Thursday, April 16, 2015

Farm Happenings - Raising a Baby Wood Duck

Last May my daughter came bringing me a baby duck in a shotgun shell box.  It was a very tiny newly hatched bundle of fluff,  my daughter and a friend were taking a walk and the baby came screaming out the woods with a cat hot on it's little tail.  I guess, just as the baby ducks made the big jump from the hole in the tree the cat was waiting at the bottom of the tree for the them.  The cat killed some of the babies and the mother duck was nowhere to be found, my daughter rescued this little duck and brought it to me to care for.
 When she came bringing me this sweet baby I was just a bit mad at her until I had heard the complete story.  I am a firm believer that wild animals need to stay in the wild at all cost.  Once I came to the realization that we had to raise the baby the rush was on to figure out what kind of duck it was and how to care for it.  I raised mallard ducks many years ago but could tell immediately this was no mallard.
We put the baby in a plastic tote with a heat lamp, food and water.  For the first whole day the baby called for it's mother over and over.  The baby duck had a built in instinct to jump for the light in the hole in a tree, which caused it to jump at the heat lamp for an entire day thinking it was jumping for the hole in the tree.  This little duck could jump, climb, and run like nothing I had ever seen.  After much investigating I came to the conclusion we had a baby wood duck.  While searching the internet for as much information as possible on how to care for the baby, we didn't have much luck and most information told us that the odds were not good on raising one.  So I decided I was going to need to figure this out on my own.
I could see that the little duck was not eating or drinking so I decided to put a couple of baby chickens of the same age in with the duckling.  I didn't have any ducklings to put in with it and the feed stores no longer had any to sell.  Putting the baby chicks in the box with the duckling was the best thing we could have done for it.  Without them I don't think it would have survived.  
After one day the duckling no longer called for it's mother and the instinct to jump for the hole in the tree was gone.
The little duck was extremely wild, it didn't want us to look at it, ever!  It would not eat or drink if we looked at it, so we were not sure if it was eating.  The internet was no help on giving information on how to teach the duck to eat, so I began to think, what would the mother be feeding this baby in the wild, what would they be doing right now.  I knew the mother would have them on a pond bank digging around in the mud.  I headed to our pond dipped up a small amount of water and mud and took it to the duck and chicks and stood back out of the view of the duck and watched.  The chicks checked out the mud pretty quick and finally the duck came over and dug threw the mud and slurped up the water.  The next time I dipped up the mud from the pond I checked it out and there was all kinds of crawly, wiggly things in the mud and the duck loved it. 
The chicks taught the duck to eat chick food and they developed a absolute love for cucumbers.  As the three of them grew they became very close little friends and very quickly out grew the plastic tote.

At the time that we acquired this little orphan, I did not know that it was against the law for me to even have the duckling in our possession, it didn't come with a stamp on it's butt that said don't help me no matter what!  It was not my intention to take a duckling from the wild and raise to be a pet.  That said, now you all know it is against the law to have a wild duck.
We did not handle the duckling, it absolutely hated to be touch, we kept it as wild as possible. The duck loved her chicken pals and really wanted nothing to do with us.  It grew very quickly and I figured out early on that I was pretty sure it was a female.  The picture above on the right was in my goldfish pond.  That was not a great idea, I tied a string to her leg to allow her  to swim for a bit, she was so wild and afraid of us though that she really did not enjoy that.

So I decided just to give her an old was basin with some water in it.  She would not get in the basin if I was watching.  So I would give her the bowl, then step away, when I hear splashing I could sneak back up and watch.  Her chicken friends thought it was a bit strange for her to jump in the water bowl and flop around like that.

She grew into a beautiful duck so fast.  At this time we had moved them  into the dog pen with an old dog house converted into a duck/chicken coop. We hadn't planned on a duck, so we did not have duck accommodations. Each night, her and her two chickens friends would get in the dog house to sleep.  During the day, she would fly over the pen, investigate the yard and in the evening she would want back in the pen with her friends.  I said, it won't be long and she will find our big pond.  Well I was right, she would head up to the pond during the day and back to the dog house at night.  This past winter she released herself into the wild for good.  She heard the call of the wild and it was more than she could stand and she left our loving farm never to return again.  I'm happy for her and I hope that she is now raising some young ducklings of her own.
She was so interesting and I enjoyed her so much.  She was nothing like the mallards that we had raised many years ago.  Since she has left our farm I began looking for farms that sale these wonderful birds and I finally found Mallard Lane Farms.  I have since ordered one male wood duck and two female wood ducks.  The females are silver splits, so if later on I happen to order a silver male then we could have silver babies.  How exciting is that!!  You probably don't have a clue as to what I'm talking about unless you check out Mallard Lane Farms.   They have the most beautiful water fowl I've ever seen.  They were very helpful and easy to deal with on my order and my birds showed up absolutely beautiful and healthy.   Head over to their Facebook page and give them a like, you'll love the photos and you just might fall in love the ducks!
Have a great day!
Photos below are of the ducks acquired from Mallard Lane Farms.

This is our beautiful male wood duck.  He makes a really neat high pitched squeak, they higher and louder his squeak gets, the bigger his green mo hawk on his head grows.  So funny!
Woody and his girl friends, they are very shy and hard to get good photos of.  Head over to Mallard farms for good fowl photos.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Got mountains of manure? Plant taters.

Here on the poultry farm we have no shortage of chicken manure, we seem to have piles sitting all around the farm.  Each spring we spread some on the garden but a garden can only use so much manure.  So we have what seems like mountains of poo.

We continually add to this pile, so one side of this mountain is nicely rotted down and composted into  rich,  loamy soil ready to use.  The others side of the mountain is still pretty hot and needs to sit a bit longer before used.
My garden spot is still to wet to plant and I have a bad case of spring fever, so I'm going to put this pile to good use.   I've never tried this before but it should work out just fine.

I took my shovel and  broke up the surface of the pile a bit.  As you can see, my two lovely helpers decide this is where they could get involved. 

I took my seed potatoes and cut them into pieces, like my grandpa Johnny Wagner taught me, he always said to leave each piece at least two eyes.

Be sure top plant them eyes facing up.  This might be old news for some of you experienced gardeners but believe it or not there are some folks out there that have never planted a tater before. 
If you have a compost pile, a pile of dead leaves or grass clippings you can use that to stick your potatoes in also.

I turned my back for just a second to pick up the hoe and cover the potatoes and look who steels one and runs off to eat it.  Not sure why but he'll do back flips for raw potatoes.

 I also stuck a few onion sets in at the same time.

Once I was finished poking around in the pile, I covered the area with some old chicken wire.  This will keep the chickens from digging around on their free range days.
If you have a neat space saving way to plant potatoes, leave it in the comments below so that others can see your great ideas.
Have a great day!