Officially out of ducks :(

A couple days ago we lost our last hen duck, I had assumed she went out and something took her in the woods but my wife noticed a few extra feathers around the yard so she thought something came into the pen to get her. I was debating selling or eating the last drake, but then this morning something DEFINITELY came into the pen to get him. Lots of feathers, he was ultimately cornered in the shelter and then drug out. I don’t know what it was, but I am guessing a fox since that is what took out so many.

So at this point we are down to just rabbits. Fortunately, with feeders and water nipples they can be left for long periods with minimal care. I’d love to have ducks and/or chickens again, but it won’t be any time soon. In the mean time I need to get stuff planted in their pen both to help on the erosion as well as take advantage of the fertility that is undoubtedly there. I had thought about using the fencing for a colony style rabbit setup, but that will have to wait for other rabbits since they’d be exposed and [… click to continue reading this post]

New tool for the homestead – a chainsaw

So last year I was borrowing my wife’s grandpa’s chainsaw. He bought a Craftsman little saw specifically for a tree in his yard, but other than that he didn’t have a ton of use for it. He needed it back this spring for a few other things and I was wanting to do a bit of cutting for firewood for the winter (assuming I get my wood furnace installed this fall!). My wife was headed out of town for a weekend so I figured that might be a good time to get a tree or two cut down. I have been trying to decide what saw, but ultimately, I decided to get this Husqvarna 455 rancher from Amazon. They were about $40-50 cheaper than the local place, not to mention with my Amazon credit card I get another 5% off Amazon purchases.

So, I now have a saw! One nice thing is that this should have quite a bit more power than the Craftsman. I may be wrong on that, it is 42cc vs 55cc, but I imagine the output on the Husky will be more (hard to tell since Craftsman doesn’t list the horsepower.

So I have taken down [… click to continue reading this post]

Rabbits getting used to me

So after a couple weeks it feels like the rabbits are getting used to me a bit. I’m no longer getting nipped at, though one still makes me hesitate because she kind of charges my hand. I’m no longer convinced it is aggression, but I’m not sure. They are getting to the point I can occasionally pet them, one (Oreo) seems to be very friendly and will come up to the cage door. I can even get my hands under her belly, but as soon as her feet leave the ground she freaks out and starts kicking.

The J feeders from tractor supply are working well, though in the rain they do let a bit of water in which turns the feed to mush. I’ll need to get a better overhang or a bit of a back wall on the structure at some point. For now I just don’t fill the feeders very full, particularly if it looks like it will rain in the near future.

My siphoning water jug to the rabbit nipples is working well. I did have one mishap though. I have two jugs T’d in to one another. One has an entry down low, one has [… click to continue reading this post]

Rabbits!

So I’ve been looking at getting rabbits for several weeks now, I had made a cage a week or two back so I’d have one ready to go in case I find the right deal. I had been looking for a specific breed or two, but yesterday I really lucked out. On facebook I found somebody who was getting rid of four meat rabbits for FREE! They were changing up breeds and these had been the sister’s but she went off to school. So, I of course was quite interested in this deal! Last night I worked on making more cages, I got a second and third completed. After a DR appointment tonight I met the people and brought the rabbits home, three does and a buck. Tonight for the last 3 or more hours I made a hanging frame to hang the cages from, I modified the cages to add doors, added the feeders, and made a fourth cage.

The kids loved playing with the rabbits, two of them have a good temperament so they will be the kids. I think I’ll breed one of them soon to see how raising babies is. All 4 are unrelated so I [… click to continue reading this post]

Finally some nice weather! Pulled a tree out of the ground

The last couple weekends have been rainy on the weekends and beautiful during the week. Finally we had a weekend that had some good weather! So, I decided to take advantage of it. First step was to remove the boards from the ice skating rink. Of course, I couldn’t find my drill that had the right bit in it, so I distracted myself with another task instead. I had an 8″ or so white oak that was in the way the past two winters, making it hard to back up in the driveway, particularly when another vehicle is here. So, I decided to pull it out of the ground. I didn’t want to deal with the stump though, so I pulled the whole thing OUT rather than cut it down. I dug down a couple feet to try to loosen up the roots and then used my synthetic braid dyneema rope and a few pulleys to get a 4:1 mechanical advantage. I put a chain in the tree as high up as I could reach standing in the bucket, probably 12 feet or so up.

I gave it all a good pull using my back blade for some extra weight. [… click to continue reading this post]

Free hot tub, another dead duck, upcoming rabbits?

