Thursday, August 11, 2016

Poultry Yard Dynamics

Our backyard is quite the happening place.

It's not only where 4 dogs live (occasionally) and where a busy toddler plays, but has become home to a flock of 11 Silver Appleyard ducks and 3 young Tufted Buff geese.

Actually, the dogs opt to live indoors more often than not. I think it's getting a bit too crowded for them out there. Not to mention the webbed invaders have commandeered their water bowl.

Even though they have 3 different pools to play in, there is just something so fascinating about this little stainless steel dog bowl.
I was originally hoping that the ducks and geese would become one flock, but that hasn't proven too hopeful.

Although they are tolerating each other a little bit more.

Nevertheless, with 7 more duckling joining the poultry yard this weekend (well, minus 3 hens that will serve as payment to their foster mama), I decided to give the geese their own space.

Luckily we were gifted some chain-link dog kennel panels that nobody was using anymore. Those always come in handy on a homestead! They are easy to put up and take down, and can be modified to hold just about anything, from birds to rabbits to goats.

I still need to cover the top, but they should live quite comfortably in their night pen.

Even though they aren't really aggressive to the ducks, they do run them off their food and out of their space (it's a goose thing). The smaller ducklings are more prone to injury from trampling, so everyone will benefit from this new arrangement.

Now that everybody's feathers are coming in, I can get an idea of their color and pattern. I won't know for sure what everybody will look like until they molt their juvenile feathers and get their adult plumage, however.

The hen in the foreground is my favorite, so she is the only one with a name so far: Evette
We have quite an assortment!

My original plan was to collect hatching eggs from the nicest hens out of the flock at the parents' farm (the ones with the most correct body type and colors/patterns), but the finest hen disappeared before I could get her eggs.

The remaining hens at the farm were a silver colored and a dilute or blue colored hen. Both of them are a bit small in body size, but they were all I had left to work with.

We also kept a blue drake (we just never got around to culling him), so we ended up with a lot of eggs from a blue x blue cross, which isn't really recommended for the breed.

Although I have to say, the plumage on these ducklings is very lovely! In fact, I think the blue Appleyards look more silver than the silver ones.

We also ended up with one white, 2 mallard and 2 silver (so far).

So why so much variation? They are purebred, right?

These guys are out of  Holderread's stock. The purpose of their breeding facility is preservation first and foremost, so to maintain a stronger gene pool, they allow for a little more variation in their phenotypes than the average hatchery.

They do offer show quality birds as well, which have been pulled from the best representations of their breed.

So it's up to me to choose the best examples from my flock to further my own lines.

We'll see where I get with my second generation hatches, but I may need to introduce a few hens with better body size and more correct plumage.

I kept back one normal colored drake at the farm, and I will use him to cover these hens.

I will also be on the lookout for at least a pair of nice Appleyards to incorporate into my flock.

I am extremely happy at the gender ratio from this hatch, nevertheless!

The sound of quacking hens is music to my ears!

Still loving my Tufted Buff geese.

They are so intelligent and inquisitive.

What is this vine and what does it do??

They've gotten to where they will allow me to pet them. If I squat down they will come over and talk to me and nibble on me. Ian sees this and will come over and try the same, but he just hasn't mastered being calm and gentle around the birds yet (he is only 2, after all). I'm not sure he would enjoy their little "love bites" anyhow.

He still gets to enjoy them in other ways.

In the heat of the day, I refresh the birds' water so they have a way to cool down. Ian enjoys playing with the hose, and spraying any living thing within a 20 ft radius.

The dogs, of course, head for the hills, but the waterfowl enjoy a nice "rain shower."

When they get super excited they take off and fly around the yard.

The chickens enjoy visiting the backyard too, and I don't mind it so much because they come into the duck pen and stir the bedding.

Even though the ducks aren't in there all day, the combination of constant spilling water and feed makes for a sour, tamped down, smelly mess if it isn't turned regularly. Their bedding also needs to have a continuous supply of fresh carbonaceous material, otherwise it would turn into a mud flat.

I've been using a combination of cypress mulch and pine shavings.

The chickens do a great job of fluffing it up, helping to keep the smell and the bugs at a minimum.

Today was the moment of truth for the 20 chicken eggs in the incubator.

I was able to use a small flashlight to candle the white duck eggs, but the chicken eggs have darker shells (especially the Welsummers) so this method wasn't cutting it.

So we went ahead and ordered an actual candler.

It looks to me like all 20 are viable, with only 3 or 4 that were questionable (but that had more to do with the pattern and thickness of some of the eggs). Time will indeed tell!

So then we will have the age old question of where to put everybody.

I'll probably have to split the chicks and send some with my brother's family to raise, at least until they are big enough to go to the farm.

I'm eager to see what they look like!

We are going to be busy, busy around here.

Shared on: Our Simple Homestead Blog Hop, Clever Chicks Blog Hop

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