Five Little Ducks

I thought the ducks were fun before, now it’s spring and they are even more entertaining. They are always keeping us guessing. To us they have a pen, they are to share with the goats. It worked well all winter long. Last fall I put chicken wire around the whole pen to keep them in. That worked well until Mike moved a panel so Hank could have access to the barn for winter. The chicken wire had to be removed from that panel and was never replaced. The ducks found their way out. It worked out fine actually. They had been in the goat pen long enough to know that that was home. They would go for a walk and be back again.

My concern with letting them wander about is that they would meet the same demise as any loose chicken, guinea keet, or turkey… Death by dog.

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A Little Ball of Fire and A Duck Egg

I don’t know what your two year old was doing at 6 in the morning, but mine was insisting that she go out and feed the “aminals”.

So out we went.

I really enjoy having the quiet early morning barn time to myself but I really want to continue to encourage the kids to work with the animals and like doing chores. I expect them to help around the farm, they start with easy chores- feeding the dogs, putting silverware on the table and such. They are encouraged to come with to collect eggs and be around when we feed the large animals. There is very little coaxing needed when it comes to the animals. It’s usually harder to keep them out of the pen than anything else.

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Tales of the Pregnant Farmer: Nesting Theory

When asked when I’m due my usual response is “sometime between now and the county fair.” This is sometimes taken as sarcasm, unfortunately I’m serious. This time around I was given four due dates depending on who I talked to. An average “safe delivery” time can be two weeks before or after the due date, which means I have/had about eight weeks of “any day now”. So the no “real” due date answer seems to shock and/or annoy the person asking when. Hmm. How about Mama? Think about how annoying it is to politely answer that for eight weeks or longer?! Not to mention the weeks of comments of “how big you’re getting!” (that’s not a compliment no matter how you try.) The only acceptable thing to say about a pregnant ladies size is “you look great!” FYI.

All that complaining aside, life doesn’t stop because of it. I still mow the lawn each week and do what I can to help with yard work, gardening and so on. It takes a lot longer to get anything done, but it does get done. In an attempt to get this baby out I thought I’d give “nesting” a try. Pretty sure I didn’t do much for nesting with the other two. I didn’t really have time, nor did I slow down as much as I have this time. I washed the baby clothes the last time I had everything dug out of the kid’s closet to put away the out grown and get the next box of hand-me-downs. The house is picked up… I wouldn’t say clean, but picked up. Wash the floors during nap and by the next snack time they’re sticky.

Nesting it is. It was worth a try anyways.

The ducks really only need enough water to dunk their heads but they make such a mess splashing and end up wasting all their drinking water doing so. I had put a rubber feed dish in the run to give them something a little more to splash in. It worked… kinda. They emptied that and the drinking water. The days are warming up considerably and if I want this year’s chicks (who live with the ducks right now) to have water the ducks needed something more again. I think.

When they were in the house we had them in a small kiddie pool. The kids loved it. It was fun but it didn’t take long for them to outgrow the space and make the house smell like a chicken coop. It was time for them to move out. After the flock was in the coop the pool went outside to be stored until the next batch of chicks would grace the kitchen.

Well, my “nesting mother duck” came out and those ducks needed a pond of sorts. I dug out the pool, hauled it to the outside run and scrubbed it out quite nicely… I’m not sure why. It stayed clean about as long as a freshly washed kitchen floor. A short piece of fence post scrap was set by the edge in case someone needed a step in and I began filling the “pond”. While I was watching my handy work fill, Mike brought over the four-wheeler and wagon so I could get the coop cleaned too. I’m not sure what he thought when he saw my project but he didn’t object at least.

Happy Ducks
Happy Ducks

“I’m going to go up to Erica Lane and meet Uncle Greg in a bit. I’ll be back in after while.” Mike headed out of the run. By that time I had just about finished cleaning the mud out of the waterer. As I went to leave the pen and shut off the water I had a little bit of an issue… He locked me in.

Yep.

Stuck.

The hook and eye lock on the outside was too low for me to reach over and unhook. I’d like to think I could still fit through the turkey door in the other pen but once again that wouldn’t do much good because their door was closed with a hook and eye inside the feed room. The idea of trying to climb over the fence…well even I knew that wasn’t going to happen today. The landing might have knocked the baby loose which would’ve been helpful I guess. Luck was on my side this time. I remembered I had my phone with me because I didn’t want to miss my Uncle’s call.

“Hello?”

“Hi. I promise I won’t leave the yard if you let me out of the duck pen!”

“What?”

“Please? You locked me in when you left.”

(Short silence. Then laughter.) “I’ll be right over.”

Only on our farm would mama get locked in the duck pen on the 4th of July.

