Field Update

I have a love/hate relationship with my vegetable field. I love the challenges of clearing land that is overgrown with clover, ragweed, grass, and maple trees – but I hate when it starts to get the best of me! This time of year it’s a bit of a race to get land cleared and plants in before the supreme heat of summer arrives.

This year the weather went from winter to summer overnight – so I didn’t get as much land cleared as I wanted before my seedlings were ready to go into the ground. The new greenhouse is staged right near the field, making transplanting a much simpler process than last year. I’ve been using duck pond water to water the seedlings – my rain barrel project is a little behind – and the manure rich water is a natural fertilizer.

This pic is a great example of the challenge: this small bed is for eggplant. It’s halfway cleared of saplings, stones, clover, ragweed, duckweed, and grasses.

 

I’ll have nearly 100 tomato plants when all is said and done. They range in size from 2oz Chocolate Pear (a huge hit last year) up to 2lb Belarussian Heart. I’ll have red, yellow, pink, orange, and brown. My tomato plants are stronger and taller than last year – the first batch went into the ground last week and the second round will go in a few more. I’ll likely have three beds of tomatoes when all is said and done.

I planted the first round of peppers in the second bed of tomatoes. These also have a large size range – from small Lilac Bells up to 5″ Ozark Giants (a bell variety) and the 9″ Jimmy Nardello Italian (a long, thin variety). I’m growing a few new varieties this year – including chili peppers – so I can heat up my curry sauce and offer both mild and hot salsas. My clients are already asking for salsa and I’m planning to be well-prepared to meet demand!

Last year my squash plants were a disaster, but this year shows great promise. The bed is in a shadier spot, the soil has more clay (to better hold water) and the down slope should help the vines spread easily. Zucchini and Crookneck (yellow) squash are so tasty in stir-fries and on the grill – I can’t wait for the blossoms to turn to fruit! I have three other small, uncommon varieties – it’s so nice to use a seed company that offers unique items.

Onions and potatoes a thriving – they’ve been in the ground since early March and are getting close to harvest time. I need to get my second round of onions into the ground, not to mention sweet potatoes and a round of russet potatoes.

Cantaloupe and watermelon are below the potatoes. This section is near the edge of the field and the massive trees on the old fence line will help shade the plants in the afternoon. This is my first attempt at melons and my fingers are crossed. I love cantaloupe (so do my chickens) so I planted lots. My roommate loves watermelons so I planted a few of those for her – its a non-traditional variety called Orange-Glo and I’m hoping its less fibrous (I really do not like watermelon).

This may be the bed I’m most excited about – Okra and Corn! This hot, dry ground should be the perfect spot for these warm-weather loving vegetables. Okra is one of my most favorite things so I’ve planted 30 plants this year. I’m growing my consistent favorite (Gold Coast) and two new-to-me varieties: Bowling Red (with a red pod) and Stelley. Yum, Yum!!

I’ll always wish I had more land cleared, but when I step back and look at the space available to me this year…what a thrill. I have easily 5x the land in usable shape as last year. I like the layout of the teepees and the new beds. Instead of setting a second row of teepees behind the first, I left a wide path so my roommate can drive her golf cart into the field. I fitted it with a water barrel and it’s a huge help with watering. It will also be helpful at harvest time, as we can load it with flats of produce.

Rey – my first baby goat

Ten days ago my good friend Kelly texted me with an amazing question: did I want to bottle raise a registered doe that was just a few days old? Of course I jumped at the opportunity – a few hours later my roommate and I were headed to Oak Grove, Missouri to pick up this little darling. She’s growing like a weed and putting weight on fast.

Rey’s mama had twins but only accepted one of them. Kelly told me that her previous owner had bottle raised her earlier babies, so maybe that was part of the reason. At just 4 days old Rey was clearly smaller than her twin – her mama wasn’t feeding her or cleaning her.

Kelly’s family is super active – she’s a teacher, her husband is a pastor, and her three teenage boys are active in their school and with basketball. As a full time farmer I have the time and availability to bottle feed a baby goat on a regular schedule – so it was a great fit. Kelly is a wonderful friend and I consider her my farming mentor. This is my first experience with raising a baby goat, and I’m gaining confidence that I’ll be ready when our pregnant does give birth this summer. I gave Kelly some duck eggs as a thank you – they are by no means equivalent to what a registered Alpine doe is worth, just a small token of my gratitude.

