Yes, it’s a terrible time of year, going into Fall. If you follow the Farm on FB, you would already have heard this, but we have ducklings hatching in the incubator.
We figured this was the perfect time of year to attempt hatching ducklings. Muscovies are notoriously finicky for hatching artificially. That’s why most people (us included) like to let the Mamas do the job. The Mamas are excellent at it. But, in the early spring, when they start laying, is too early to let the hens go broody. It is *not*, however, too early to toss a bunch of eggs in the incubator. So we needed to know we could get them to hatch.
Well, that’s in the books for another year. We don’t actually celebrate it, so for us it was just another weekend of trying to get things done before winter. More roosters need doing, but we were getting hammered by rain so that got put off. We did get some yard clean up done between rains. Plus we got the roosters separated so that we can just get up and go on the next not-rainy day.
That was supposed to be Saturday, because the next 3 days after today is rain, and today is a Loop pickup day so we need the 2nd fridge for some of that stuff… Oh, but then this morning? I get the text that our pig is ready to pick up. Awesome, right? Absolutely! But now Saturday is pick up the pig and process it day…because we pick up the pig live, bring it home and do all the work here. Saves us a couple hundred dollars doing it that way, and we are very happy with the family that raises the pig for us. They have the same #HappyFoodTastesBetter values that we do. And they have a better porcine set up. So I am happy af to buy a finished pig to put down in the Fall while focusing on poultry on my Farm.
But the work… O.M.G. Like I said, I’ll sleep come winter.
Garden is still producing. With the rains over the next few days, we shouldn’t frost, though we’re hovering awful close to it. I am hoping that it holds off a wee bit longer, since my peppers are not ripe yet. I really, really don’t want to buy poblano or paprika seeds next year, so I need those dang peppers to ripen! The beans are being left now to grow seed for next year. What ever is out there will get harvested after the frost and further dried to seed for the yellow, Painted pony and Royal Burgandy varieties. The pintos will just be left and tarped over. I have a *lot* of pinto seeds. lol
And carrots and beets can be left for a couple weeks yet, since they’re underground. Thank goodness, since I am not ready to pull them yet. So as soon as I see a frost warning, I’ll pick the peppers, tomatoes and ground cherrys, then let the plants die off. Once the bean seeds are harvested and the beets/carrots too, we can tarp the entire space and let her go to sleep for winter. It’s coming fast.
In the meantime, we’re just going along, trying to get as much done as possible. Butchering, building, and trying to stay sane. 😂😂😂 That last one in the toughest one.
Here’s Homer J…who, it has been determined, is a hen. YAY!! So next year we’ll have Homer J bebes. I’m very happy she’s a hen. She’s growing into a beauty of a duck (not that you can tell with all the mud on her), and she’s my pal. 😉 Today we’re working on the winter duck coop so Homer J and everyone else can have a nice warm space to snuggle on those c-c-c-old winter nights. 🙂
This past weekend we got the news that our regular feed guy did not have good returns on his fields. Which means, he doesn’t have as much to sell to us for feed for the birds for winter.
Now, we had already been discussing downsizing some of the birds, simply because the bulk of our feed money is going into The Merry Mares. Hay prices are…well I don’t know exactly what’s doing with our regular Hay Guy. He says things have been real bad (that was back in July) but he didn’t say he wouldn’t have for us. I’ve been looking and trying to get bales elsewhere, just in case. One of our other connections had an entire field of hay stolen. That’s the new thing this year. Stealing hay. Hell, she didn’t even get it cut! They came, cut and baled in a 24 hour period. Which means it’s either gonna go up in flames or it’s going to mold. Either way, if they sell the stolen bales, the person buying is fucked and if they try to use it themselves, their animals are gonna suffer. What a fucked up year.
My straw connection has bales for me. In fact, she says she has a fair bit extra, so if we had to use straw and supplement with grains and hay cubes, we’ll be able to do that and keep The Merry Mares healthy. Her prices have gone up…almost double. But, we also have to consider the low yields on fields, the rising gas prices, repairs to equipment, etc. It all adds up. I will not begrudge someone needing to make a living. And you know, both my straw connection and my Hay Guy have been fucking awesome with us. I have no complaints about them at all. Besides, that’s the joys of having money eating shit machines. In years like this, you pay through the nose to keep them. But realistically, there’s no market for aging mares who haven’t been ridden for years and who’s only job it has been is to be pretty. Besides, I told them all that they’re here for life. That’s it, that’s all.
So we’re downsizing where we can. That’s with birds. But the good thing with that is, birds are food. I’m going to go through my hens and take out the aging girls (except for a choice few older gals who will get to die of old age.) Once I have an idea of how many older girls are going, then I’ll see how many roos will stay. I want to keep 40 hens, so that means 3 roos. Frank, Blue and probably Darryl (or is it Larry?).
Geese will go to Freezer Camp. I had hoped to be able to keep them, but… They’ve been complete assholes to the ducks (they were in the duck yard) and have been picking at new growing wing feathers on the duck hens. The geese aren’t lacking anything, their just dicks. 😂😂😂 We’ll get more in the spring.
