Muscovy Ducks

I’m excited about two new additions to our flock – a pair of young muscovy ducks, Homer, a handsome male (called a drake) and Louise, a sweet little tan female (or hen)!  Here they are meeting all of the other birds:

They didn’t waste any time getting to know everyone and our little female call duck was sure quick to give them a tour around the farm.  They were barely here 5 minutes before they followed her waddling across the driveway:

Muscovy ducks are an interesting breed because they do not quack like other ducks.  They make a hissing sound instead.  On the contrary, our adorable little call duck  is especially vocal, as that bantam breed is used as a hunter’s decoy to lour other ducks.. she is one loud little bird.  All ducks can be used for slug control which is one of their main jobs here, especially in our nursery.  Muscovys are reliable in producing eggs, feathers and meat (if you go that route) and are pretty self sufficient little birds. They are great at raising their own young, and in fact, in some parts of the country (mostly the SE) there are large established feral populations and some people consider them a pest.

Raising ducks is not the same as raising chickens, although similar, they do have different needs.  Primarily the biggest difference is they need water, and lots of it! They are also messier than chickens, seem to have more sensitive personalities and can be stressed easier.  There are many different breeds of ducks out there: See a list here  We’ve also had Pekin ducks, but being white makes them a prime target and easy to spot for predators which is not ideal for free ranging.

Homer and Louise are a welcome addition to the ongoing poultry party on our farm and we hope to see them raising babies in the near future!

Farm Tour: Days of Snow

When nearby Seattle anxiously awaits snowfall, chances are we already have a nice blanket covering our little farm.  This year has been full of new snow adventures and I thought I’d share some pictures of what is happening here with this years massive snow dump.  Total accumulation has been approx 15″ over the past several days.

This is what our driveway looks like - notice the small tree hanging on the power lines

as you keep coming down the drive.. there is another tree that we have our eyes on. I just hope it doesn't get windy!

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Virtual Homestead & Garden Tour

Recently I went on a garden tour extravaganza and was totally inspired! Stay tuned for several blog posts on that event…  But one thing that I kept thinking is that I could never have my home on an actual tour- think of all the stress of making things just right so complete strangers can take pictures of it!  I mean, really..would you not judge me for leaving weeds that stand taller than you? or letting my greens bolt (hey its for the bees and seeds), would you step in chicken shit? Probably! So, when I saw that NW Edible Life was doing a Nosy Neighbor Virtual Homestead & Garden Tour – I thought how brilliant! We can share pictures and be inspired by what everyone else is doing, without the stress of making everything perfect! So why not include my little homestead?
For some background and for specific details on my place check out the article written by Valerie Easton earlier this spring in the Seattle Times A sustainable Northwest garden of Eatin’ and Eden. Older photos are here & you can meet the animals here.  I’ve incorporated edibles (mostly perennial) into all of the landscaping but grow specific annual edibles in a rabbit-proof area.  We harvest rain water, use solar power for hot water, and just recently I started driving an electric car all in an effort to live more sustainably.  My dream would be that someday we live self sufficiently, but for now we are a lo0nng way off and have a lot of work ahead.
One advantage about our location is that we have a lot of space, but on the other hand it takes time to develop and manage.  In ten years we’ve barely cultivated half of the space that we want to.  One disadvantage is that we work in the green industry which means during the growing season our work week can be 60+hours and our garden can get a bit neglected.
Goals for the future: build a root cellar, a PV solar system, get dairy goats and have time to milk them,  then move to a farm in the San Juans and live completely off the grid.  Ha! I can dream right?
Now for some photos:



Our Sitting Duck & the Bald Eagle

This morning I went for a jog with our puppy Spanky in the cold sunshine and came home to find my husband quietly taking pictures from the driveway.  He said “Shhh, there is a bald eagle” and I started to panic a little bit, but he quickly added “it got the male duck!” and I instantly felt some relief.  Now, before you get the crazy idea that I’m a cold and heartless jerk, let me explain why I was not too upset with what had happened.