The first night we had Rey we worried she might not make it through the night – she was that small and weak. Since our does aren’t in milk right now we’ve been using a milk replacement product formulated for baby goats – available at any good farm/feed store.

Kelly’s dad taught Rey to drink from a bowl, so we don’t use bottles. The upside – and downside – is that feeding time is pretty quick. She drinks the milk so fast that her brain doesn’t know her belly is full!

My roommate sometimes struggles to sleep at night, so she got up and fed her at 2am. That was the only time we did that – she eats a big meal at sunset and goes to sleep. Right now she’s living with my baby chicks in one of the coops – she’ll move to the barn with the other goats in a couple weeks.

Last weekend I took her to visit my Granny. She had a stroke a few weeks ago and is currently in a rehabilitation facility. She’s not an animal lover, but I knew the sight of a baby goat would make her smile. Boy did it! Rey was a huge hit at the facility – staff, residents, and visitors all wanted to stop for a hello and asked great questions about her. I love that my Gran indulged me with this photo – she’s a sweet lady and I love her dearly.

Rey and I bonded pretty quick – she follows me around the farm and frolics through the grasses. She loves to cuddle on my lap, but has already gotten too big to sit comfortably! She loves to go to the Feldmans (our local farm store) and rides in the truck – and my roommate’s Mini-Cooper convertible – like a champ.

Rey is a registered Alpine doe. She’ll grow to between 3 and 4 feet tall – much larger than our Nigerian Dwarf does! Alpines are fantastic milk producers, giving as much as 2 quarts of milk per day. She’s a great addition to our herd. I’m so thankful my friend and mentor gave her to me – and that my roommate said “yes” to my new addition. What a blessing!

Try, Try Again

Well, we thought Solomon the Angora goat had gotten the job done with both our Nigerian Dwarf gals…Turns out Princess Leia was totally faking it.

Padme, the experienced mama, was more than happy to meet and be wooed by Solomon. She’s made it abundantly clear that she is with child – clamoring for all the goat treats, bullying little Yoda out of her way for grain, and lazing about in all available patches of sun.

Leia kept her mouth shut until Solomon had gone back home. Three weeks later she was back to bleating her head off (a sign she’s in heat) and calling out for a new boyfriend.

*I like using non-farm terms when it comes to breeding. It makes my roommate a little nuts, but I find it makes the stories just a little bit more funny. Don’t you?*

The boys next door hollered back with a vengeance – and Neighbor Chad was happy to let us borrow a goat. He has 5 young males: a set of triplets and another of a similar size (Nubians), and a dwarf/fainting goat mix. How lucky are we to have such a helpful neighbor? If we get twins/triplets he’s willing to take one – and this will be a good way to see which/if his goats will be good studs.

After talking it over, my roommate and I brought Hank (Chad named his goats after country musicians) over to meet Leia. He was the smallest of the triplets and looked to be a good match in size to Leia.

Leia was not impressed with poor little Hank – and he showed no interest in her either. The little guy loved the grain and treats but called for his boys from the moment he got in our pen. Less than 24 hours later we walked him home where he joyfully greeted his brothers.

With maybe two days left in Leia’s breeding window we knew we had to pick well the second time. We opted for Waylon and saw instant success (no reason to be crude here, folks, but if you are an adult or familiar with farm life I’m sure you get my drift). At first he wasn’t thrilled to leave his home, but once he got a whiff of Leia all thought of them fled his mind. It was clear within 5 minutes that we had a much better shot at success.

Before my roommate and I had left the barn Leia made it clear that the boy-next-door was the stud for her. She was by turns flirty and silly, clearly enamored by Waylon. He was the right size, the right temperament, and more than willing to take care of her.

The sad fact is that once the deed was done she had no more interest in him. She was ready for him to go back home by the next morning. I felt bad for poor Waylon – but I’m just so thrilled to have two definitely pregnant goats now!

I cannot wait to have baby goats this fall – be prepared now to have your Instagram feed blown up with adorableness when they arrive.

Accidents Happen

Accidents are part of farm life, but most of them are minor and I go on about my day. This month saw an odd spike in foot accidents – all seemed pretty major at the time but looking back I see the hilarious similarity.

