1.17.2014

A New Pack of Poultry, A New Drama of Ducks

Due to the Egg Laying Strike of Winter 2013-2014, Spouse has agreed we need to refresh our poultry flock, especially with breeds that will lay in cold weather. What we've ordered this year (all bulleted links go to McMurray Hatchery, who thankfully let us mix & match to meet their minimum):


Cagney, our Phoenix hen with her chicks.
We're also updating the duck flock. The Khaki Campbells we currently have enjoy a reputation as good egg layers, but appear to have no mothering instinct whatsoever (with possible exception of Moe, but no definitive proof yet). We're adding Welsh Harlequins to the flock: they have Khaki Campbell in their bloodline, but also have nesting/motherhood instincts. Much easier to add to the flock when you can "let mama do the raising". The geese? They can live and lay eggs well into their 40's, and what goslings they do raise can be mean bast*rds from what I've been told, so we're just gonna stay happy with what we have.

Due to ordering minimums with the hatchery, this means our flock will (gulp) double at onset. Since the Welsh ducks, Pioneer chicks and Welsummer chicks are all straight-run only (you don't know what mix of males & females you'll get), I'm guessing we'll get at least half males, which means duck & chicken dinner by Summer. Some of our older hens may be freezer-bound as well. Killing and cleaning is not fun, nor should it be. On the other hand, if I'm going to be a meat eater, I should be responsible for my diet. I make sure to take excellent care of our flock, with healthy food and plenty of space to roam and socialize. For other meat needs, we do our best to purchase from locals who we know raise their animals with ethics and kindness. I realize it is a privilege to be able to do so. Anyhow...

Khaki Campbells from 2010, just a few weeks old. 
The night-time duck pen will be easy enough to expand, but the chicken coop will require some modifications. We'll probably take down the shelving to create space for more roosts. We currently have in place a 10-space nesting box, and have a three-space nesting box in reserve that we can add if necessary. We could also build a six-space box out of wood, there's plenty of online plans.

I went ahead and ordered duckling-specific starter feed. Some say you can feed ducklings chick starter, but from what I've read, ducklings have higher niacin needs. Since we want the females to be long-term layers, I'm thinking it's better to start them out on the best chow possible. I'll later transition them to the organic chicken chow with supplements once they mature.

I'm oddly nervous about raising a new flock from scratch. It's been a few years. We should receive both the ducklings and the chicks by the end of February. [Expect many pictures and much squeeing upon their arrival.] Timing it thusly, they should be feathered out and ready for protected outdoor pens (until they're large enough to be integrated with their respective flocks) by end of March at the latest, which is two weeks after the last average frost. Fingers crossed that there may be a rooster from the bunch that can get along with Lucky and be spared the ax. There will be no shortage of females for their harems!

Lucky the Roo. He's a right handsome bird, he'll have you know.

2 comments:

  1. Congo-rats! Sounds like fun. I always wondered, which one of you does the killing of the birds? When we get chickens it will probably be me and you know the problems that may cause.

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  2. Oh-yowzers life will be getting full(er) and busier, soon!
    I can't wait to see all the new babes.

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