Category Archives: ducks

Duck, Duck…Goose????

I don’t believe I mentioned it here, but I lost my Rex buck, Sorrel, this winter. I’m not sure what happened; his illness didn’t seem to match up symptom-wise with anything I could find. It doesn’t appear to have been contagious, thankfully, because the does share a wire wall with him, and they are both thriving. But it left me in want of a new male. I had pretty much decided on getting a breed other than Rex this time, and was keeping my eye out for a breeder of something interesting in my area that would have kits for sale in Spring.

And then, surprise, surprise, I stumbled onto this little fellow.

IMG_7873

Meet Bramble. He’s still a little freaked out by his sudden change of residence, but he’s sweet-tempered and pretty. He’s also a New Zealand/Cinnamon hybrid, which seems about perfect for me. Hopefully I’ll get some gorgeous babies from him.

IMG_7874

IMG_7876

And in other news, I decided to go ahead and get a Guard Goose for my chicken flock. The idea is, you get one (and one ONLY) female gosling, and raise it with your chickens, so it bonds to them and wants to protect them. Geese are terrific protection against aerial predators like hawks.

I have a female tufted roman gosling on order with mypetchicken.com, and since they need to ship at least three waterfowl together, I also ordered three male pekin ducks. I’ll raise those for meat.

TuftedRoman_A4A3525-Edit.jpg

I’m hoping one of my chickens will be broody at just the right time (I have four cochins, so the odds are in my favor) and I’ll be able to have her raise the goose. I really can’t wait to see a chicken raise a gosling! How adorable will that be????

I chose a roman tufted because they are quite small for geese, quieter than average, and have an interesting history to them. As one of the oldest varieties of geese in the world, they were around during the time of the Romans. Hence the name. In 365 BC, as the Gauls attempted to steal into Rome under cover of night, it was the honk of a Roman goose that awoke Marcus Manlius and saved the capitol. As I adore both geese AND ancient Roman history, I’m quite excited about this addition to the farm!

Mainly Ducks…But Also a Camel

Let’s talk about the camel, first, because I know you’re curious. I went to the local fair a couple of weeks ago. It’s a very small, not-really-good-for-much fair, but I always manage to see at least one thing worth the admittance fee. This year, it was the walk-through butterfly house and the camel.

IMG_7645

I’ve see camels before, of course, but I’ve never seen a flat-out napping camel.

IMG_7675

Aw. I just want to snuggle him!

My new Muscovy ducks are the real star of this particular blog, though. I started with seven day old ducks, and at about sixteen weeks, chose out the three I was going to keep. One drake, and two hens.

IMG_7702

Tiberius, the drake is a real sweetie. He’s a blue color, and his head is slowly turning white. I was going to keep the black male, but this fellow won me over in the final week with his sweet disposition. And good thing, too – because when I processed the other ducks, I discovered that the black male had some sort of infection inside him, and very well might have died and left me drake-less.

The two hens are much more shy. Tabitha is black, and will also have a white head eventually. Tilda is chocolate and white.

IMG_7730

It’s been really interesting watching their red caruncles on their faces starting to develop.

IMG_7705

And can I just say that these ducks are the best ducks EVER? They are awesome animals, and so perfect for a small backyard urban farm. They are extremely quiet – the males hiss, and females make a low and melodic trill. They aren’t obsessed with water, which makes them much cleaner and easier to pen. They are personable and fun to watch. I wish I had room for several more!

For their sleeping pen, I used an old wood and wire gate I had, and using it the front, built them a coop (I plan on growing a vine up the wire front). One side and the back is wood, the other two are mostly wire. Although I put hardware cloth partway up to keep raccoons from reaching in and grabbing them, most of the cage is larger wire. The ducks are large enough to keep rodents and other small predators away themselves. It’s not the prettiest coop in the world, but it’s in the far back corner of the chicken run where it isn’t very visible.

IMG_7752

The back half has a roofed perch for sleeping. These ducks, unlike most ducks, are perching birds.

IMG_7693

Here’s a shot at bedtime, when there were still seven ducks.

IMG_7681

The ducks’ regular run is the very back part of the yard, against the back property fence. Every two or three days, I divert them over into another part of the chicken run, both to give them a change of scenery, and to allow the chickens into their pen to clean up. The chickens scratch and turn over the dirt and wood chips and duck poop, keeping the ground from becoming stinky. These particular ducks wouldn’t need this so much, since they don’t spill and splash water everywhere like normal ducks. Unlike normal ducks, these aren’t stinky or muddy at all!

IMG_7706

Also unlike normal ducks, these guys taste like beef. Seriously, they do. I had a hard time believing it myself, until I tried it. The breast meat, cooked like a steak, is indistinguishable from a steak! It looks like one, tastes like one, even has the texture of one!