Turkeys will be whittled down to Oscar, Dingus, Emma, 12, 13, and at least 5 other hens. The boys do best with 4 hens minimum each. So 8 hens (for sure) and the 2 boys will stay and they’ll easily replenish the flock come spring. I had thought about keeping a white hen, from the hatchery turkeys. Those hens do get kept for breeding, but as I thought about it, I worried whether I’d be allowing not-so-hardy genetics into my flock. Yeah, I might get interesting colours, I might get a faster growing bird, but I might also get the worst of the whites too… So nope, all whites are Freezer Campers. In my littles flock, there are 4 Sweetgrass turkeys and the rest are Narragansetts. 6 of that flock belong to a friend. She’s the one who gave me the Sweetgrass eggs. I want to keep 1 of the Sweetgrass for my flock, so we’ll have crosses that way, and Sweetgrass are hardy like the Narragansetts, so that works. Size wise, they’re the same, so it’s just going to be colours that the Sweetgrass will bring to the genetics. I’m not dead set on pure Narragansetts, so that’s a good thing. I want hardy, decent layers/mothers, pretty, and tasty.
And then there’s the ducks… Well, we did just buy 19 bebes, then had another 8 hatch out, so we have a lot of ducks. 😂😂😂 But, we have drakes going Camping, and any drakes in the 19 we bought will go Camping too. By the time November rolls around, we’ll know who is who and who’s not staying on. Hens (for the most part) will stay. We have 4 older gals, the foundation 4, who will be kept because they hatch clutches happily. Hell, they’re trying to hide nests now! Ya, no…no nests allowed now! And the younger hens have been doing just as well too. Plus, out of those 19 we bought, there should be a few hens, and it’s always good to bring in new bloodlines every few years. Once their coop is renewed (Hubby is working on that and the greenhouse at the same time…the Man is *busy*!!), we’ll see how many fit and go from there. We have 2 drakes that stay on, Cricket and PoopMachine. Drake (our main guy) should be staying too…we know he *works* 😉 and then we have Howard and another 1 who looks like Cricket. The Cricket look alike is being replaced with PoopMachine. We try to keep 4 working drakes, but can go down to 3 if we have to. That gives us a hen flock of 15-20, depending on space.
So we’re eating bird this winter. That’s always been the plan, but some of the ones I had originally thought about keeping (space permitting) are now on the table. And y’know what? I’m not going to feel bad about that. Thing is, birds, as much as we enjoy them being here, are food. For us, for the cats, for the dog. The rule is they get to live a good life being birds, then when it’s time, they feed us. That’s just how it is.
There’s been a bit of a baby explosion here this week.
I have repeatedly been told that muscovy duck hens left alone will hatch tons and tons and tons of chicks… Well we’ve had a few clutches hatch out, but nothing like the “you’re gonna be over run with that many hens!!” like I’ve been told… Truth be told, because we eat our extra drakes, I *want* to be over run with ducklings. I’m still waiting for that…
In the meantime, there’s kijiji. It’s a Canadian buy/sell site where most farm folk list their extra animals for sale. Welp, after a couple of beers I decided, the other night, to scan the livestock section…we’re coming into fall and lots of folks try to sell off extra animals so they don’t have to winter them. Often, those animals go much cheaper than they would in the spring.
And so when I saw week old muscovy ducklings for $5 each, 21 of them, I contacted the seller…who said if I took them all, she’d charge me $80. So we met up and made the duck deal in a Walmart parking lot. 😂😂😂
When we met up with the seller, she did say she could only catch 19…that’s okay though, because $80 was still a great deal for 19 ducklings.
Away we went, with our bounty. And when we pulled into our driveway, we though “huh, we’re almost out of shavings” so Hubby and I planned on a quick trip to the feed store for another bundle of them, so that we could clean the empty brooder (we finally got the cornish meat birds butchered last week) and put these 19 babies in there… As we’re transfering them to the bigger crate with shaving in it for a temp. holding pen ’til the brooder was cleaned, The Kid yells “duck baby!!” and runs off…I’m thinking “what the hell??” And it turns out one had hatched while we were gone and had escaped from Mama. Huh.
So she catches him, and puts him in the house with another one that she had found earlier in the week. That made our 21 ducklings. 😉
Then this morning, I step out to feed the cats (always before the chickens get out, because otherwise the chickesn steal the outdoor cats’ food) and I see the duck Mama in the puddle (from our leaking well line that has yet to be fixed even though I have been all over every damn company within a 30 mile radius to come help us…fingers crossed this last guy, a local plumber who has been right on top of all my questions adn is booking his excavator guy to come do it, can make it out and get it done…) with 2 little yellow balls of fluff. Huh. So there’s more of ’em.
