The following piece is part of a regular column in the local newspaper that Brenda writes, often inspired by our farm journey and adventures. It first appeared in The Chautauqua in 2012.
Today’s the first day of spring and there is definitely a touch of the fever around here.
As we move back into farming – we are trying to learn the skills related to each enterprise that would allow us to be able to be self-sustaining, if we need to be. This means learning how to start seeds and how to save them so that we are not dependent on other growers. It doesn’t mean that we won’t buy seeds or plants from others, but at least we know how to do these things if we want or need to. This is a principle we are also applying to our animal enterprises.
Last year we had very little involvement in the hatching of our ducklings. We had two females and when we were offered a drake – we added him to the clutch. A few weeks later the two girls were gone. As we had recently witnessed one of them learning to fly, we thought they must have taken a trip. After they had been gone for over a month – we began to think that we would not see them again. However a few weeks later they returned with 9 ducklings and took up home in our coop. Natural birthing indeed!
Of those nine – 5 were male, so late October saw us learning to butcher and we’ve enjoyed a dinner of roast duck a few times this winter. The 4 females joined Naomi and Wynonna (our two original ducks, mother and daughter) in the coop all winter.
This past weekend we brought home a new drake. He’s come from a home that included lots of males competing for female attention so we figure that the 6:1 female to male ratio is in his favour and we’re hoping nature will work in our favour again.
A few weeks ago we also introduced a rooster into our henhouse, hoping to get some fertile eggs to incubate in the upcoming weeks. We are not counting on our whole flock to come from eggs we are incubating ourselves. This year is about learning and experimenting with the new-to-us incubator we just bought.
What all this means is that I now feel a bit like a madam running a brothel. Two of our windows look directly across the yard to the coop so I can watch the goings ons during the day. I find myself observing the actions of our ducks and, as it seems they are getting along well, trying to rig up nest boxes that our ducks will like as it is still too cold for them to be taking off into the woods to nest.
I am also wondering what to do about the fact that our rooster is hanging out with the ‘wrong’ chickens: we would prefer he mated with our 4 heritage hens and not our Isa Browns. I am pondering locking him and his four girlfriends in a separate pen to ensure he pays proper attention to them but I don’t know what may be going on inside the coop and perhaps this is unnecessary.
I know I shouldn’t count my chickens before they hatch but I feel like I should do what I can to ensure the eggs are fertilized. So in the spirit of the spring equinox, this weekend I may just crank up the stereo, put on Louis Prima’s “Just a Gigolo” and get to work on those nesting boxes.