IMG_7684

It’s a true red meat. And when you slow cook the breast like a roast, it’s indistinguishable from roast beef.

Because of this, it does not have the gorgeous duck fat that a pekin does, but I can always buy a pekin in the store. Muscovy is not so commonly available. The only source I could find in my area is mail order – two breasts for $65 plus shipping. It genuinely puzzles me that Muscovy duck is not more commonly raised. They are so easy – much easier than common duck, and although they are large (the drakes get up to about 15 lbs) they are easy to process. I found them just as simple as a chicken.

They are also sustainable for a backyard or small farm because the hens are great broodies and mothers, and will happily hatch and raise one or more clutches of ducklings per year if they are allowed. No noisy roosters, no incubators required! And “beef” in your backyard…how awesome is that?IMG_7699

 

The Sweetest Thing

The sweetest thing just happened on my urban farm. I have a pair of snowflake bobwhite quail, and although they have tried for three years to hatch out some babies, their eggs are apparently infertile. They sit and sit – the male sitting patiently right beside his hen – but nothing hatches.

Until now. I bought some coturnix quail eggs to put under her. I was afraid she’d reject them – either because I messed with her nest to replace the eggs, or because bobwhite eggs are pure white, and coturnix eggs are usually spotted.  Could she tell the difference?

Either the answer was no, or else she didn’t care. They sat on the eggs together, and out of the eight I gave her, three hatched. And they are so so so sweet! I went out to check on them periodically the day of the hatch, and I knew something was up when I approached their pen and male began to pace in front of his hen, holding out his wings to look big and fierce, and warning me away. He was a father!

I’m not sure there is anything so bitty and fluffy as baby quail. Since I had more eggs than would fit under the hen, I put the extras in my incubator, and managed to hatch out five more.  I’m really interested to see what the adult colors are going to be; the chicks range in color from pure golden yellow, to yellow/black/brown spotted, to dark brown.

IMG_7545

Since I was out there with my camera, I did a few photoshoots around the poultry run.

The Muscovy ducks:
IMG_7567

IMG_7568

IMG_7586

The boys are always bold and out in front. The females are more shy.

IMG_7590

I also discovered that, unlike the camera-shy larger chickens, the bantams are little divas. They are happy to pose.

IMG_7519

IMG_7622

I also simply sat and watched everyone (as I do every day) with Ellie on my lap.

IMG_7556

(She wants to make sure you know she is currently molting, and not quite the gorgeous girl she normally is. Kindly disregard the fact that she only has two tailfeathers at the moment. These things are vastly embarrassing to a hen. Good feathers are important.)

The grapes are starting to fill out.

IMG_7627

IMG_7634

And the tomatoes are already ripe.

img_7636_zps6nsnuef4

We’re had a fantastic summer here in the PNW. Warm, but not too warm. And quite a few rainy days. I adore summer rain!

Yesterday I defrosted and cleaned out the freezer, which means I was inspired to fill it again. First I sliced and bagged 14 quarts of raw mushrooms.

IMG_7506

This is the best method for keeping mushrooms. They are just like fresh, whenever you need them in your recipes.

Then mom and I harvested apples from our mystery apple tree. The apples are ugly, but they make the best pies in the world.

IMG_7507

And then I made three pies. One for now, two to freeze.

IMG_7509

I love making pies. And I can’t believe it took most of my life to try putting lattice crusts on them! It is so easy to do, and besides looking beautiful, they taste better, as the spaces allow more gooey goodness to bubble up unto the crust!

Ducks, Quail, and Rabbits

The Muscovy ducks are fitting perfectly into the farm. They are eating the bindweed (yay!!!!) and my plan of rotating the ducks and chickens through the chicken food forest run is working perfectly. The ducks have an open-air coop at the far end, where they also have a very small container to splash around in. It’s important for ducks to be able to bathe in water, because it keeps their feathers properly waterproof. Like all ducks everywhere, these Muscovies love water. Unlike every other duck everywhere, these Muscovies are not obsessed with water.  They like it, they enjoy a good splash now and then, but most of their life is spent doing things apart from the water. You can really tell that they aren’t truly, scientifically, ducks. They are something else, closer to a goose.

Whatever. They are awesome. They do poop like ducks, prodigious amounts of poop that normally they would stamp down into the ground with their flat feet until it formed a solid poop carpet. Poop carpets stink. This is where the chickens come to the rescue. Chickens love to scratch and dig, and they particularly love to scratch and dig in areas where they have been forbidden to go.  So the chickens are forbidden to go into the back duck yard…until I decide to send the ducks on parade.

