Tales of the Pregnant Farmer: My Ducks are Not in a Row!

Rebekah, one of our midwives, came last night and noticed there was an egg in the incubator that was starting to hatch. Leave it to a midwife to notice a birth! Ha! I was shocked at the piping. I have it marked on the calendar to stop turning the eggs in a week and then them to hatch a few days later. To say I had things mixed up would be an understatement.

Duck eggs take about 28 days to hatch. I put them in the incubator April 2nd and had marked them to hatch May 7th. Slightly off… Just slightly. To add to my confusion it was April 19th… so I thought when I looked at the calendar. Actually it was April 26th. I lost a whole week somewhere.

I swear I haven’t been drinking! I should seriously consider starting though, maybe that would straighten me out. Whew!

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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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Lining Up the Ducks

Really?! Ducks?! -Clyde

My last attempt to ready a spot for wintering the ducks. I spent my time this weekend installing a duck fence around the bottom of the goat pen. This summer the ducks made a sloppy mess of the south chicken run, the rain was no help in the matter either. Unfortunately their water loving habits don’t let up just because it snows and I won’t have then ruin the floor of the coop this winter.

As much as I like eating duck I was really hoping for eggs from these guys and don’t want to eat the birds. I was going to keep Henrietta and Lucky and let the rest go. I put them up for sale or free online. One found a new home and the gal who said she wanted the rest was a no-call/no-show. This seems to be the way a lot of online deals go. A little common courtesy would be nice. That’s ok though, I didn’t really want to give them up.

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No Cheese, Just Quackers!

What a weekend on the farm! Our duck eggs that I had marked on the calendar to start hatching on Saturday, started Friday morning. It was quite exciting. We all happened to be home and huddled around the incubator peering into the little windows watching with great anticipation of the shell bursting open and our first duck falling out.

Through the night Lucky (the duck) pecked his way around the top of the shell. Mike noticed the cracks and some movement early Friday morning and from then on, “duckling watch” had begun. Everyone checking in any time we happened to walk by… so all the time. It wasn’t too long and the Little Boy was on the bench with his nose to the glass watching and the top of the shell popped off and a tiny duck head peeked out. There looked like a bit of a struggled for a few seconds to which our little guy, who was quite concerned exclaimed “Help him!” “We can’t buddy. He needs to get out of his shell by himself.” That was not the answer he was looking for but kept watching anyway. With a little more effort Lucky was out! Barely standing and very wobbly we had our first egg hatch.

Did you know ducklings can live for a couple days without food or water?! That’s how they can be shipped without provisions. I did not know this. It was after a text to a friend who know everything there is to know about poultry that I learned this. You are not supposed to remove the bird from the incubator until everyone that should hatch did. It is very important to keep it humid in there or the babies can get stuck in their shell. Lucky came out that evening regardless. Our house is so dry we needed to add water anyway. So one added water while the other grabbed the duck.

The next morning Tallulah broke out of her shell. Just as the day before, she was greeted with great anticipation and excitement… in fact we were all a little late for where we needed to be because of it. Three more emerged on Sunday morning while we were at church, for a total of three blue and two fawn Runner Ducks. I am holding out hope that at least one chocolate one will hatch; I was really hoping for that color, but we will see I guess.

There are six eggs left to go. One was chirping and moving so hopefully we will see that one soon. That would bring us to our fifty percent hatch rate, which is what I was hoping for. We will give the rest a couple more days and see what happens. If none of the chocolates hatch this year, maybe we will try again next year.

 

Lucky the duck!

UPDATE: A chocolate one hatched during the night! We have two fawn and two chocolate left to possibly hatch!

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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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