I’ve been having a terrible time incubating duck eggs. Turns out duck eggs (and goose eggs – my friend has been having similar issues with goose eggs) are a whole lot more difficult to successfully hatch than chicken or turkey eggs. Something to do with the humidity being not too high, not too low, but just right, along with air flow/oxygen. So, I’ve only hatched out 15 ducks out of about 35 eggs.
But then Peggy Sue the Bourbon Red turkey went broody, and she was only sitting on three turkey eggs. So I slipped 10 duck eggs under her. I figured it was the same incubation period (28 days) so it was worth a shot. Well, some eggs went missing (we marked them), and some got added. But on Tuesday of last week (a few days early) duck babies started to hatch out under Peggy. And I had turkey eggs in the incubator, that also started to hatch (10 out of 11 turkey eggs did hatch in the incubator). So, every time Peggy hatched out a new duck, I took it and replaced it with a turkey. The eggs in my incubator and the eggs under her were only two days apart in terms of hatch date. She took the babies quite readily.
Peggy eventually stopped sitting on the eggs that hadn’t hatched yet, getting distracted with the babies she DID have. So I took what was left and put them in the incubator. Two turkeys and one duck have since hatched from those. So we have babies popping out all over the place.
We gave Peggy a total of 5 babies to look after. Three have since died. I was trying to keep her and the babies penned up (trying to make sure the babies had a high protein feed – while keeping the chickens out of the pen because they will eat the high protein feed themselves). She was pacing back and forth along the wire pen wall, and I suspect that she stepped on the babies that didn’t get out of the way fast enough. I also gave her the two babies that seemed to continually flip over and get stuck upside down when they were in the brooder, so maybe I just gave her some that weren’t all that fit to begin with. But…a few days in, the ones that are left seem to be doing fine. She hunkers down over them out in the field at night. Not the safest option, in terms of predators, but we’ll cross our fingers and hope they make it.
Meanwhile, I’m getting ready to incubate a batch of chicken eggs, and one of my chickens has gone broody as well. So I slipped 5 eggs under her on Saturday. My ultimate goal? To have the ducks, turkeys and chickens do the incubation, and for me to get out of the incubation business.
Meanwhile, we’ve finally made some progress on the 24′ x 32′ quonset hut that we purchased last fall for a screaming deal, only to then spend about $4,000 in permits and foundation work. Sigh. But we’ve had some great friends who are helping put it up, and its great to see progress. Ultimately, the turkeys, ducks, chickens, and rabbits will go into the quonset, with special spots for going “broody”, and then the sheep and goats can have the horse stalls.
I have big plans for a couple of separate unheated greenhouses (really – hoop houses). But in desperation, we converted this old dog pen that was on the property into a temporary one to house tomato starts until I can get them planted. The plastic is just cheap stuff from the home store, and won’t hold up for long. But for about $100, its gotten us through the last month. We took off the old metal roof and replaced it with clear plastic. It gets plenty warm in there when the sun is out, that’s for sure. The “bench” is sitting on two 55 gallon drums of water, for a little extra heat retention at night.
I have spotted asparagus beetles (Crioceris duodecimpunctata) on my asparagus. And honestly, I’m just not all that worried about them. They do less damage than the common asparagus beetle. And they mostly don’t do damage until the plants are in the fern stage anyway. Kind of a cool looking bug, really.
Stuff is still blooming like crazy around here. The Iris are going nuts. And this comfrey plant, which I got from a women who sent me a bit of root in the mail, is just starting to bloom. Comfrey is a great permaculture plant, known for its ability to accumulate minerals from deep in the soil and bring them to the surface. It’s also got a lot of medicinal properties. I’ll probably whack this one down and feed it to the goats and sheep a couple of times this season to keep it from going to seed.
And there’s been a lot of this going on:
The local cottontail rabbits have been getting in to the garden and sampling my peas. They also ate 3 of my broccoli when I first put them out, but have since decided that peas are definitely more tasty. I’ve tried some gopher repellent (a nasty mix of castor oil, garlic and other stinky stuff) and will try some chili powder next. It’s been very frustrating, as peas are SLOW early in the season, and this isn’t helping. Worse case, I’ll net the whole 100 ft row until they get some size to them. I’ve already replanted…twice. Darned rabbits.
And in other milestones, my husband and I celebrated our 15 year wedding anniversary last Thursday. Not bad for going from first getting together to married in 11 months. These rings, by the way are new. They are Damascus Steel. We were tired of our old bands after 15 years, and liked the organic wood grain quality of these, along with the fact that they are very durable. I never take my ring off, so it is exposed to all manner of substances from garden dirt to chicken poo. It needs to be virtually indestructible, and look good at the same time.