Hobby Farm Random Ramblings

No pips yet! Come on little ones, you can make it!
While I'm waiting for eggs to hatch, I thought I'd write about the other happenings here at the hobby farm.
I haven't written much yet on this blog about the ducks, but we've been discussing various things over on the BYC NY Chicken Lover's thread. One of the things that came up was ducks. Here's some of what I wrote:

I have 10 Muscovy ducks - one of which froze her feet last week, but must have heard me talking about culling her. So, she's been making great attempts to recover, eating just fine, her feet haven't turned black, etc. Tuesday night she went under the coop, even though I'd blocked it off with hay, she pushed it down & it was impossible for me to get her out. So, I left her there, expecting that she'd not make it the night, even though she'd seemed to be doing better. Yesterday morning, when I began filling their water & food bowls, out she came - walking normal! I picked her up & her feet were no longer frozen stiff like a board, but could move! I let her eat by herself for a few minutes before letting out all the others. Now, I just have to see if she continues to make a comeback. 

I just keep adding mulch hay to the rooster & duck's coop, and it's frozen solid there. I won't go into too much details, but let's just say "what goes in, must come out." The roosters usually sleep in one half of coop on the roosts, opposite the ducks, but sometimes they sleep right over top of the ducks. Of course the ducks don't bother moving, and in the morning they look a mess. No wonder they want to take a bath, even when it's below freezing! I would too, if I slept under a chicken at night! 
Thawed a little yesterday (acutally got above freezing in a LONG time), but didn't have time to attack any of the coops or poop trays. It's been so cold that everything freezes solid, making it next to impossible to clean the coops. That's going to be quite the job, after shoveling off the compost pile, so I have somewhere to put it all. It's the longest I've gone without cleaning the poop boards/trays, but they're only in two of the coops. The other three coops don't have any, and I think I prefer the poop trays. It doesn't make less work, but I don't have to add fresh litter as often. 
Oh, the Swedish Flower Hen Coop - the top half is an old truck cap, and with the warmer temps yesterday, the roof started leaking! So, I have to clean the snow off the roof, and since the coop is tall & on a side hill & I'm short, it'll require a ladder. Haven't cleaned off any other of the coops' roofs, but they should be ok as they're slanted, not flat like the truck cap roof. 

Only have two bags of wood pellets left & no shavings for litter. There's a place "near us" that makes grass pellets from hay, they're almost out, but will make me up a batch for coop litter. 
I like how the wood pellets expand, and their absorbency better than shavings.  But I don't like how sometimes the chickens or little chicks eat the "sawdust". So I thought if they are grass/hay pellets, at least it wouldn't hurt them if they did "accidentally" mistake them for food. Plus it's more "green" / sustainable than wood - and they're actually cheaper per ton than TSC wood pellets. 
I was telling someone last night that I've already used 2 tons of wood pellets since I started using them, which was perhaps the end of 2011 or early 2012. The last ton has lasted since fall 2013. But even still, they're expensive to purchase all at the same time! Perhaps today, well pick up a few bales of shavings to hold me over until the grass pellets are ready to be picked up. I don't mind shavings, but they're not my preference, as they seem to not "fluff up again" as easily & take much longer to decompose. Plus, when "spot cleaning" the coops, it's harder, whereas the expanded wood pellets (when they're not frozen like now) - I can almost "sift out" the poop from the hot spots & leave the wood pellets to be reused again. Even though the shavings are probably less $ per cubic foot, I find myself having to add them more often. So, I often mix them with the wood pellets & the two do well together. We'll see how the grass pellets do, but since I've used them for kitty litter at the animal shelter, they're pretty similar, just much darker in color.

I have yet to figure out what I'm going to do with the ducks this year when they start laying eggs. Last year I put fake eggs in the nest, which was either a igloo, kitty litter box, etc - all of which was inside the covered yard, so they'd be safe at night when sitting on the eggs. I don't have any nesting boxes or similar in their coop now, and no covered yard. I'd like to have a separate area for the ducks to sit on their eggs & raise their young. If we were planning on staying here for a long time, then I could just build away. But, we're not, so I'm trying to keep things movable, which means it either has to be small or on wheels. I've learned the hard way the past two years that they have to be separated, since the moms aren't good babysitters, compared the broody hens. They'll leave the ducklings unattended for too long, they get into trouble, get hurt or killed. Finally, last year I put the survivors & the mother in a movable pen & most of those made it. But, I only have one of those pens and a lot less yard to be moving them around on, with a neighbor dog that would pester them, running circles around the pen if I had it outside of the main chicken yard. If I kept the young ducklings & moms in where the ducks are now, I'd have to add small wire to the bottom of the fence, or they'd walk right through the 2"x4" welded wire fencing into the neighbor dog's mouth. But, for right now, I don't have to be concerned, as there's plenty of snow that has to melt first, then they have to lay the eggs and sit on them for about 35 days. Hopefully, by that time, I'll have it figured out!