Once allowed out, I got the whole coop cleaned quite nicely. The ducks were swimming in the new pond. The Ladies were happy with their fresh bedding and watermelon rinds. The nesting boxes are all cleaned and ready for fresh eggs. Baby’s still not here… So much for the “nesting” theory.

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A Duck Egg Update

A quick duck egg update:

It has been a week since the eggs arrived. I was asked by almost everyone that I told we were getting duck eggs “How do they ship those?” To which I had the great reply of “In an egg carton in a box? Maybe?”

They were shipped in a large box with bubble wrap and a thick foam pad that had holes punched out. Each egg was carefully wedged in a hole and in pencil noted what color of duck should come out of the egg. I liked the labeling; it’s much easier than the guessing game of which chick is which when we order live chicks. Questions answered.

The day after the eggs arrived, they were put into the incubator. They are supposed to sit for a day, point down just in case the air sack was jarred loose during shipping. The rest allows the sack to reattach to the top of the egg where it belongs from what I hear. The temperature has hovered around 99.5 f. From what I’ve read a steady temperature of 99.8 is needed for the first 25 days of incubation for the duck eggs. Hmm. A quick prayer and duck egg blessing and we are hoping for the best! After the first week you can candle the eggs to check development and remove any unfertilized or dead eggs… again from what I’ve read.

Candling eggs is basically shining a bright light onto each egg, allowing you to be able to see through the shell enough to see what stage in development the potential bird is. You can buy special flashlight type devices made just for this special task… We have not purchased one; go figure (I prefer multi-use tools). I did however candle the eggs the other morning with my own special tool. Using my goose hunting head lamp and an empty toilet paper roll, I had my own task specific egg candling device. Ya’ know what?! It worked well! Next time I will probably cut the roll in half. I don’t think the whole thing is necessary, but it was early and the thought process was still a little slow.

We had ordered 12 eggs- Mike picked out 6 of the fawn color (also known as pencil runners), I really liked the chocolate and the blue, so I picked 3 of each.

After our first week’s candling, from what I can tell there is one fawn that is dead and one blue that wasn’t fertilized or died right away. The rest have the veining that they are supposed to. There may be a couple more that won’t make it. They were a little iffy, so they can sit for another week and we’ll see what kind of progress they make… if any.

 

This is our first time incubating so by all means this is not meant to instruct, it’s just to note our first time attempting to hatch eggs.

 

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Quack, Quack, Quack!

…One little duck with a feather on his back, he led the others with his “quack, quack, quack.”

Of all the songs to get stuck in my head that is always the one. I drop the kids off at daycare and it takes until I get to work that I realize I’m singing along with Toddler Tunes and I’m the only one in the car. Just a little “TMI”.

I was rather disappointed when we decided to not order butchering chickens for this season. We still have plenty in the freezer and with the anticipation of a freezer of Elvis, a possible pig and with any luck a deer we really don’t need more chickens for now. (sigh)

Instead, we are getting ducks!

It took a day or two, but I got super excited about this new adventure. I’m planning a pond in the orchard and having my amazing construction crew (Mike and Dad) to install a “duck door” on the frying pan side of the chicken run. Mike had picked out a “hatchery surplus special” for ducks. We like to looks at surplus specials because its a great way to get a variety of birds for a lesser price. I like a mixed flock; they look nice pecking about with all the different colors. I do like to try to stick with the same general size of bird because a bunch of large birds can easily pick off a little one if they so choose. I’ve also been told keeping a mixed flock helps to prevent some disease. I don’t know that for a proven fact but our birds haven’t had any problems so far. (knock on wood)

I was all set to order the variety pack until I started looking… I found hatching duck eggs!

Yes!

We can use the new incubator and hatch a variety pack of ducks. I would be thrilled to see the little guys hatch and I have no doubt that the kids would love it too. It’s official, Mike agreed. We get to hatch ducks!

After a bit of searching we picked out a dozen Indian Runner Duck eggs- 6 fawn and white, 3 Blue and 3 Chocolate. It’s not the mixed breeds that I tend to lean towards with chickens but the runners are too funny to not have a whole flock. The minimum egg order is a dozen and from what I’ve read the hatch rate of shipped eggs is only about 50%, which is quite disappointing. On the other hand if we can get so lucky as to hatch one drake (male) and the rest hens (ladies) we would be set. Runners don’t like to sit on their eggs but they are some of the most prolific layers. We have an incubator to hatch whatever we would like once the flock is started and as for the rest of the eggs, well, I see some amazing custard coming out of the wood fire stove.

The eggs are set to arrive in April, you can bet there will be more to come on the quackers!

Runner ducks
Runner ducks

the photo is from a google search that brought me here:http://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/natural-pest-control-ducks.aspx

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