First to go down: Darryl. Our male farm cat had recently gone for his neutering surgery (on Valentine’s Day no less) and become quite the cuddle bug. The other male cat that had been hanging around – whom I was calling Carl – really did not like Darryl. One Tuesday evening as I locked the hens in their coops for the night I heard a horrific shriek. I found Darryl huddled under a chair on a blood-spattered porch, Carl waiting in the wings (Maggie was nowhere to be found). His left hind foot was a mess – things were visible that should not have been – and my attempts to coax him to me were to no avail. It wasn’t until the next morning that I captured him – he was actually waiting for me when I returned home from weekly egg deliveries. We immediately took him to the vets at VCA Welborn who took amazing care of him. In just two weeks his foot was well enough for him to run free around the farm once more – I was fearful he’d lose it.  Side note: Carl seems to be a truly feral cat and is no longer welcome on our property.

Next to fall: my sweet Willow. My forever pup is still learning the ropes of house life – she was dropped off on our driveway last fall and I instantly claimed her as mine but she has pre-us baggage. Her barking could get pretty shrill at times, but one Friday evening it seemed to take on a new tone. Turns out the dew claw on her front left paw had split – we knew it was terribly curved. Most likely it caught on a threshold or some netting we had spread in the backyard to help grass grow. Next thing we knew the nail had snapped off down to the quick and she was pretty painful. Thankfully we keep a stash of vet wrap for the animals, and her favorite aunt wrapped her sore paw. We couldn’t believe it when her barking stopped – it was instantaneous. We kept her foot wrapped for several days and she’s feeling much better now. She loves her auntie more than ever and even takes toys to her instead of me for evening playtime now!

Alas, I was the third to fall. My injuries seem to come when I’m exhausted and not thinking clearly, and this was no exception. I was moving an old clothesline pole away from the space I was laying out the new chicken garden plot. It was heavy due to block of concrete at the base, so I was dragging it uphill in slow bursts. Tired, I dropped the crossbar which landed on my left foot. I also didn’t realize that there were keyhole screw along the pole, not just on the end, and the sharp end of one when straight through my boot (I KNEW I should have splurged on steel-toed!). I realized immediately that this wasn’t something I could just brush off, so I tugged off the boot to see how bad it was. Sure, my foot hurt, but there wasn’t a huge gush of blood so I hobbled into the house. I called for my roommate – I knew it was bad enough that she’d be upset if I didn’t wake her – and assured her that my tetanus shot was still up to date before I took off my sock.

I got pretty lucky – the spike went between two toes and missed a ton of little bones. I cleaned it with alcohol, soaked it in Epsom salts, and used a sterilized pin to remove the little plug of boot that was embedded in the wound (that was pretty terrible). That vet wrap came in handy – I used it to keep gauze and bacitracin (triple antibiotic) on the wound. It’s healing pretty quickly – not as fast as Darryl’s foot, but he lazed about in a kennel for two weeks whilst I kept working. Those two toes may have been broken – they were definitely bruised – and if I’m on my feet too much then there is some swelling. Still – it could have been much, much worse.

Do you see the humor? All three of us suffered injuries to one of our left feet!

In closing – always make sure you’ve got your first aid kit stocked. And maybe splurge on steel-toed boots.

Eight is Enough

My original plan for the year was to add colored egg layers to my flock – Ameracaunas, Easter Eggers, and Olive Eggers were high on my list. I changed my plan pretty early on – lots of friends plan to come visit this year and many of them have children. I decided it would be pretty fun to have a diverse flock rather than diverse egg colors. I didn’t plan to have as many as 8 though!

Gold Comets will always be my core stock. I love these birds so much – friendly, social, welcoming, and so curious. I’m up to 28 of these little ladies.

Silver-Laced Wyandottes were added last year. They aren’t quite as social as my GCs, but they are excellent layers. I have 11 of these.

 

Gold-Laced Wyandottes – these two were part of my neighbor’s free-ranging flock that I acquired (the 3rd was a Gold Comet). They had a rough go of it in the woods but are healing nicely and definitely appreciate their new home.

Ameracaunas – I added four to my flock. I’m pretty sure I ended up with 3 hens and 1 rooster, but I won’t be sure for another few weeks. This breed lays blue eggs! The variations in feathering on these four is amazing; I’m excited to see them full grown.

 

 

Welsummers – these lovelies lay terra-cotta colored eggs. My roommate picked up three of these – a straight run so we’re hoping for girls.

Cuckoo Maran – My roommate picked three of these also. They lay brown eggs and they have amazing feathering. Another straight run so our fingers are crossed!