The ducks are marched out first thing in the morning, all the way to the far opposite part of the chicken yard (I have grapes planted there, hence the “vineyard”). They spend the day eating the bindweed and relaxing under the honeyberry bush. The chickens, meanwhile, are delighted to discover the forbidden duck yard is now open to them. They scratch all the duck poop up and turn it over into the dirt and chips before it can mat down into a poop carpet. It’s been working perfectly! And this is with seven almost full-grown ducks. The ducks will be downsized into only three in August. I’ll miss the full duck parade in the mornings, but three ducks are a better fit for a small garden like mine. Also, I can’t wait to taste Muscovy. They say it tastes like a fine beef steak!

There’s been some changes among the rabbits, as well. I decided to sell one of my angoras, because my two does had started to fight, and I really don’t have time or space for two. So I listed Cinnamon, and found her a lovely new home as a birthday gift for a girl who has always wanted a rabbit, and has been checking out a ton of library books on rabbit-keeping in the hopes she’ll get one. The family is on vacation until August 4th, so I’m keeping her for them a little longer, but she’s officially no longer my rabbit.

IMG_7454

I also made the more difficult decision to cull one of my Rex does, the grey one, Thistle. She’s part of my meat rabbit colony, and she wasn’t doing well. Her last litter had only two kits, both stillborn, and her litter before that had only one kit. I can’t keep a doe that can’t have healthy litters. So she went to freezer camp, and I decided to replace her with one of Blackberry’s last litter. Meet Foxglove:

IMG_7466

Her mother, Blackberry is wonderful. Large, healthy litters, and more sweeter-tempered than Thistle. I’m hoping Foxglove will prove equally wonderful, and I really like her name. She looks like a foxglove to me!

FLSDIG34214_3

My Snowflake Bobwhite quail pair has gone broody, and they are always the sweetest pair. The male sits alongside her in the nest to keep her company, and whenever she leaves the nest to stretch her legs, he takes over sitting on them, first carefully inspecting the eggs, and rolling them over so gently with his beak. I would let them raise their own offspring, but they appear to be infertile. I’ve let them sit on eggs for three years now, and nothing ever hatches. So this year, I’ve ordered some hatching eggs off ebay for them.

66706619_10157759594160101_4278845474829500416_n

I don’t need any more bobwhites, so I’m giving them coturnix quail eggs instead. This seller has really pretty and unusual colors – both in eggs and in adult feathering. The eggs are arriving later this week, so fingers crossed my assortment is as pretty as these. And also fingers crossed that Bellatrix the Bobwhite will accept them as her own.

img_6694_zpsbgsftctm

The Babies Aren’t So Tiny Anymore

Wow. I can’t believe June went by so fast! This time of month is always crazy busy in the garden…and this garden was crazier than usual because I had so many new animals. Mom counted all the animals on the farm and asked me to guess how many we had. I think I guessed something like forty. The correct answer? SIXTY-TWO.

Sixty-two critters: chickens, ducks, quail, pigeons, rabbits, guinea pigs, plus one cat and one dog! Of course some of these are not going to be staying here forever. Some are being raised specially for meat (seven chickens have already gone into the freezer), and some are going elsewhere. Two of the black copper marans chicks, for example, have already gone to live with a friend of mine.  And I have a few young roosters that will have to leave pretty soon. Anyone want some mottled cochin roos? They are super cute! Or how about a silkie roo?

I LOVE these mottled cochins. They are so adorable, and they are turning into sweeties. They will jump into my lap for a cuddle.

The Muscovy ducks are also proving to be a win for the farm. They are getting HUGE. Especially the drakes. They were always skittish as babies, but now they are realizing that I am the one with the food, and they are taming down enough to let me pet them. I will be keeping three: two hens and a drake. Since I only have two girls, there’s no difficult decision there. As for the drake, I’m pretty sure I’ll be keeping the black one. It’s funny, because that is specifically the one color I said I did not want. I wanted ones with lots of white on them, but either they are super hard to tell from ducklings what color they will be, or the breeder I got them from didn’t know how to tell. She gave me black ones, and chocolate ones, and solid blue ones…and one solitary chocolate and white. Oh well. I love them anyway! And they are already devoted bindweed eaters!

Mom and I roasted marshmellows and hotdogs in the garden Sunday.

IMG_7400

Dexter approved wholeheartedly. Especially once we pulled out the hotdogs.

IMG_7403

 

June 6th Urban Farm Update

This time of year is crazy-busy-fun on the backyard farm. The garden is growing so fast it’s hard to keep up with everything, and nearly every spare pen/coop I have has babies in it. I love it.

In the bunny barn, I have three different ages of rabbits, all co-existing happily together. I have my original two breeding does, plus babies from two different litters – born about a month apart.

IMG_7361

My favorite one from the most recent litter is this blue otter kit.

IMG_7366

I was hoping to keep it, if it was a doe, but sadly…I’m nearly 100% sure it’s a buck. Maybe in the next litter I’ll get a keeper.

