Chicken Mama

I simply cannot wait to hold those babies in my hand.  Those little balls of fluff.

As we were losing our rented farm and needing to find someone to live with, we had to give away everything.  I stood outside and watched those chickens be placed head first into crates.  My chickens.  Laverne, Luisa, Ginger, and twenty-two of their named sisters…the ducks too.  I kind of lost myself there for awhile and as Doug helped them pack up my chickens, I stood screaming.  Screaming.  Losing my animals was worse than losing my antiques.  Worse than losing my three cords of wood, my newly planted garden, my homesteading school, my dreams.  Our chickens made us farmers when we first started out.  Our little house in town where our children would spend hours in the coop kissing and cuddling each chick.  Chickens took us to the next level.  In four weeks we will have chickens again.

salmon

Doug and Maryjane drove to the feed store to order chicks and picked out two Salmon Faverolles who lay pinkish eggs, have slippered feet, and who are docile and good layers.  They are also very pretty.  We do love pretty chickens.

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Two Marans joined their order, those beautiful dark chocolate eggs and pretty feathers.  This is a picture of me holding one of our Marans.  It was used in an article that was written about our family in the Huffington Post.

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giant

Four Jersey Giants, our favorite.  One of our Giants, Shirley used to sit in the lawn chair and read magazines with me.  They were among our friendliest chickens.

java

My friend is raising Javas.  They have pink eggs, are a little conceited, but they are pretty enough to warrant it.  We are getting four of them.

runner

To complete our order, after much begging from me and Maryjane, Doug chose two blue Runner ducks.  My heart is full.

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In four weeks I will be a chicken mama again.  I know I keep saying it, but it sure is good to be back.

The Ducks of Pumpkin Hollow Farm

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We’ve been watching Irene for awhile.  She has a zigzag on her chest that makes her look like a superhero and she stands much taller and bigger than the other ducks.  Some women are built that way.  I wasn’t judging.  They follow her everywhere.  She enjoys a good swim in their child sized swimming pool as well as leisurely walks about the farm with her friends in tow.

Yesterday, Sylvia, who has a profound permanent limp (if she turns out to be a boy I shall call her Tiny Tim) decided to envelop herself in the thicket of lilacs and have a bit of a nap.  Head tucked backwards into her feathers she slept peacefully beneath the leafy arc.  Irene was beside herself.  All three ducks quacking and looking for their friend.  They went under the porch, then came back out.  They called far and away and close by.  Beneath the table, in the pool, in the coop, around the tree they paraded and called.  Finally, sleepy Sylvia awoke and ran out of the lilacs to meet her friends who quickly ran towards her, all of them quacking at once.

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That was when I noticed it.  Irene has a real raspy voice, like an old time jazz singer that has been smoking too long.  And the tell tail sign (literally) was the curly tail.  At just about four months, we did not see it before this week.  Suddenly her sweet feminine tail feathers curled into a tight ringlet.  Irene is a boy.

I do hope that Irene, I mean Ira,  will behave himself with the females.  I would rather him make sweet little ducklings than Duck a L’Orange!

For the Love of Ducks!

Wouldn’t that be a fabulous exclamatory sentence?  “For the love of ducks, get in here!!”  I might start using that.

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I have been talking about getting ducks for years.  I have researched them and coveted them.  Nancy had some ducks this year that she inherited.  They were called Chocolate Runners.  They looked like Walt Disney himself designed them.  They looked like bowling pins, slightly slanted, running about in a pack.  They were so comical and so mesmerizing, Doug and I could not keep from giggling as we watched them.

runners

The things that have kept us from getting ducks are as follows:

1. They are supposedly noisy.  I have tested out my neighbors though and they seem to be immune to a barking dog, bleating goats, humming alpacas, clucking chickens, and an uproariously loud opera singer named Henry the Rooster.  I think they can take a few quacking ducks.

2. Do they need their own coop?  I only have one.  They get into water and may make a mess of the water bowl.  However, the chicken water bowl is my mixing bowl stolen from the kitchen.  (The dog has one, the cats have one, I really do need new mixing bowls!)  So, they can’t make that much of a mess!  I was told today at the feed store that they do eat pine shavings which is less than good for them and that I will need to use straw, which is more odorous, but I suppose I can change it more.

3. Where am I going to get a pond?  I live in town for duck’s sake.  We talked about getting the water feature in the yard fixed that has long been out of use.  It was rotted, holy, and non-working when we moved in.  A child’s swimming pool in that area though could work.  The gal at the feed store said my chickens will drown.  She underestimates the intelligence of my chickens.

4. What the heck do they eat?  I thought maybe layer feed was layer feed but water fowl have their own feed.  Keeping that separate could be an issue.

5. Are they going to catch sight of the fairgrounds and fly south?  Apparently Runner ducks like Nancy’s can only fly three feet up so they aren’t going very far.  Other breeds can have a few feathers clipped with sharp scissors on one side and that takes care of that.

6. How many eggs do they lay?  Cause I have enough free loaders around here.  Duck eggs fetch $8 a dozen at the nearby farmers markets.  Depending on the duck breed, they can lay anywhere from 50-330 eggs per year.  The meat breeds don’t lay as many.  Runner ducks range between 150-300 eggs per year.  More than some of the chickens I have.

duck

Feeling confident, I went to the feed store and pre-ordered my ducks.  Two blue Runners and two chocolate Runners.  Straight run.  Eek.  I asked what if they are all boys?  I can bring them to the animal swap if I don’t want to kill them myself, the clerk says.

Folks, I cannot even put my old, decrepit, eighteen year old dog to sleep for crying out ducks.  How am I going to butcher my ducks?  I will pray for all girls.

I have two choices now to think about.  I can leave them in the same coop as the chickens, keep both their bowls of food there and hope they opt for the correct one for their species.  I can put the swimming pool out by the old water feature and hope the chickens don’t drown.

duckling

Or, I can put them in the goat yard with their own coop.  Maybe there is one on Craig’s List.  They can run around with the goats, have their swimming pool, and I can hope the goats don’t break into their food.  I can totally see Loretta chowing down on duck feed.

I have until April 11th to figure it out.  The ducks arrive then.  This is becoming more of a farm every year!