what will likely be a high-octane time of homestead stuff for us, so I’m going to try to do overview updates a couple times a week to get in the habit. Here’s hoping!

Husband and me and sheep, yippie!: we checked out some super sheep and plan to bring them home this weekend.  We also took delivery of some hay, just a little bit (about 1/2 ton).  That should be adequate to get half a dozen small ruminants through the soggy/snowy winter.  We also are making some revisions to our fencing arrangements during this month and should have a very different (better) setup in October.

Goats: The goats are fine.  They hate the rain we’ve been having and noted their disapproval earlier this week by busting out of the fencing and busting into the hay because the barn was left open.  We rounded them up and put them back in their current paddock where they bleated angrily and ate uprooted potatoes.  Interesting side note.  Kinders LOVELOVELOVE juniper.  There is a bunch of research about using goats to clear junipers, but nothing that indicates a breed might prefer it to other forage.  Ours certainly do!  The literature expressed concerns about the oils upsetting their stomachs or promoting miscarriage but we haven’t noticed any signs of bloat and we have wethers with our doe, so breeding concerns are very improbable.  They just plain love juniper and seek it out preferentially.

Ducks: The ducks are fine, sleek girls at close to or their total adult growth.  I was cautiously happy they weren’t eating much feed, but since Tibby’s demise, it’s been the case that some other animals are eating some of that feed.  Mice and rabbits are the likely culprits, we’ve got holes everywhere the duck run has been since she stopped patrolling.  We are on a quest for a new barn cat or hopefully cats, maybe as early as this weekend.  The ducks haven’t started laying yet, but personal-use duck keepers on the old internets report laying about 17-18 weeks as a norm for Khaki Campbells, so we should see some eggs this month.  We started them on layer ration this week, a few days early, but they are capable of laying, so it should be fine.

Non-goat kids: Oldest kind of under the weather, youngest waiting for that first tooth to pop up.  Our oldest is likely to be able to gather eggs in spring, which is early for that kind of task, but she is physically gifted and can already carry a 3 gallon bucket of feed without spillage.  Based on past minor bugs, she should be ok by the weekend too.

Our youngest is exploring strange new worlds of somnambulism, crawling edition.  Did you know infants can crawl and sit up and walk along a wall in their sleep?  Now you do!  Thankfully cribs have been invented, so our youngest sometimes can be seen crawling in circles inside the crib like a puppy, eyes open and totally not awake and then FLOP to sleep.  It’s trippy.

Gardening: We dug most of our potatoes.  Yields were poor because we didn’t get all the plastic lining up before planting as I thought we had and that blocked the roots.  Not all roots can be bamboo-mighty, I guess.  The potatoes planted up by the house will not have this problem, they were planted where trees used to be.  Probably going to dig them up this weekend.  We ate the other ones, they have been a hit.

I think that’s it for now.  I’m pretty exhausted, we just came off a major period of both physical work and big illness in our household, and getting up to speed is also tiring.