Ophelia’s foster chicks, the four black copper marans, are growing up. They still sit on her back like she’s a massive pillow…and who can blame them, really? She’s so soft and fluffy! I’ve gotten lucky here, because out of the four, only one is a rooster. I’ll be keeping one of the hens, and the other two girls will be going together to a friend of mine.

IMG_7317

Sansa’s foster chicks have been cast out of the nest. They are Red Rangers, a meat breed I’m testing out, and they are already as large as she is. In the below picture, they are the two closest to the camera.

IMG_7347

The bigger darker red hen is Charlotte, one of my layers. Beyond her, on the other side of fence are the four Freedom Rangers I’m also trying out as a meat bird. The Freedom Rangers are definitely proving the best. They are larger, easy to handle, and just really plumping out well.

The other chicks are the bantam Mottled Cochins, and the two Silkies.

IMG_7323

I’m really falling hard for the cochins. They are so adorable. I have two roosters that will have to be re-homed, plus three hens: Milly, Maisie, and Molly. In the back of the photo, you can see the two silkies. Lucie is the partridge one, in front. I love her coloring, and I hope she is an actual hen. It’s super hard to tell for sure with silkies.

IMG_7330

The other silkie, Lola, is a buff color.

IMG_7339

In the below picture, you can see how easy it is to sex the cochins, even at this young age. The two on the right are the roos…see how much larger and redder their combs and wattles are?

IMG_7327

And then there are the Muscovy ducklings. Taking the advice of the Fit Farmer, I made a screened box for underneath the water, to keep the shavings dry and clean(er). Ducklings are horrifically messy, and wet shavings stink. This helps so very much!

IMG_7312

Here’s a video of the ducklings:

That video was taken a week or so ago. They are now MUCH larger, and have outgrown both my indoor brooder, AND the two intermediate secure pens. Their ultimate duck house is not yet finished and predator-proof, so they are currently spending their days in the unfinished duck house, but I’m locking them up in the extra coop at night.

IMG_7340

I can’t believe how fast ducklings grow.

IMG_7345

In the garden, everything is growing and flowering, including my favorite kitchen flower, the calendula. These self-seed throughout the garden is such a charming way.

IMG_7371

A few weeks back, I made a bed in the front yard for more raspberries.

IMG_7380

I intended to get the traditional canes to plant, but when I went searching for the variety I wanted, I discovered you can also buy rootstock, which is how the commercial berry producers do it. For a fraction of the cost of bareroot canes, they send you a literal envelope with some thin, cobwebby raspberry roots. You stretch them out in a line, bury with 1/2″ to 1″ of soil, then keep them well-watered, never allowing them to dry out. Unbelievably, they are supposed to grow faster and produce berries sooner than if you’d planted canes!

Mine are starting to sprout little raspberry plants!

IMG_7381

Will I really get raspberries this summer? It’s hard to believe, but they are doing very well, and for $10 I got enough rootstock to make a 5 foot row.

One thing already fruiting is the berry I wait for every year: strawberries!

IMG_7382

Berries shipped in from CA taste like cardboard to me, and even locally-grown strawberries, while vastly better, still don’t have the full taste they should. Most commercial varieties aren’t grown for taste, but how well they last on the market shelves. These are Shuksan, one of the varieties that is considered one of the BEST tasting berries ever grown. I can personally attest that they taste fantastic!

 

Ducklings!

The Muscovy ducklings are here! I thought it would be another two weeks or so, but a local breeder I had given up hearing from, finally messaged me to say she had pied ducklings available. We met halfway between our cities, and she handed off a small box of absolute sweetness. Seven ducklings.

img_7276_zpsiakg3lpw

I’m used to ducklings being relatively loud. Not these guys. They were almost perfectly silent all the way home. They hatched earlier that day, so the first thing we did was clip a tiny bit off the end of their right wings. Clipping one wing like this is called pinioning, and while it’s a major surgery requiring a vet on older birds, day-old ducklings’ bones are super soft, and although a couple of them bled a small amount, they didn’t even seem to notice anything had happened. I live on a small property, and Muscovy ducks are well-known for their ability to fly onto your roof – or your neighbor’s roof! For their own safety, I pinioned them to prevent them from being able to fly.

img_7279_zpsihy1vfnz

I don’t know if this is a Muscovy trait, but these ducklings are inseparable. And they seem to know if one is missing. I moved them outside onto grass yesterday when it was sunny, and because I carried them two by two, I had to leave one solo in the brooder until the last trip. The six outside called loudly for him until I brought him out!

They are super cute. And I think I have three different colors. Black and white, chocolate and white, and possibly blue/lavender and white? Below is the darkest, compared to the lightest.

Muscovys are perching ducks, which means they have feet with claws, for gripping. Their little feet actually curl around my fingers! And those claws are already sharp.img_7292_zps32klucfb

 

img_7284_zpskx2zd6py

And did I mention they are adorable?

img_7296_zpswqwanvam