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Archive for August, 2010

raised chickens or ducks?

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I’ve been bad about keeping you all updated about the garden… sorry! It’s an understatement to say that the garden production has been disappointing. I guess I didn’t want to post about the lack of good stuff to eat.

We were pretty sure that our garden soil was somewhat acidic but we didn’t realize that it was VERY acidic. It was also lacking in organic matter. Anyway we decided to try these first crops without having a soil test done and tempered our expectations accordingly. It hasn’t helped that we’ve been experiencing drought conditions for the most of the growing season. We finally got some rain during the past few weeks.

The cabbages, beans, and strawberries have done OK.  Unfortunately, you can’t live on strawberries 😦 Some of the seeds that we sowed direct didn’t even germinate. Those that did didn’t grow well. We didn’t get any “greens” at all. The corn tasseled before it formed ears. Arrgh!

We’ve adjusted the soil as best we can with crops in the ground. Top dressing with compost and pelletized lime has helped. We’ll definitely be working on all of the beds that are fallow this fall!

Don’t even mention tomatoes to me! We’ve been diligent about watering but due to a lack of nutrients we’ve had to toss the fruit of  because of blossom end rot. Fortunately the tomato horn worms have had the decency to eat only the bad ones so far. I started fertilizing the tomatoes (and the other crops) with fish emulsion and it seems to have slowed the rot down quite a bit. We haven’t been able to harvest a single ripe one yet. Boo hoo! But I still have hopes of eating a fresh, ripe tomato from my own garden before summer’s end.

Tomato Blossom End Rot
(click image for larger view)

You have to learn from your failures and not dwell in the past. As an experiment, I took the garden bed that used to have the sugar snap peas in it and worked in some compost, pelletized lime, wood ashes, and cottonseed meal. Then I started a mid summer crop of bush beans. I used the best seeds saved from our early Spring crop of these beans. While they previously grew all right and did produce a crop I’m curious to see how they’ll do in the new and improved bed. With some timely rain and soil enhancements, they’re doing well…. so far 😉

Hutterite Soup Bush Bean Seedlings
(click image for larger view)

I’ll try to better about updating you about the late summer/fall crops. Some of our late summer crops are those we’ll want to extend past the first frost using cold frames.

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OK. OK. I know we just got our chicken flock started so you’re probably wondering why we didn’t wait awhile to get some ducks. Well, the story goes like this…

The morning we picked up the baby chicks from the Post Office the lady who got the box for us asked if we only raised chickens. We explained that we were newbies and this was the beginning of our flock but that we eventually wanted to have some ducks too. The truth of the matter is that we wanted to see how we did with the chickens AND the ducks we wanted were a little pricey especially with the shipping.

Well…. as luck would have it… her mother-in-law had 12 three month old ducks for sale. Six of them were the breed we wanted – Khaki Campbells – 3 drakes and 3 hens. She also had 4 Indian Runners (2 drakes and 2 hens) and a pair of Swedish Blues. Mom-in-law wanted $7 each – you pick or $6 if you took them all. We said we’d think it over.

There are several reasons why we wanted to have some ducks (along with our chickens) here on the homestead. One is that ducks don’t stop laying during the winter months like chickens do. (Chickens typically stop laying eggs when the days get shorter in the winter.) Duck eggs are more nutritious than chicken eggs. AND… they lay at night — just in time for fresh egggs for breakfast!

Another advantage is that when you put the ducks in the garden for pest control they won’t scratch it up as much as the chickens will. Although sometimes we’ll want to use the chickens to till up the garden beds for us… more on that later.
 
Anyway… we talked it over and decided that this opportunity was too good to pass up. We took all 12 of them!

When we first brought them home and put them in their pen they were really skittish about us getting close to them. After a day or so they’ve figured out that we’re the ones who feed and water them. Some feed along with some fresh cucumber and tomato bits from the garden go a long ways towards influencing your friendly neighborhood homestead ducks 😉

Last night we decided to go ahead and see how they handled a little “free range” time. They LOVED it! They stuck close to the water source and when dark came they happily waddled back into the pen.

Bevy of Ducks On The Homestead
(click to view larger image)

I guess we’re officially poultry farmers now!

P.S. These guys are sooooo funny! I’ll get some video uploaded SOON!

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This little chick is really tame. This picture really shows how much the chicks have feathered out. This little rooster — I think this one is a rooster 😉 — he has the longest tail feathers and the biggest comb.

4 Week Old Speckled Sussex Rooster On A Tree Limb
(click image for larger view)

Doesn’t he look cute sitting here on the tree limb?

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The baby chicks are really growing!

I can’t believe how much they have changed! Of course, like all young things they each develop at their own pace. Some of them are almost completely feathered and other still have quite a bit of down. Their constantly preening themselves.

The chicks with the most feathers also have more tail feathers and larger combs. We’re thinking that these are cockerels and the less developed ones are hens. If anyone out there knows if our reasoning is correct let us newbie chicken farmers know for sure 😉 If we’re right then it looks like we have 8 or 9 cocks and 17 or 18 hens.

4 Week Old Speckled Sussex Rooster

Their foraging abilities are getting better and better every day. Even though there’s plenty of food available in the feeders they’re constantly prowling the perimeter of their pen looking for tasty bugs to eat! I pity the ant that gets too close to the edge of their pen.

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