Tag Archives: meat ducks

Christmas, and Looking Forward to 2016

This Christmas was one of the best in nearly a decade. The extended family and their drama went elsewhere, and it was a quiet, peaceful Christmas with great food, excellent gifts, and an opportunity to attend our Christmas Eve church service. I actually made it through feeling relaxed instead of stressed out, and rather than being SO GLAD it’s over, I’m looking forward to next year.

This was Dexter’s second Christmas, and the first that he really understood what unwrapping was all about.

We also discovered the perfect way to apply flea medicine to a wiggly corgi…you use the sleeve of a sweatshirt to ardvark them!

It’s been rainy almost non-stop this fall and winter – we’ve set records for rainfall. Finally, though, we’re seeing the return of some sunshine, and it’s bringing on the desire to garden. I’ve been marking up my seed catalogs, and almost have my order ready to send. This year, I’m going to try to stick to tried-and-true varieties, because I’m making it a goal to grow as much greens/seeds for the animals as I can.

rabbitsI found this fabulous book on Amazon:Real Food for Rabbits: Raising Meat Rabbits Without Buying Commercial Feed.  Don’t be put off by the title if you only have pet rabbits – it’s all about feeding, and it applies just as well to pets. I’ve actually suggested to the author that she change the title.

I would LOVE to get all my critters off packaged, commercial food. The chickens are, but the quail and rabbits are (hopefully) being converted over to natural grains and veggies this coming year. I’ve seen so many benefits from the chickens being off commercial food. They are healthy and happy, and – biggest of all – their poop doesn’t stink. At all. I’m looking forward to having that be the case with the quail!

I don’t know if my meat rabbits will happen in 2016. I have a muscovy duck in the fridge ready to cook tomorrow, and assuming we like it as much as everyone says we will, I think I’ll be starting with a few meat ducks.  I’ll order the minimum order of 10 ducklings, save out the nicest trio for breeding, and eat (or sell) the rest. The nice thing about muscovies is how quiet they are, plus the females are terrific mothers.

muscovyI really like having the Indian Runner ducks in my garden. Other than a certain devilish attitude at bedtime sometimes, they are no trouble at all.  And every time I see them out the window, they make me laugh. I’ll be getting two more in the Spring. Either as chicks, or I’ll try hatching some eggs.

I’ll also be hatching more quail. I don’t remember if I told you guys, but I lost a female this Fall, bringing my numbers down to just four females and two males. I want to plump up the female numbers. And my friend lost all but one of her quails due to a predator attack. She didn’t wire in the bottom of her pen, and something dug through the rocks and gravel and killed all of them but one little male in one night. Put wire underneath your cages, folks. It might be a little more trouble and expense, but you never know when a predator will find your cage!

I’m keeping her lonely male with my females, until I get more quail hatched. Then she’s taking him back – I have enough males already!

So right now, that’s the big plan. Re-vamp the chicken yard area to make room for the muscovies, hatch more quail, and garden ALL THE FOOD.

Because seeds.



Garden Update & Plans

Every day it isn’t raining, I’m out in the garden now.  I’ve got so much that needs to be done asap!

I just got the word that my new Brinsea incubator has shipped ahead of schedule, which means I should have it next week, rather than March 16th.  Good news, because now (as soon as I test it) I can place an order for more Blonde Quail hatching eggs.  Bad news, because this makes building Loki’s coop even more of a priority than before.

We did get a start on the foundation, before we were hit with a little snow.

I dug out the center of one curve of my circular flower bed, and laid down a foundation of cinder blocks.  Leveling those was the most difficult part of the project; mom (as the expert leveler) was kind enough to help out.  I think she’s more invested in Loki, since he was the baby she had to help out of the shell, and he hatched right into her hand. 

The male quail are beginning to feel the stirring of Spring – they are crowing again.  I hadn’t heard a peep out of them all winter, and I really missed it.  Mom and I both enjoy the sound – it’s almost worth keeping quail just for that!

On top of the cinder blocks is a frame of 2×6 boards.  I wanted to raise this coop up, to make viewing the quail a little more easy, while still keeping them on a natural dirt floor.  I’ll lay down a liner, then fill this frame with dirt, as if I were making a raised bed.  The coop itself will be built on top.  I’ll show you more pictures as it comes together.

Another project we built this weekend was a new trellis for one of the clematis.

I’ve been slowly working on adding compost to the vegetable beds, and I can’t wait to get started with some actual planting.  The peas, I think, will go in next week.  I’ve started chitting them in the windowsill already; I use the paper towel method, and it works wonderfully!

I also have a few vegetables started under the grow lights.  It’s nice to see something green!  This is a little Emiko cabbage.  I haven’t grown those before, but so far it’s doing great, as well as being very pretty. 

In chicken news, I really would like to get a couple more chicks this Spring: an Ameraucana (to replace the rooster I accidentally picked last year) and a Speckled Sussex.  Both those breeds are in at the local farm supply store on March 14th, and May 16th.  Last year, my reliably broody hen, Josie, raised three chicks for me.  I just bought them, popped them under her, and she didn’t put a foot wrong.  She was a perfect mother!  It did wonders for her self-esteem, too.  She went from being the shy, bottom-of-the-pecking hen to the One In Charge.  All she has to do is stamp her foot, and the other hens give way to her immediately.  I was a little worried the power would go to her head, and she’d become a bully, but thankfully, that hasn’t happened. 

Josie is the black hen inside.  Her two foster daughters from last year are the cream-and-black one beside her Isabelle) , and the grey one (Little Blue) in front.  I love this system of fostering!  There was no fuss or problems, it was so sweet watching her care for them, and the other girls accepted the new ones into the flock without any difficulties.  And since Josie is friendly to me, her babies were too.  Little Blue in particular loves to sit on my lap.  Whenever I sit down, she comes running.

I’m just hoping Josie goes broody again at the right time!

I’m also really looking into meat ducks.  I don’t have a proper set-up to keep ducks year-around yet (and no time or money to build this year) so I’m considering just getting a few white Pekin ducklings and keeping them in temporary housing.  Ducks don’t need much, and Pekins grow so fast that they are ready to process at 7 weeks old!  I looked into having a professional do the processing for me, but it’s too pricey.  $17 per duck!  So I’ve been doing a ton of research online, and I think I’m up to doing it myself.  Helping process the quail taught me a lot.  The kill itself is super fast, and if you do it right, there’s no suffering for the animal.  And once the animal is dead, I found I don’t have the negative feelings I thought I might have, about plucking, dressing out, etc.   And when it comes right down to it, I want to be the sort of person who can kill her own meat.  I don’t believe in the vegetarian lifestyle, but I want meat that is humanely raised, and fed only healthy feed.  And when it comes time to butcher, I like the idea of having control over the process, so that I know the animal didn’t suffer.

Pekin ducklings come into the store on March 5th.  If I’m going to do this, I need to get set up now!  This would be a nice test run to make sure I can handle the processing before I spend a lot of time and money setting up a permanent duck coop and run.  And if I can handle raising meat ducks, I’m thinking about the possibility of raising a few meat chickens each year too – in a temporary run separate from my egg-laying girls.  Cornish Cross hens are ready to process at 8 weeks, and actually can’t naturally live much beyond that without developing health problems.  Things to consider!

And if all this talk of meat animals was too much for you, here’s a flower picture for you.  Thanks to the slug-egg-eating prowess of my chickens, this is the first year this plant has been able to bloom without all its flowers getting eaten off as mere buds.  I forgot how gorgeous it is!