Welcome back to the Homestead, Happy Readers!
As promised, here is Part #2 of Edition #3 this week. I will now regale you with tales of birds, both flappy and angry, but mostly obnoxious. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that birds are dumb. Damned dumb. Yet, sometimes they are just smart enough to work around your best laid plans and put themselves in a predicament… which, of course, they are too stupid to get out of.
What in the flock is going on?
Out of Bounds Birdbrains
My plan for raising chickens, ducks, and guineas has always included a semi-free-range concept. I want them out there eating bugs (especially the ones that eat on me!) and the grass, etc. I want them around my house keeping it patrolled for pests. I also want it as a feed supplement to cut down on costs.
Now, I can’t actually let them roam about completely free due to predators (fox, coyote, raccoons, and even unleashed dogs) that tend to roam the woods in my area. One side of my property is very close to the boundary line, so they would also end up roaming onto my neighbors land if I didn’t control them. To that end, my plan has been to fence in a portion of my homestead loosely, not fully predator-proof, but just enough of a discouragement that predators stay away from my immediate household area so that the birds can roam a bit. The fencing is also to keep the birds from going where they should not.
I did the fully free-range thing for a couple of days (as I mentioned in my last post) simply because they had totally denuded their pen area and some were starting to become escape artist anyway. They didn’t wander too far, but they did go to all the wrong places at least once. They also would get on the back side of the pen and wander back-and-forth along the fence wondering how to get back in at nightfall. Also, they couldn’t figure out how to go around when it started raining either.
Chasing chickens while holding an umbrella and a flashlight in a lightning infused downpour is not fun. Especially when it’s up-hill (both ways) and the chickens are afraid of the flashlight. That adventure on day 3 of the free-range trials convinced me that the fencing had to be done before I could allow them more roaming room.
Up until that point, I had been delayed due to sucky environmental conditions (wet, hot, mosquito infested), but I finally got some of it put up in the last two weeks. I bought some of the plastic construction zone netting to try out, and it works great. Again, it’s not predator proof, but the birds stay inside it. It’s easy to roll out and I just staple it to whatever is handy with my cordless power stapler. I strung it from the back corner of the duck pen, through the woods. I also had to block off the upper side next to the neighbors fence to keep them on my side. Lastly, I had to move the chain link dog fence from the small area to the other side of the house.
Below are pictures of the results. Please ignore any unsightliness. There are only so many hours in the day.
One whole side is still unfenced. I have materials for it, but not the drive to put it up yet. Luckily, it is on the side of my house that is a very steep hillside that they have so far decided not to wander down. I’m sure they will now that I’ve said that, but knock on wood with crossed fingers until I can get it done.
They do keep finding ways to get through and around. I think my escape artists are still flying up on top of the covered coop area and jumping off the the other side. Which is how they get stuck over there. They are also teaching those bad habits to a few others. This means that the area I was hoping to NOT have to fence in, probably will be. More time, but I think I will be able to move my existing wire to do it. *sigh*
I finally got my 1st Chicken egg on August 23rd. I’ve been expecting them since July 15th. That’s nearly 6 weeks past due. Most chickens lay at around 18 weeks old. Mine are 24 weeks now and I only have one hen laying so far. I’ve been giving them laying pellets daily, so I don’t know why the delay. The ducks were supposed to start around the same time too, but I’m still only get 2 eggs per day from my 8 quacky gals.
I ate them yesterday as a breakfast dinner. They were yumz!
A lot of people ask, “What do duck eggs taste like?” Well, they taste like eggs. They do have a richer yolk taste to me. The yellow is a bit darker when you cut into it. I actually prefer them to chicken eggs for an over-easy dish. Guinea eggs are smaller in size, but I can’t tell a taste difference between them and chicken eggs, myself.
I was getting one of those per day as well, but Lavern decided to stop using the nest box again, so there are several out in the wild somewhere at this point. Oh, well.
Oh, man, I just remembered something I learned this week… Did you know that Guineas can cross-breed with other bird species? They can breed with Chickens, Turkeys and even Peacocks! The offspring are called Guin, or Guin-hens, and they are sterile (like a mule, the cross between an male donkey and a female horse).
Learn more at:
How cool is that?!? The reason I looked it up to begin with is that I noticed one of the roos trying to get amorous with Lavern the other day. I may need to find those eggs and see what hatches!
Meet The Flockers
Next, I’m going to introduce my birds. I don’t have names for all of them. Hell, I can’t tell some of them apart from each other. But a few stand out and I’m gonna share pictures like a doting dad.
First up are the Ducks.
