Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Critter Care

The barn has been quite a busy place lately with some 30+ chickens, 16 ducks, 4 geese, 2 quail, 1 llama and 2 horses.  Most of the older chickens are going through molt, which means they don't lay eggs while they do it (too stressful) and the younger ones haven't started laying yet (but several should).  The only productive hens are the Barnevelders, and there are only four of them.  They each lay maybe 3 eggs a week if I'm lucky, so I maybe get a dozen or so.  I have two older hens who are still laying every other day or every two or three days.  Today, I got an extra green egg which shows that one of the other Easter Eggers have started laying again.  That's good, because I've actually resorted to some storebought eggs.

Out of the first seven chicks hatched in July, five are pullets and two are cockerels.  The batch of four  after have at least one cockerel.  The last batch is two cockerels and two pullets.  The lone Olive Egger is too young to tell, but I'm hoping for a pullet.  Most of the cockerels will go to freezer camp, but there is one out of the third batch I'm keeping because he's so beautiful.  I'll keep the Olive Egger too, regardless of sex.

Ducks lay seasonally, so there aren't any duck eggs currently.  Come spring and summer, I have a feeling I'll be inundated with duck eggs.  I have at least 9 female ducks, which means plenty of eggs, but duck eggs are highly seasonal.  I'm right now trying to decide who stays and who goes to freezer camp.  I have 2 Rouen or Mallard drakes, 2 Cayuga Drakes and 2 or 3 mixed drakes.  I love the mixed drakes because one is a Blue Swedish/Khaki Campbell cross and is blue.  The other one is a Cayuga mix.  So, I'm really tempted to put one of the Rouens and one of the Cayugas into freezer camp, and then make a decision after that. 

The geese also lay seasonally.  My Toulouse and African pair, Louise and Eequa, are marginal parents at best, so when they lay, I'll gather the eggs and probably incubate them myself.  The two Chinese Brown geese are too alike to determine if they're a male and female pair, but I have a hunch they might be.

Lately, the weather has been warm enough (above freezing) to keep the water liquid in the waterers.  It's tough to keep them all in water when it dips below freezing.  What I usually have to do is use heaters to heat the horses' trough, the llama's and ducks' water, and I have an outdoor heating pad that I put the Barnevelders' water on.  I end up moving frozen waterers onto the Barnevelders' pad and refilling the waterers with water from the horses' trough.  Those that don't have heat end up getting the ice chipped out of them.  It takes quite a bit, but they're all glad when they have water

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