I thought I was done for the year – the addition of Chad’s Chickens had me close to my top number and I was already looking forward to no more chicks in the house. Then I went to pick up feed and saw that two breeds I really wanted were on sale…so I made a special trip home before finishing the day’s deliveries to add these beauties to my flock.

Rhode Island Red – I chose three of this classic breed. It’s a straight run so I hope I picked hens.

Black Astrolorps – I chose three of these also. I love the feathering on these adult breeds – another straight run so my fingers are crossed that I chose hens.

So if I’ve done my math right, that’s 51 chickens and the potential of 4 dozen eggs per day. Even if I do end up with several rooster I’ll still be at a potential of 3 dozen eggs per day at the peak and the staggered start should keep me in eggs all winter. Yes, that’s lots of eggs – but with a growing list of regular clients and a high call list I’m feeling pretty good.

 

PS: I have 8 ducks – their four breeds are Welsh Harlequin (4), Pekin (1), Cayuga (2), and Khaki Campbell (1). While I’m definitely not raising any ducklings in the house this year, there is a slim possibility that I’ll add some. IF they are one sale and IF the weather is warm enough that they can just do out with the girls. My duck egg client list is pretty small for now, so I should be fine without new ducklings.

Coop Improvements, part 3

I now have three generations of chickens living in three coop-sheds with a large, covered outdoor run! The girls are getting along great and thriving. Here’s how I tied Coop 3 to Coop 2:

I saved the chicken wire from the goat run when I replaced it with salvaged fence. It was new – purchased last year when we got the goat’s – and in excellent shape. I kept it knowing we would expand the chicken run and reusing this perfectly good material only made sense (cents – ha!). Chicken wire across the bottom is a must to keep baby birds in and predators out. I also bury about a foot into the ground to keep foxes and dogs from digging under the fence. I use tree trunk portions to keep the fence taut, keep it buried, and add an additional few inches of protection to the border.

I used bird netting to cover the ceiling and about 18″ of the walls. I love that when I’m inside the ceiling is nearly invisible, and the material is much stronger than I would ever have believed. Maggie the cat is about 7 pounds and can sit comfortable on the netting to nap or watch Chicken TV (not that this is encouraged!). I used cable ties instead of staples to attached the chicken wire to the 1′ x 4′ slats – strong and kept the integrity of the wood.

The door is only about 2′ wide – I struggled with post placement thanks to the myriad of stumps in the ground – but it works for my need. It latches on the outside. This door will mainly be used to give my birds treats from the garden. If we ever expand the run to include Coop 1 the door will become the entryway to that space.

Once the new exterior fence was completed I removed two walls of the previous run space that were now interior. Now I had to deal with the 1 foot – yes 1 foot! – differential between the space. The slope is that steep and that much mud, straw, food waste, other waste, pumpkin rinds, and more had formed a rather horrifying (and smelly) strata. Every day or two I use my turning fork to turn the ground – the birds love to grab for the worms and dig around in the dirt. The section has slowly turned into more of a slope than a cliff, but it will take a while for things to really level out.

The ducks are loving the pond – they can easily access it from all sides. The chickens walk up the ramp or perch on the edges to drink. This shot may give you a better idea of the run space – it’s pretty significant. The ducks nestle in straw on either side of the pool, the hens wander all over throughout the day searching for tasty morsels. The hens also perch on the wood pile I set behind the white shed. The pile’s main intent is to block access under the sheds and keep the hardware cloth netting down – I was hoping the birds would also play around on the pile and am happy to see them doing so. Chad’s Chickens are the only ones thus far to get as high as the tree trunk – we’ll see if anyone else get’s brave!

Hens are so curious – the girls love visiting the new shed during the day, but so far only Chad’s Chickens sleep there at night. It will be interesting to see where this year’s hens choose to roost.

I’m quite happy with how the space turned out and have no real plans to expand further. I’ve hit the limit I set for myself of 50 hens – the space I have is more than enough for them. Besides, I don’t intend to farm only chickens – they are my year round income stream but not my only focus. The only item left  is to paint Coop 1 – weather should turn warmer soon so I can check that off my coop improvement list for the year.

That doesn’t mean I’m done with construction for the year, though. We are anticipating goat babies this fall and will need to expand and improve their space. That won’t happen until May – I need to get more veg planted first!

Field Planting

Spring planting has finally begun! I absolutely love this time of year – the richness of well composted soil, healthy worms wiggling as I turn the ground, the hopefulness of putting a seed into the land and waiting for it to grow.