I currently have 13 ducks. 7 are Blue Swedish (3 male, 4 female) and 6 are Welsh Harlequin (2 male, 4 female)
The single drake I had in my 1st group of ducks is readily identifiable now. His name is Uno because he has one black spot on his back and one black spot on his light colored bill. He also has that curly drake tail.
I have also introduced 2 more drakes of each breed into the flock. My plan is to breed true and hopefully sell some hatching eggs, ducklings or even adult ducks. That’s mostly to raise money for upkeep. I’m not in this to make a profit. I do plan to use some of them for meat eventually, but this is my breeding flock.
I can’t tell the new blue drakes from the old flock anymore. The harleys are easier, but I can’t tell the two boys from each other. I originally gave them all names of generals –Napoleon, Charlemagne (Charley), Bobby Lee, & another I don’t remember — but again, I can’t tell them apart, so it’s all ‘Hey Ducky Doo’ at this point.
Two of the females I can ID. Speckles has a very mottled blue & white pattern. And Bossy the Welsh is mostly white on her front and neck, heavier set than the other females, and very vocal. She tells them all when to come and go and where.
In case you are wondering how I empty this big pool out when it gets ‘ducked up’, here’s a picture of the drain system I put in place. I cut a hole and installed a sink drain in the pool. I put a pvc drain underneath it. Now I just pull the plug, wash out the pool, and refill. The brick is there so that the ducks can’t pull the plug themselves, which they will do immediately if able. Because they are birds and birds are stupid.
There is one other thing going on with the ducks that I’ve not yet addressed. I kind of dread doing it, but it’s going to have to happen.
Bossy has developed a bad case of Bumblefoot. I know it’s in her right foot, but it may also be in her left. I have medicine that I need to start putting on her, but doctoring a duck foot is going to be neither fun nor easy. I’ve waited about two weeks since I first saw it to see if she would heal up on her own, but I think it’s time to intervene. She’s limping and seems to be in a bit of pain now, so I have to help her out.
I plan to work on it by soaking her in an Epsom salt bath bucket each day for a week. If the swelling goes down, then I’ll keep that up until it heals. If it doesn’t, then I’m going to have to try to cut it out. That’s the part that worries me. I don’t want to hurt the duck or make it worse. I’ll probably do a whole post on this in the future.
Wish me & Miss Bossy Duck luck.
Oh, and I also decided to experiment with some garden cleanup. I let the Doos (that’s what I call them, Ducky Doos) into the garden to see how they did. They won’t peck my tomatoes like the chickens would. They did pretty good for a while, but they got restless and wanted to go back to the pool. Then they panic tromped the few okra plants we have when I was guiding them back through the gate. *sigh*
The garden is pathetic and grass ridden. The guy who keeps it up for me is fat and lazy and has not done his job. It’s me. I’m the guy. Anyway, Here’s the duck’s first march. Once I pick that last batch of peas, I’m gonna turn the chickens loose in there too! That should be fun!
Now, on to the Chickens!
I have some of them named. Some I can only tell apart by attitude though.
First up is Gertie the Buff. She’s been my favorite since they were very small. She was always the one who ran to me instead of being skittish. I have pictures of her on my shoulder and such. She’s very sweet and mild mannered. And photogenic too!
Next we have some general pictures at feeding time.
And here’s a very funny sight to me. The two guinea keets I hatch out first (Sam & Buddy) have attached themselves to Blue the Roo. They are his entourage. They go everywhere he goes. They peck everything he pecks. They are literally under his butt most of the time. It’s super funny to watch them roaming around. I need to grab a video of it one day.
And here is the whole crew helping me clean up around the back porch. I don’t even think I’m going to have to cut the grass anymore with these guys on the prowl.
And lastly, the up and coming Guinea Flock #2. I have 12 of these little jokers in the brooder, and they are really getting big. So big that I have to build them their own coop with a quickness. I think I’ll call them The Dirty Dozen.
The plan for these guys is to completely free range them outside the main flock. I might even throw the other 3 guinea in with them when they get bigger.
Guineas are great watch dogs, so my hope is that they will be able to fend for themselves while defending my area against snakes and predators. They are also the best tick munchers in existence. (No, opossums are not tick eaters, I don’t care what you read on the Internet. It’s all lies to make you like those ugly little… )
Anyway, I plan to build these dudes a separate coop. It’s going to be a mobile one that I can move to different spots on the property. First though, I have to get them trained to think of it as ‘home’, and before I can do that, I have to build the dang thing.
To that end, I have come up with a Scrounge Project that I will call…
But I’ll save that for another post at another time.
Thanks for the visit!
That’s all for now. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and looking at the pretty pictures. Come back and see us again!
Until next time…
Happy Reading, Prepping & Homesteading!
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