Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Hatching Season has Begun!

I've been keeping our facebook page up-to-date, but I thought it was time to write a blog post...

We set our first batches of eggs last week!

11 goose eggs and 35 (yes, THIRTY-FIVE) duck eggs.

I candled today, and it's looking like 50% fertility for the goose eggs and 90% for the duck eggs.

That isn't too bad for early season eggs, but it could be better. (I'm sure that has more to do with incubation/handling than breeding/nutrition issues).

We invested in a second incubator, and I'm starting to wish we had a third!

If we bought a third incubator and designated it as a hatcher, I could keep batches of eggs going all of the time, and just move them to third one for hatching.

Hand turning 35 duck eggs three times a day is a bit of a chore, but I was iffy about the automatic turner designed for this model. There were a lot of complaints about the motor heating up and causing temperature spikes.

There isn't much room for turning, so I came up with a system that allows me to turn the eggs efficiently.

I simply remove the upper row, gently roll each row up, and then add back in the final row.

Maybe one day we will invest in a totally automated system, but for now we need to start small.

That said, if all goes well, this will be our largest hatch to date!

We will be ready!

Now that I've filled the incubators, I'm going to have some hatching eggs available for purchase.

Unfortunately, due to import state laws, I cannot ship outside of TN until we are NPIP certified.

The county agent was scheduled to come out yesterday, but he got called away to an avian flu outbreak in Lincoln county. So it will be a few weeks.

Not much to report on house and property improvements, since we're on a very tight budget right now.

We just work on things as we can. Mostly little things. The biggest little accomplishment was tearing down that god-awful basketball net (or what was left of it).

Now I see a great place for a farm sign! 😍

Although the barn could really use a new coat of paint first..........

So while we eagerly await our first hatchlings, we are enjoying the first signs of spring appearing around us.

This will be our first spring at the new homestead, after all!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Homestead Update 2.16.17

What a wacky winter, is all I have to say!

We have had a few cold nights where we were able to really fire up our new wood stove, but by and large it's continued to be exceptionally mild.

The eggs are starting to trickle in, with the ducks in the front lines.

Four out of seven hens are now laying, and we got our first goose egg this morning!

Freyja was acting broody, so I knew it was only a matter of time.

I won't begin collecting duck eggs for hatching until all of them are producing, and preferably after my dilute gander is out of the mix. I still haven't had the heart to cull him, since he's such a beauty. I'd rather him go to somebody who could use him for their breeding program.

I did finally catch the last two Muscovy drakes and sell them off over the weekend, and as soon as I can catch the wayward hen she will also be sold.

We will probably be hatching goose eggs first, as soon as both females are laying. I would also like to order at least a pair of goslings from Metzer farms to add to my flock for more genetic diversity.

I made the realization that Worth It Farms (where I've been wanting to order Ancona ducks from) is just 30 odd miles outside of Atlanta. It would make either a nice day trip to pick up hatching eggs, or I could get my sister and her fiance to pick them up for me, since they live in Atlanta.

But one thing at a time.

The rabbitry is overflowing at the moment - literally!

I ran out of cage space (need to hang more cages) so I turned the grow outs loose on the floor.

Which they (and Ian) enjoy immensely.

One of the benefits of having an enclosed rabbitry.

We have had a few escapees, however. Most of the time they turn right back around and run inside, but one has decided he wants to be a yard rabbit.

He (or she) has been surviving quite well on foraged greens and taking shelter in our giant woodpile for the past 2 weeks. We have thus far been unable to catch him (nor has our rabbit killing dog, Mika). Oh well. I am impressed with its resourcefulness!

As for the rest of the rabbits, we have some very colorful litters currently, and I'm excited to finally have some lightly marked broken reds.

I'm seeing a lot of gold-tipped steels as well, primarily thrown by Ace the broken black New Zealand.

It's such a pretty color, I definitely want to keep it in my rabbitry.

The goats have finally been moved out of the soggy garden.

We added some more kennel panels to expand their pen, and used an extra privacy fence panel as a deck to prop their camper top barn up on.

They even have a nice little porch to lounge on.

Nothing fancy, but it works.

It's nice because it keeps them higher and drier, which is a good thing for a goat. They've both been having some skin and foot issues this winter, especially Nutmeg. Luckily I've been able to address them with natural remedies, and hopefully I can head off these problems sooner by next winter.

Luckily, I finally bought the perfect tool to help me with this extra maintenance.......

While goat stands aren't terribly complicated to build, we opted to buy one due to time constraints.

It is very well built from solid oak, and I'm sure it will last us a very long time.

Ian had to give it a try. :)

We bought it from a local goat dairy, which offered both mini and standard sizes. We decided the mini would probably fit them better, but the keyhole was a bit too small.

But it was easy enough to fix by moving the hook and eye.

I've made a couple of trial runs with it, and it's obvious they have both been trained to the stand before. I'm so happy to have it!

Ultimately, of course, it will serve as a milking stand. But that will be awhile......

For now we are still learning about them and enjoying their company.

Mild days have been great for outside play and exploration.

... and not just for the kid!

We had the best fishing float on the Caney that we can remember - probably because of the full moon.

Spring is so close we can taste it......

....... although it has kind of felt like spring all winter!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Gearing up for the Hatching Season

Maybe it's the exceptionally mild winter weather, but I find myself getting spring fever already.

The biggest project this spring (other than continuing to fix up our homestead) will be building up our heritage bird flocks.

We finally sold off our extra male ducks, reserving only the best of the best which I will be hatching from.

Now if only they would start laying.....

It really should be any day.

Any day, now [taps foot].

Everybody is in vibrant health and really holding onto their feathers, and there is definitely lots of courting and mating going on. So it's got to be soon!

I probably won't set any eggs until at least next month, but we'll see how things go.

We still need to re-organize our garage to make room for brooders. Re-organize is an understatement, since we can barely get inside the door, at the moment. (Sorry, no pics - I'm too embarrassed.)

It would be nice to upgrade our incubation system from our single, still-air styrofoam unit, but all in due time.

Our main focus will be increasing our breeding flocks, but I have had a good number of inquiries about goslings, ducklings and hatching eggs. I just have to make sure I save plenty for us!

I would also love to add some more breeds.

We have a handsome Faverolle rooster, but he has no Faverolle hens (not that he minds, he has a colorful harem).

We sold off all of his sons not too long ago. They were nice and very lovely, but the hens weren't enjoying their ceaseless harassment.

So we we went ahead and pre-ordered some Faverolle hatching eggs from a family farm up north. We probably won't be receiving them until at least April.

I'm looking into other colorful heritage chicken breeds as well.

I love Marans and Barnevelders. Can we take a moment to admire the Blue Double-Laced Barnevelder?

Yes. WANT.

I'd like to offer a wide variety of feathers in my shop, in addition to preserving multiple breeds.

I also love Cayuga and Ancona ducks. Both are dual-purpose and would have nice plumage for craft sales - and colorful eggs!

Some strains of Anconas lay a rainbow of duck eggs, not unlike "Easter Egger" chickens.

Anconas themselves come in a wide range of colors, and they all have individual spotted patterns: black, blue, lavender, chocolate, silver, lilac and lavender.

Worth It Farms
Cayugas have that eye-catching, beetle green iridescence.

Image result for cayuga duck
Purely Poultry
They also lay a black and grey speckled egg, but this fades a bit as the season wears on.

Image result for cayuga duck egg

But one thing at a time.

For now I will work on preparing for the hatching season, and eagerly anticipating those first eggs...........