I’m always amazed by what can be planted in March and April – the weather can be so fickle and the chance for growth seems so low. Many root vegetables and greens thrive in the cooler weather, though, so when I get a break in the weather I get to work.

Getting my soil ready to plant is still a challenge – the overgrown field will take years to tame. A simple turning fork is the best tool for this work. I get the leverage I need to work clay-filled soil and it breaks up the clods instead of leaving huge divets. The hens love the clover, dandelions, and chickweed I pull from the beds – and the worms that cling to the roots! The cats – Darryl and Maggie – are loving the field time. Darryl’s learning about spring chores, while Maggie has taken to sitting on the new water tank and observing my work.

Onions were the first thing to go in, and I’m planning to plant a second bed in a few weeks. I love yellow and red onions so that’s what I plan. I use them in everything – they are foundational to my curry and tomato sauces and salsas – and I love them roasted on the grill. I’m happy with how my new bed markers turned out also. They are much easier to read than last year’s version and my toes will be saved, too!

Next up: potatoes. Goldens are my favorite – creamy when roasted and a lovely texture when mashed. I like to boil them and store them in small portions so I can make hashbrowns (or hash) with my fresh eggs for breakfast, too. Rather than purchasing seed potatoes I just saved my potatoes that started to sprout this winter – I shop at Sprouts so I know my starts are from good organic stock. They were small so there was no need to cut them (you want one eye per potato hill), and many already had sizeable vines when I was ready to plant. Years ago my friend Kelly told me that potatoes should be planted by St. Patrick’s Day – it’s one of the few vegetables that I don’t have to mark on my calendar to remember!

The next bed down: kale. I planted two different types – Blue Curled Scotch and Nero di Toscano – because I use them differently. Both work great in juices. I like curly kale in my stir-fries and curries, but prefer the flat kale for salads. Several clients were excited to learn that I grew kale, so I’ve planted more than 40 seeds of each type. It’s a fast growing plant and it lasted all summer. The hens love it too – they were thrilled to get the gleanings and the past-their-prime plants.

Peas were the first to go on the teepees. So far I’ve got 3 teepees set and planted; I’m planning to add a second row and doubling that. I’m hoping that staggered starts will give me some longevity with my plants this year. I planted a new-to-me vining variety called Tall Telephone on the legs with a bush variety I’ve used for years underneath – otherwise I’m wasting planting space!

Our recent snow and cold has me a bit behind getting things in the ground, but the seeds are set out and ready for the next good days. Spring!

PS: This is what a winter’s worth of coop bedding looks like – the soil will thank me for these nutrients!

Moving Day

Last week my new chicks – the first batch that is – moved to their big girl coop. The 13 Gold Comets and 4 Ameracaunas had outgrown the yurt inside and only a couple had some downy left. The other reason? My roommate picked up 3 Welsummers and 3 Cuckoo Marans – more colored eggs! – and they were nearly ready to move from the Sterilite brooder box to the yurt.

It wasn’t quite as warm as I would have liked (and the cold front that moved in this week was an unexpected surprise), but they are doing just fine in their new space.

The chicks all fit into the pet carrier and made the journey to the coop together. They are starting coop life in last year’s Water World – I’ve been improving it this year so it has fresh paint and the holes have been patched. I filled the space with fresh straw – lots of play space and it’s best for keeping birds warm when they are on the floor. I also constructed some short roosting spaces, but it’s been my experience that chicks will snuggle together for the first few months of life before they really roost at night/to sleep.

The girls have been living outside for a little over a week and are doing great. They haven’t yet gone outside – I’m hoping the grass will grow first – but love hopping up in the tunnel. On warm days I pull up the tarp so they can see outside. They like looking at the “big girls” (who don’t seem too concerned about them) and dust bathing in the dust/straw on the tunnel floor.

These girls will be 8 weeks old next week and done with the medicated feed recommended for baby birds. By that point I’d love to intro them to the outside before they meet the big girls – I really want them to have access to some real, in the ground grass and not just what I pull from the garden. Either way they’ll be just fine – they are growing well and should be laying eggs by July (and I’ll know if any of the Ameracaunas are roosters by then too!)

 

 

 

Chad’s Chickens

A couple weeks ago I headed out to work on my coop expansion and found…a disaster zone! We’d mulched the blueberries and blackberries the day before, and also laid a new brick border to define the space. The neatly laid border was no longer visible and the straw was all over the place. I heard some happy clucks, looked up – and spotted some of my neighbor’s chickens!