The bald eagle waits patiently....about 75 feet above the farm in a Douglas Fir

It all started a few weeks ago when we’d catch the duck trying to mate with the hens – he was quite brutal.  Once I saw him grab a chicken by the neck and pull it down in front of him to mount.  At first I thought – as long as no one gets hurt, and I’d separate him from his victim.  Well, I’m sure you can guess what happened, he killed a chicken early last week and since then we have been struggling to figure out what to do with him.  At night we kept him in an area separate from the other birds just to be on the safe side.  We knew we could find him a home – either as a pet or dinner, but our real concern was with Minnie, the little call duck who adored him.  Every morning she would just lay in one spot waiting for him and would quack in delight when he was let loose out of his confinement and they’d waddle off together towards the pond.  Now, I just need to find a new call duck so she won’t be too lonely.
Right after I got home, I ran and made sure the rest of the chickens were alright.  They were all huddled up under a shrub (including Minnie) and extremely quiet.  They are so smart and know to hide – what good girls!  So I locked them all into the barn where they would be safe from the raptor who was waiting patiently in the trees… all day long.
While the bald eagle took care of our “dilemma”, I will miss Mr Duck’s cute little quack and waddling around.  He killed one of my hens and  I could be all dramatic and call Mr Duck a rapist and murderer, but after all he was just a confused Pekin duck and nature took its course.  Its a bird eat bird world out there and that is a risk of keeping poultry free range.  He was white and slow – a prime target for a predator, literally a “sitting duck”.   We’ve only had bald eagles here a few times and my kids are fairly obsessed with them, we all watch them in awe.  They are amazing creatures and I admire them enough that I am not too upset over what happened.  Thankfully it didn’t grab Minnie, or else who knows how heartbroken I’d be!

RIP Mr. Duck

Wordless Wednesday: Patience

The snow is finally melting...

but it might be a while before the ducks can swim in the pond

Mr. Duck’s new friend

Last spring my husband and I came to a compromise – he could build a pond if I could get ducks.  So, we got five little Pekin ducklings with a couple of turkeys and raised them together.  They were all cute and fuzzy and loud- and they were all white.   The pond took 3 days to build, but has yet to see any ducks.

baby ducklings and turkeys about a week old

Unfortunately, at about 8 weeks old, we had a farm tragedy.  I came home to all of the ducks laying in the pasture dead – except one.  He was still as if he was dead but when I approached him, he jumped up, staggered along as if he was drunk and recovered.  The rest of the ducks weren’t bloody or missing feathers and there was no indication of a predator attack, but they were neatly laying together as if they got scared and huddled together and died of fear… that is my theory anyways.  To this day I’ve ruled out everything including poisoning and dehydration and think they were probably approached by some kind of predator but it was scared off by the other animals.
So fast forward, and the remaining male duck turned towards the turkeys – after  all, they were also white and they all grew up together.  Birds of a feather flock together – isn’t that the saying? For the next 6 months or so, the duck lived with them, acted like them and refuses to swim in the pond.  Every night I would carry him from the turkey barn to the other barn and “put him to bed”.  Well… then Thanksgiving came, and the turkeys disappeared, which left him pretty damn confused, but he got over it quickly and started hanging out with the chickens.
We planned to get more ducks and turkeys in the spring, but an opportunity arose via the internet within a couple of days.  A female call duck needed a home.  She was at PAWS and was picked up on the side of a road on a day that was 20 degrees, not moving with a leg band cutting off her circulation.  We jumped on it and adopted her right away!  She is adorable and tiny like a bantam mallard with a little stubby beak – and her “calls” sound like some kind of twisted laugh you’d hear on a cartoon.  The funniest thing about her is she has a Napoleon complex and quite a personality.  She actually chased  Mr. Duck the first time they met and he ran away quacking… get this crazy little bird away from me!

the introduction

Time will tell if the ducks will be friends and hopefully swim in the pond someday!  Birds have interesting social lives and in our poultry house the rooster is afraid of the duck, the big duck is afraid of the little duck and the hens are all over the place, some laid back and watch the drama unfold while others want to get in on what ever action is going on.  So far so good, it has been one day since she has moved in with the other birds and everyone seems to be getting along.

We're not sure if she knows how to forage - if not, the chickens will be sure to teach her!

I think we are going to call her “Minnie”!