My brother gets here to check on his old car stored here, and as I come out to talk to him, I see 5 little balls of fluff following Mama Duck and an angry chicken clucking at the extra bebes to come back to her…and when Hubby comes out he says there’s 6 balls of yellow fluff in total. So it turns out that this duck and chicken co-sat the nest and so far have hatched out 8 ducklings. It’s really late in the year for ducklings. And chickens can’t be trusted. So we’ve cleaned out the brooder in the Little Red Shed and duck babies will go there…
But wait!! There’s more!!
This is Lefty…
Lefty listened to all my yelling about if chickens are going to hide eggs here, there and everywhere, then they should at least come back with some damn chicks! So she did. 😂😂😂
In 24 hours, we’re up 32 babies, bringing our grand total for poultry this year to…
That’s it, that’s all. We only have 10 birds. That my friends, is how poultry math works…and why I’m the head and founding mother of Poultry Anonymous. To think, I don’t even really like birds. 😂😂😂
Turkey babies (who are not so much babies anymore, but teens) needed their brooder cleaned. So I set up a yard within the big turkey yard, put out food and water and opened them up…and they proceeded to panic and fly here, there, and everywhere whilst screaming angst filled teenaged turkey anthems of woe and abuse because the whole wide world is scary and The Food Lady was murdering them. *sigh*
So they ran the big turkey yard (the big turkeys were still in their coop because they are too big to run with the teen turkeys who are still mid-sized and no match for a full sized hen, let alone Dingus or Oscar) while I scooped their mass of straw/feed/shit out… With this being the stenchiest part of the job, my Kiddo went off to feed the ducks and chicks in the Little Red Shed, only to come back to tell me 10 (58) chicks had popped their door and were now wandering around the building here, there and everywhere. *sigh*
With that, we rounded up the teenaged angst filled turkeys and put them back into the brooder…and let the big adults out because they were convinced that they were gonna starve to death.
If Oscar doesn’t eat 65.3 times a day, he will die. He is happy to regale you with tales of how I starve him and how he has died so many times for lack of food. *sigh*
As I cleaned out the next brooder (which is a half full combo of cornish and first hatchers), Kiddo let out and fed the ducks, geeses and big chickens. Geeses are mad that I haven’t dropped every single goddamed thing to get them some weeds right fucking now…and they are happy to tell me that in no uncertain terms.
I have not listened to them, other than to laugh and say “You’re on the list, I’ll get to you soon”. The next brooder got lined with shavings (because I’m out of straw and I don’t have the energy to chase anyone for any quite yet) and we set out to capture 10 (58) chicks and move them to it. 1 Wheelbarrow, a dog crate, 2 women, a dog and 3 horses… This is what it takes to move 10 (58) chicks out of the Little Red Shed to the brooder. Well, the dog and the horses are more a hindrance than help, but that is no surprise. And then there were 10 (58) chicks in the brooder. *sigh*
Finally, we got to the point of making sure all the feeders and waterer were topped up, collecting eggs (my turkey hens are trying to nest again and are rather put out that I keep stealing their smooth egg babies), the pools for the smaller ducks filled to warm in the sunshine for afternoon swimming and now? Now it is finally coffee time. While I play with money to pay the bills, buy some groceries and if all gets paid just right, maybe even a case of beer for Hubby. *sigh*
My helper at editing earlier this week… This is Homer J, our latest house duckling. He was abandoned by the hen who hatched him, left for dead at night in the duck yard. We found him and brought him inside. Honestly, didn’t think he was going to make it. But it’s been a week now, and he’s doing just fine. Singing up a storm and pooping everywhere but on my desk. 😉
Once upon a time I saw a picture of a duck in a cupcake paper liner dress. Ever since then, I have had this urge to do a photoshoot with a chick or duck or turkey in a dress. Finally, we had a chance to make it happen with Oreo.
And then we tried the Yule cupcake paper on her…
And finally, Daisy Mae had to get into the shot…because cats are a bit jealous that The Kid has these 2 ducks she’s raising, and Daisy Mae feels like she’s being replaced. 😂😂😂 The joys of “first child” syndrome.
She’s quite the little ducky fashion model, that Oreo is! 😂😂😂
A week or so ago, we had a clutch of ducklings hatch. Right in the midst of the last ridiculous heatwave. Most of the ducklings did awesome. One however, was having troubles right out of the shell, and MamaDuck was busy with the other 6 ducklings. Since I’m a firm believer in giving life a chance before culling, I scooped bebe duck up and handed him/her off to The Kid. She’s a talent when it comes to nursing duck bebes to health…
It was touch and go for a day or two. We weren’t sure the duckling was gonna make it. And then, that dang baby decided their main goal in life was to shit on the couch. Every. Damn. Time. It got onto the couch.
And so the duckling has earned itself the name: Poop Machine.
Yes, we’ve named the fuzzy ball of duck fluff…Poop Machine. And they answer to it.
Today Poop Machine got to play in some water and learn a bit about swimming…
And that was the capper to a Sunday morning of hot, sweaty farm work…watching the duck learn about playing in water. Life is good. 🙂