This past weekend I found a free hot tub on Craigslist and happened to see it within a half hour of posting. I was the first caller, so on Monday after work I hooked up the trailer and went to get it. The guy helped me out, and with leverage, ramps, and a come-along we were able to get it up the 3′ onto my trailer. So tonight I filled it up (and quickly found the unions were disconnected on either side of the heater and pump). After I got those hooked back up I did see a small leak at one of the fittings, I couldn’t tell exactly why since it is covered in foam. Before I spent too much time and effort on it I wanted to fire it up, so I hooked it up to my PTO generator (my cord wasn’t long enough to plug it in my 50amp outlet in the garage). When I turned it on the panel fired up, but no jets turned on. More concerningly, some smoke started coming from the pump motor after only a couple seconds! Turns out the pump is locked up Between that and the leak, I am not [… click to continue reading this post]

3 more ducks gone – but problem solved!

The weather wasn’t fantastic this weekend, so I didn’t get a ton done. But, I took today off for spring break to have a day doing fun stuff with the kids, but it sure started off a bit stressful! My wife woke up at 5am hearing the ducks and woke me up. I went out, flipped the lights on, and watched the ducks for a few minutes. I didn’t notice anything so I went back inside. After a couple more minutes I realized that I didn’t see my son’s favorite duck. Checked again, sure enough, its gone. Told my wife who was a bit upset (partly for her, partly for my son), she mentioned what she heard sounded like all the ducks trying to take off when she heard them. I assumed it was an owl or something since it got in the pen. I figured it’d be full and not come back, so we went back to sleep.

Half an hour later she got up and went and checked on the ducks, came back to bed and said two more were gone (the babies). At least all 3 are boys this time! I had a real problem on my [… click to continue reading this post]

Thinking spring! Garden planning

It is 12 degrees out right now (after we had days in the 50’s in January), but here I am thinking spring. You should be too! Up here in the north we are 4-6 weeks away still, but if you are in zone 7 or 8 you are less than 2 weeks away from starting things indoors or out. I’m hoping to have a larger rack this year based on actual shelving units instead of those stainless carts I’ve used in the past. Though, I didn’t have very good luck last year (even with watering) due to the poor soils. I am curious to see if that changes with having ducks. The ducks have been pooing all winter long in their current area, so I am curious to see when I move their pen and plant things in their current location if plants do better. I plan on planting some forage for them (forage peas, kale, etc). I may have to put up a small fence to keep the ducks out of that area.

I also have big plans as far as trees I want to plant. Right now even with wholesale prices I’m looking at around $300 worth of [… click to continue reading this post]

Two dead ducks

This week has been extremely busy at work with some equipment being down and my group pitching in to outsource some processing. I was having to get in to work early and slept in a bit because I was tired, so I asked my wife to feed the ducks this morning. Of course that would be the day that she found our two Muscovies were dead. She calls me at work crying because they were laying next to each other on the ground. Nothing looked like it ate on them at all, so we don’t know why they died unless it was from the cold.

I have a shelter for the ducks that I had started locking them up in at night, then even during the day after 3 days they started going in of their own accord since it is warmer. Last night I didn’t lock them up because it wasn’t that cold (they had easily gone down to 10 degrees, it was mid 20’s last night), I was tired, and I figured if they got cold they would go in the shelter. The rest of the ducks did go in the shelter, but the muscovies did not. So [… click to continue reading this post]

The two babies are boys :-/

Well I went out a little bit ago to collect eggs (I am down to about 3 a day, not sure if 2 stopped or if all 5 are laying intermittently), feed the ducks, and let them out. One of the ducks got over the short fence, so on my way back in I encouraged it over. However, at that time I noticed the braaap, braaaap, sound that the males make. So I cornered the other and found it too was a boy. I had my suspicions since I hadn’t HEARD them prior to now (I read females can start making their sounds at 1-2 months). These will have to go soon so I’m not feeding 2 extra male mouths over the winter!

