The ducks have grown quite a bit in the last week.
They learn very fast! Today we found and gave them some rolly polly bugs. At first they were skeptical, but after a minute or two one of them mustered up enough courage to gobble one down. First bug snack! Then the gossip began and they were all searching for these yummy living (and moving) snacks.
Today was also their first bath in a shallow pan of water. Good times. It wasn’t quite enough water for them to float around in properly but it was enough to get everyone really amped. Tomorrow we’re gonna use a deeper pan and see how they handle it. My buddy Wes found a kiddy pool in an ally by a dumpster for their pond. Upcycle. Once it warms up I’ll set up a little fenced area for them to play in. I think its still to cool to let them too far away from the heat lamp. They don’t have their feathers yet, just fuzz.
According to Dave Holderread in his article Raising Ducks, ducks are better layers than chickens! Not only do they lay more but the eggs are usually bigger (around 5 -8 ounces more per dozen) AND they keep longer in storage than chicken eggs. It is also true that a full grown duck does consume 20-30 percent more than a full grown chicken, but the duck is a better forager and can get a lot of its food free range in the yard. Ducks are also much hardier than chickens and can withstand cooler climates.
Our ducks finally came! We’d been waiting all Winter to start raising ducks, so this is exciting stuff.
We ordered 7 and they sent us 8. Bonus duck! Clearly a sign from the duck gods that we need more than a mere 7. Post office called early Weds morning, informed us our ducks had arrived, we rushed giddily to pick them up. When we walked into the main room of the post office we could hear their little chirps! It was like Christmas morning.
They came in a little cardboard box (with air holes in it) that weighed practically nothing. They all arrived safe and sound and REALLY hungry. I ran to the feed store and got chick feed and their waterer. Decided on the big waterer because they grow fast and I don’t wanna have to buy a bigger one later or have to fill up their water more than once a day.
Damn they are cute.
A few years ago I got the book Four Season Harvest by Elliot Coleman. Among many other gardening methods the book has inspired, the chapter on how ducks are wonderful garden helpers sparked my interest in raising ducks. They can be fed on kitchen scraps and they eat garden pests. And they are full of lively entertainment!
Duck eggs are more nutritiously dense than chicken eggs and ducks are prolific layers. I’ve done quite a bit of research on the cyber web, and one place with useful step by step info is at the New Agrarian. This is a great blog for info on raising ducks for the first time.
We ordered the ducks from Metzer Farms. I heard good things about them online and they have a great reputation for treating their animals humanely. Their prices seemed competitive also. They had a large selection of duck breeds as well as geese, guineas, turkeys, and pheasants.
We ordered 3 Indian runners, 2 Hybrid 300 layers, and 2 white layers, and we got a BONUS (mystery) duck, which we think is another Indian runner. The Hybrid and white layers are bred to lay over 300 eggs a year. That’s almost an egg a day per duck!
I built a little 4′ by4′ brooder out of scrap wood. A brooder is just a pen where the ducklings can stay safe, warm and contained when they are small. A heat lamp is clipped to the side of their pen which keeps the temperature at about 90•F. The bottom is layered with straw. The brooder is locked in the garage/glass studio/beer brewery station #1 — to keep them safe from the Caballero, our indoor/outdoor cat.
In early March, I started my garden indoors in trays. More than a dozen different kinds of heirloom tomatoes, New Mexico green chillies, eggplant, (one) okra, purple sprouting broccoli, de cicco broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, kale, mustard greens, and spring onions and leeks.
Everything is doing really well. About a month later, started a bunch of cucumbers and some melons (mostly pickling cucumbers and a few long tasty Asian varieties).
I made my own potting mix using worm poop(!) , peat moss, perlite, and a random bag of compost from the store. It works well, holds moister really well, stays evenly moist, and by the look of the plants – has plenty of available nutrients. It also smells really good.
In the tunnels we’ve sown a few different lettuces, arugula, bok choi, spinach, tat soi(a cold & hardy relative of pak choi), and a Mesclun mix that boomed.
We made 2 tunnels using 1/2″ PVC, bent and stuck in the ground, with painters plastic draped over, then buried the edges of the plastic.
One of the tunnels came loose during a crazy wind storm a week ago. Other than that, they’ve held up well, and I’m actually surprised at how well they work. They really help the germination rate by keeping the soil moist and the air humid (especially useful here in Colorado where its pretty arid). I think I only spent about 15$ for both the PVC and plastic, and still have plastic to make another one.
I use soaker hoses and drip irrigation all throughout the garden. It really saves water – and waters more effectively. That’s my big secret for gardening in Colorado. The dirt is good – we just don’t get that much rainfall, especially in the middle of summer. Soakers and drips are hooked to a timer that waters for 15 minutes at 5AM (which is a very good time to water).
We put the broccoli starts in the ground a few weeks ago and they are starting to grow now. We covered them with plastic containers with the bottoms cut out. Now they are starting to outgrow them, so I took them off.
Some of the broccoli are kinda weak in the stem, so I’m hoping a little breeze will toughen them up.
The potatoes (below) are being experimented on this year.
I’m growing them in big chickenwire baskets. As they grow, I’m going to cover them with straw and/or dirt – to the top of the baskets.
Supposedly with this method, you can get the same amount of potatoes from one basket as a 40′ row!
Last Fall, our landlord gave us a bunch of strawberry plants from her garden.
We planted them pretty late, so I was worried they wouldn’t survive the winter. But it looks as though around at least half of them made it through. We also inter-planted garlic with the strawberries that will be harvested this summer (hopefully a years supply).
Below is the compost: I just tied some pallets together with bailing twine to make a box! (Next to it is the FREE wheel barrow I scored off my buddy Craigslist. It still has the $40 home depot price tag on the side).
That’s about it for now. Our ducks should be arriving this week (!) so I’ll be sure to get lots of pictures. That’s right –ducks! We ordered 7 females so we can raise them and eat their eggs.