Homestead Happenings #6

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Welcome to Volume 6 of the Homestead Happenings, a sort-of-monthly peek into what's going on behind the blog.

Spring is always full-to-the-brim with things that need to be done right now, and changeable weather that doesn't always allow for outside work. And yet spring in Oklahoma is short-lived, giving way quickly to weather that is too hot for outside work (at least for me). It's always a race to get as much done as possible before the weather gets out of hand. Keeping the lawn mowed, getting the garden planted and keeping it weeded, spring cleaning, brushing the dead winter hair out of the horses' and our big dog's coat, repairing and building... It's easy to become overwhelmed.

Earlier in spring my younger black-and-white Muscovy hen, Sharon, hatched 16 little ducklings. I was out of town when that happened, and my farm sitter, bless her heart, caught all those babies and took them home with her so the male duck wouldn't hurt them.

Three weeks later, my chocolate-and-white duck hen, Cora, hatched 15 more little ducklings. We had ducklings coming out of our ears for several weeks, and if you're familiar with ducklings, you know that they spend most of their time playing in the waterer and making a stinky mess of their brooder bedding. That meant changing their bedding and cleaning the brooder at least once a day.

And then my 25 Rhode Island red chicks arrived in the mail, and for a week I was completely overwhelmed. I took the ducklings to a livestock-and-poultry auction the first week of May out of self-preservation. (I've found that buyers have more money to spend at the beginning of the month. Plus by waiting to make one trip to the auction barn, I saved gas money.)

It's been interesting to compare the chicks to the ducklings. The ducklings never escaped from their brooder, being content to stay put and play in the water. The chicks, on the other hand, have already begun roosting on top of the waterer and feeder, playing King of the Hill to decide which four get to claim the high perches. And from there it was an easy hop out of the brooder and on to the mudroom floor, testing their partially-feathered wings. I quickly found another piece of wire mesh for a "roof" to keep those little chicks where they belong.

Although Muscovy ducklings grow very quickly, they are slow to feather out. Chicks, on the other hand, are slower-growing but start growing feathers in just a few days after they hatch. At two weeks of age, the chicks had feathered wings that contributed to their flightiness. When ducklings do begin growing feathers they come in on the tail first, but my month-old babies still hadn't started growing tail feathers yet when they went to auction.

Rhode Island Red chick at one month old.

The ducklings were friendlier than the chicks have been, and in my opinion they have more personality than chicks. When the waterers were empty they called loudly, but changed their vocalization when they saw me, cheeping quietly as though talking to me, or maybe talking about me, I'm not sure. I fall in love with ducklings quite easily.

When the older ducklings were big enough, I moved them to a pen inside the chicken coop. Each morning and evening when I opened their pen door to refill their feeder and waterers, they'd toddle out the door and walk in a line to the chickens' large three-gallon waterer to play. After I'd finished cleaning their pen and replaced their waterers the ducks reversed their steps, returning to their pen in a single-file line of their own accord.

Muscovy duckling at approximately one month.

While the ducklings recognized me as "mom," the chicks evidently saw me as an intruder. Catching sight of me sent them scurrying and flying into the corners of the brooder, squawking with alarm. A few of the chicks will now perch on my hand and let me pet them and coo over them, but on the whole they aren't as friendly and calm as the ducklings were.

Now that the Muscovy babies have gone to new homes, the brooder-cleaning chores have lessened and I can work on other projects. But I don't think I'll ever finish my spring to-do list, it's just too long and the season is too short.

This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops

Previous issues of Homestead Happenings: 

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  1. Them little ducklings are adorable. The baby chicks as well but them ducklings stole my heart.
    Had been born and raised on an Iowa farm, the baby ducks where always my favorite. I had one that was a pet and as it got older it would follow me everywhere.
    Like your horseshoe but having it that way; you're letting all the luck run out. Pt a 'smile' on that horseshoe and turn up the other way and keep all that good luck inside the horseshoe. :}
    Thanks for sharing pictures of your cute and adorable farm babies.
    Have an enjoyable day.

    1. Hi Colleen! Lucky you, growing up on a farm; what a wonderful childhood! Yes, my dad told me the same thing, that horseshoes should be hung the other way so that they will hold good luck. I've never heard anyone else say that! The horseshoe in the photo isn't mine though, so I can't change it. I hope the owners have good luck even with their upside-down horseshoe. :-)

  2. We haven't raised ducks, but I completely agree with you that our chicks see us less as a mom and more as an intruder. That is the perfect description. This morning I walked into the room we keep the chicks and the moment I started talking to them they scattered to the corners of their coop! Rhode Island Reds were our first, and were our favorites. This time around we have some Leghorns and Comets. Thanks for sharing at the #wastelesswednesday blog hop!

    1. I feel better knowing it isn't just me that scares them to death!

  3. The ducklings are adorable. I'm enjoying Stella and her chicks right now. I hope some day I get to experience ducklings.


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