Hopefully today I’ll get their shelter enclosed so I can start locking them up at night. Not because they NEED to be locked up, but because they will be warmer and therefore eat less. If you give them unlimited feed they will do find in some pretty cold weather as far as I’ve been able to read, but MAN will they go through some food. My recent bulk feeder was semi-successful, but I found they went through [… click to continue reading this post]

Clearing trees for mini-orchard

A month or so ago I posted that I got a score on some fruit trees. I am needing to get them in the ground in the next few weeks now that the leaves are mostly falling off. When the leaves fall off, the roots will still grow quite a bit, thats why fall fertilizing your grass is the recommended method (if you do at all, which I don’t). So, I really need to be thinking about WHERE I am going to put these trees. If I put them near the house (which would be great!) irrigation would be easy, but I don’t have any spots with decent sun. I’d need to clear out some of the larger trees that provide some shade on my house, which I don’t really want to do. When (if?) I get central AC in this house it won’t be AS big a deal, but still is nice to have a pretty shady area in the summer time. Nowhere else on my property really has good sun exposure either.

I have a small clearing where previous owners had a small fire pit, it is about 200′ back from the house. Probably a bit far to [… click to continue reading this post]

New toy (I mean, tool) – Kubota tractor!

I am the proud new owner of a Kubota B2650 tractor, quick detach front loader, and 63″ snow blower (and hydraulic chute rotation)! I’ve been NEEDING to figure something out for snow removal, and WANTING a tractor due to all of the uses. The BX series was too small for what I wanted (not enough loader lift capacity, lift height, ground clearance, etc), the L series couldn’t EASILY take a front mounted snow blower (the grand L series has a mid-pto and can, but is extremely expensive). I thought the B series was perfect for my 10 acres, maneuvering around the woods. etc. I upped the size from the 2601 to the 2650 as it gave another 150-200lbs lift capacity, a bit more weight, a bit more ground clearance, and IIRC, another 6″ lift height as well. It was $1000 more, which I thought was worth the extra size and capacity.

Kubota has been having 0% financing for 60 months and had $1600 in instant rebates that change month to month (and ended up going down in November by a couple hundred dollars). The thing that drove me to new was there were so few B series on the used [… click to continue reading this post]

Another duckling loss

Well, it seems that the ducklings are large enough to get in the water bucket I left for the adults, but not big enough to get back out. One of the ducklings climbed in and apparently drowned Down to 3 ducklings of the original 12 eggs. To keep that from happening again I will make sure the bucket is MORE full so that it is easier to get out if they get in. The ducklings are growing ridiculously fast, they sure have some heft to them now. Other than that they are doing well.

 

Diamond and the Muscovies (which I CANNOT seem to keep out of there!) are eating all the duckling food. I mean, they have their own bucket of food, but it has been in there for several days. The worst part is they can’t be getting that much nutritional value out of it. I went to change out their water and the bottom was a yellow gunk, so they are taking a bite and then washing it out of their beak. There was a pretty thick layer of sludge in the bottom of the bucket.

The ducklings are getting big enough Diamond isn’t able to easily [… click to continue reading this post]

Mother of the year award

… does NOT go to Diamond. While she is very protective of the babies from me, she does not do anything to protect them from the Muscovies who have taken up residence in the “mothering pen” (as my kids have taken to calling it). The Muscovy that is sitting on what I suspect are the dud eggs has nipped pretty hard at the babies a few times and Diamond doesn’t seem to do anything. I don’t know if that is normal within ducks or not.

Furthermore, when I open the pen to let the ducks out Diamond will try to escape the mothering pen and run out with the other ducks, leaving her babies chirping behind. She doesn’t seem to care. Now, when I go to pick them up to let them be with her she seems to then care that I’m near them, but not before.

I think I’ll check the dud eggs and toss them, hopefully that will spur the muscovies to start laying eggs again. I’ve heard they stop laying come winter time, this just seems a bit early for them to be done. In fact, I just checked them and they definitely are duds. They developed [… click to continue reading this post]

A duckling loss

I went out this morning to collect eggs and I could only spot 4 ducklings. Its a bit dark in the mornings some days, I couldn’t see super well. I eventually noticed a dead duckling just laying there. One was smaller than the others, so I think there wasn’t something right with it to begin with. I don’t think there was any specific cause, so I only feel moderately bad. All the ducklings seem to get cared for as far as being kept warm, plus this one wasn’t near the nest so its not like it got pushed out from Diamond and got cold through the night. So, started with 12 eggs and down to 4 ducklings, not a fantastic ratio.

Other than the dead duckling they seem to be doing well. It has been in the 60’s at night so its not like there has been too harsh of weather. We did have a HEAVY storm the day after they were born that they weathered through no problem (between the shelter roof and Diamond caring for them. I put in the other downspout’s drain to get water away from the duck area, so that probably helped to not flood [… click to continue reading this post]

We officially have babies!