It started off as slightly hilarious and quickly became a day of frustration as I tried to convince a gorgeous rooster and his little flock of four hens to head back home. They feasted in my compost pile, checked out the fallen leaves near the fire pit, and uncovered my freshly planted onions in the field. It seemed like every time I turned around they were wandering through my workspace as I focused on enclosing the new coop run. By day’s end at my wit’s end and tired of chasing the birds back home – and asked my roommate to get in touch with our neighbor.

Chad moved in about a year ago and is a really nice guy. He’s a local firefighter and working hard to clear the property so he can build. So far he has chickens, goats, and a donkey – hearing that donkey is so much fun! When my roommate told him his free-ranging birds had found our field and we were getting ready to plant veg, he told us that if we could catch them we could keep them. Turns out these birds were escape artists – his other rooster and hens are content to stay in their enclosure. Cool.

I thought about it overnight and came up with a plan – assuming the birds came back (they disappeared at dusk). Free-ranging birds comes with more problems than lack of fence respect – predators like foxes, dogs, and hawks abound in our area. I spotted Chad’s Gold Comet first; it was hours before I saw the two Gold-Laced Wyandottes. The pond was what really got them in – they spent their time drinking so much water I was able to lock them into the new coop run with no difficulty. I threw in some feed, let them get to know my chickens and ducks through the fence for a few days, then took down the fence and they were officially part of my flock.

The first night they spent in the coop I pieced together what must have happened overnight. One of the Gold-Laced Wyandottes was missing most of her chest feathers and was super skittish – my guess is the local foxes found them and these three managed to escape. They’ve gotten used to me and are healing well. I never saw the rooster or the white hen again. The Gold Comet is the head of this little flock. They sleep in the new coop each night with her in the middle keeping them safe.

The other sign that there was some sort of animal attack was their eggs. They were flattened, mis-shapen, and the shells were really rough for about a week. The girls – I call them Chad’s Chickens – have healed up beautifully. Their feathers are grown in, they are eating well, their eggs are indistinguishable from the other girls, and they fit in with the flock just fine.

Thanks to Chad I’m up to 26 laying birds and selling more eggs than ever – what a great neighbor!

Culling

WARNING. This post covers my first experience with culling. Faithful readers of my blog know that I have a high regard for my animals and this decision was not one I took lightly. I respectfully remind my readers that I run a farm – not an animal rescue or petting zoo – and culling is an aspect of my job responsibilities.

I raise hens and ducks for eggs. Eggs are my year-round income base and I have a wonderful group of clients that has enjoyed my first year in business. When I purchased ducklings last year it was with the knowledge that I would likely get a drake (male duck). Of my 6 ducklings I had 2 males, and we very much enjoyed watching them grow and keep an eye on all the girls (my hens and ducks live together) for the past 12 months.

In January we purchased 6 ducks from a friend that downsizing her flock – that group included 1 drake.

With the arrival of spring my yearling drakes got much more aggressive in their amorous attentions to the females – so much so that the females were in danger of being harmed. The new drake was also aggressive.

I first broached the idea of culling with my roommate last December. We discussed pros, cons, reasons why I believed culling was the right business choice, even method. She grew up on this land and has difficult memories from her childhood related to hen harvesting. I’m incredibly proud of her for talking this through with me, allowing me to make the ultimate decision, and being part of the process.

This morning I captured the three drakes before I opened the coops to let the hens and ducks out for the day. My roommate and I finished our breakfast, assembled our tools, and got to work. I dispatched the first duck, she took the second, and I handled the third. I freely confess that I shed tears over my first drake. I have never taken the life of any animal and this was the hardest farm task I’ve undertaken to date. All the work, talk, consulting with other farming friends – in less than a minute the birds were humanely killed and hung to drain. My roommate handled the cleaning – I’m the house cook and she has more experience with that part of the process. The job was done near our fire pit so safe disposition of feathers, etc. was simple. From start to finish the job took just over 2 hours.

The elder duck will be enjoyed by our 4 dogs for any days – they love broth on their kibble and the meat will be a tasty treat. The yearlings will be roasted for dinner and feed my roommate and I for several days.

Was it fun? No.

Was the experience valuable? Yes.

Would I do it again? Yes.

How are the remaining ducks? Happily splashing in the water, napping in the sun, and thankful they don’t have to fend off unwanted attentions.