I was going out to cull the two runner drakes yesterday, going in the pen to get my 5 gallon bucket to fill with water for rinsing during cleaning. Going into the pen I saw a cracked egg and an egg with a pretty hefty hole in it. I wasn’t sure if this was time yet or not, though it is within a day of when I thought we’d have babies. I did see some movement inside, so I figured that was PROBABLY a good sign. Even so, I decided to not tell the kids until later. I had a bit of limited time before church, so I thought I’d be better off if I spent my time getting a safe area for the babies set up rather than culling the drakes. So, I let all of the ducks out of the pen, even Diamond ran out. So much for her mothering instinct. So, I got a fence set up around the plywood roof so that all the other ducks wouldn’t be running through and trampling eggs or babies. During this time I saw another cracked egg pulsing and another egg that had a crack in it, so I figured [… click to continue reading this post]

Losing some babies, and other duck update

We started off with 12 eggs in the nest, recently I had found only 11 in the nest. I assumed that one got crushed during feeding time, though I didn’t see any egg fragments around the nest. I wrote it off, after all, there still was 11 left. A couple days later, I noticed one more missing. Again, I wasn’t too concerned, particularly given my recent realization that there is at least a 2/3 chance that the father of the ducklings will be one of the scrawny runner ducks that I STILL need to cull. Well, I came back from a trip and TWO more eggs were gone, and one was cracked! I am now down to 7 eggs. I used this as my trigger to work on the fence a bit and clear out some weeds around the electric fence. No babies lost this morning, hopefully they’ll hold out the 3-10 days left until they hatch!

So I thought the tiny little eggs were just a phase of one of the ducks, but they have been pretty darn consistent. Some have been as “large” as 45 grams (which doesn’t even count as a medium), others have been as small [… click to continue reading this post]

Egg hatching and egg laying update

We got another pekin egg today, it was another tiny one (even smaller than the other). I weighed them and yesterday’s was 48 grams (technically counts as medium if it were a chicken egg) and todays was 42 grams (a small). I am wondering if there is anything but yolk in them, will find out soon I’m sure. Got another Muscovy egg, that has been 1 every day for the last 9 days or so. I’m still not sure why the other isn’t laying, she is more reserved and last to the food line, maybe it is a nutrition thing?

So my mother-in-law is here and we were looking at the ducks and talking about Diamond (the one sitting on the nest). I decided it was a good time to candle a couple eggs, I did that 3-7 days ago and saw no hopeful signs. One end looked empty (an air space I think, but it didn’t move around) and every egg I checked it appeared that the yolk was stuck to the shell. I saw no veins to speak of which are pretty visible (per Metzer Farm’s pics, linked). Well, today I VERY clearly saw veins, I could even [… click to continue reading this post]

Egg laying update

So I thought I would give an update that the one muscovy is still laying eggs pretty religiously, I have found an egg now every day. She has taken to waddling her little butt next to Diamond, sometimes pushing her off the nest and laying in her nest, at other times waddling a tiny little nest right next to her. At times when she makes an annex nest she somehow pushes around Diamonds eggs and I have found up to 3 of Diamond’s eggs in the annex nest. I’m not sure if the Muscovy is trying to steal them, or if Diamond ends up just pushing them as she is trying to re-arrange herself while this other duck is half laying on top of her. The Muscovy that is laying is the less skittish one who is not afraid to run right up to me while it is dinner time (and even eating from my hand if she is hungry, though she is still hesitant and skittish when doing that). The other Muscovy stays back until all the other ducks are done eating, then she’ll come up and eat. I am pretty sure she is the one that is not [… click to continue reading this post]

Muscovies laying finally

Well, I think ONE is laying. So far I have seen one extra egg per day in the nest. I marked all of the eggs so I’d know which belong and which don’t. Anyway, the muscovies must have heard my threatening their lives, saying that they were supposed to be laying and if they weren’t going to lay I would at least get some meat out of them. Apparently threat of physical violence worked on one of them since I’ve gotten the extra egg. The couple I’ve gotten have been 77g as compared to the Khaki Campbell at 72-75 grams. So about the same, maybe SLIGHTLY larger.

A few notes about the muscovies: They eat more of the food off the ground than the others. The others are very greedy and in a hurry so they spill a lot of the foot pellets on the ground. Well, at least one of the muscovies will frequently eat the pellets off the ground rather than out of the bucket. Plus, when they DO eat out of the bucket they don’t seem to spill so much as the others. So that is a plus, they are less wasteful

They are also extreme homebodies. [… click to continue reading this post]