Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Duck Chappelle Joins the Flock; Clipping Guinea Wings; Farm Selfies

Chapelle in her temporary new digs
A few days ago, our friend Shea of Gentle Meadow Goat Farm sent us a message asking if we might have a home for a Muscovy hen who had lost her flock to a fox and was in need of some duck buddies. Lady Muscovy was currently living at Twin Rivers Farm, but was lonely and beginning to be picked on by their turkeys and chickens. She needed a place to live with more other ducks and less foxes. Could we help? Back when we first discussed getting ducks, Sean wanted to have Muscovy ducks, but to be honest, they kind of freaked me out a little. They have reddish "waddily" bits on their heads and instead of quacking, they hiss. Of course, that reaction was before I met guinea fowl and fell in love with turkeys. I thought that I was (maybe) ready for Muscovies. So, we talked about it together. Before any most animals come to the farm, we discuss the pros and cons with each other and together reach a decision that we feel is best for our homestead. ("Love Dove" came home with Sean from work one evening and "Lex" showed up on my watch. The system is not flawless, but by and large, it works.) We think about the size of the animal in question. The animal's age and health is a factor. Do we have the room to care for the animal? Do we have the ability to provide for the animal? Do they have any special needs to consider? How will they help to support themselves and their retirement?

The consensus this time was that we did have room on our homestead and in our heart for this Muscovy lady. Assuming she is accepted by our resident ducks, we have plenty of room to add two more Muscovies to our flock. "Two?" you ask. Well, that is part of our consideration process. Ducks stick together for sure, but in our experience, they stick together best in groups of their own breed. Our China Buff Geese, Mallards, Black Swedish, and the unknown tawny breed we have acquired all live in the same pen, but they seem to separate themselves by breed. The exception to this are the two Black Swedish hens who were brooder buddies with our geese and spend most of their time with them. Sean and I were happy to offer a home to Ms. Duck Chappelle, but we feel it is important for her to have a friend. So, we are looking for a good candidate for her. Anyone out there looking for a home for a young (1-2 year old hen or drake)?

In the meantime, we set up a temporary pen right next to the duck enclosure. We introduced her to the largest tawny duck as a pen-buddy to start. She and tawny duck will live together for about a week. This will give them some time to get to know each other more closely. All the ducks and geese are able to see each other to begin getting used to the new addition. And, when the week passes, we'll reintroduce both ducks into the main pen. It is my hope that we can find another friend for Chappelle this week, so we can introduce a trio. I find adding birds in larger numbers helps with the acceptance of them. Less chance of any one bird getting picked on too much while they establish their pecking order, though obviously we'll keep an eye out anyway.

The main chicken coop area bears watching over the next few days, too. We introduced the 14 teen-aged guineas growing out in the back yard into it last night just after feeding time. There were four adult guineas in the coop and they took an interest in the new arrivals, but were too busy scratching for corn to really pay them much mind. Miguel, our adult chocolate male, is the most dominant of the group, but he gave a couple half-hearted charges towards the group of teens and then gave up in search for more grain and Maria's attention. This morning, I have been watching them from my studio window and everyone seems content to get along. That is good news. Six of these teenagers are for sale. We have a pair of chocolates and 2 pair of pearls for sale. (I am keeping the lavenders this year.) We'll offer pairs for $30. As bad as tick season has been in our area, we have not pulled any off of the barn cats nor the dogs all season. And, we haven't seen any on the humans, either. Guineas are loud, but they are worth their weight in gold when it comes to eating ticks. For that reason alone, we'll have a dozen or so roaming the property. Security alarm and Lyme protection.

Aquila (left) and Lazarus (right) are looking very handsome as the weather turns colder. They are taking on their vibrant fall colors. Look that the bronze and red sheen to Aquila's feathers! Gorgeous! Lazarus's colors have taken on a light brown hue, changed from the blue-grey feathers he wore this past spring. These lads will be three years old this spring. They weigh about 35 pounds each.

I usually spend a few minutes at the end of the day with the turkey teens. They have become so friendly. They often run to greet me and suffer my attention. They really need names, but I am still not 100% certain of their sexes yet, so they are each called "Baby" for now. There is one that is especially dear to me.

I thought you might enjoy seeing some teen turkey selfies. ♥
Me and my baby. 

Almost asleep in the setting sun.

And, we have sleep.
The teens have been jumping the fence to where the Mother hens and their chicks are living. The mothers do not like this and gave a couple of the teens warning pecks on their beaks. This has been enough enticement for the teens to retreat back where they belong or at least to wander the back yard.

We are waiting for the poults to completely feather out before we complete the expansion of the enclosure and attempt to have all the turkeys live together this winter. We've been successful in years past with keeping up to 10 turkeys in one pen. Their initial enclosure will be approximately 900 square feet to hold 14 turkeys to start, giving each bird approximately 64 square feet of room. Our building plan calls for their area to eventually grow to encompass 3200 square feet with the ability to separate out private 800 square foot sections, as needed, for breeding. Our overall design is to keep up to 4 toms (We'll see how that works in terms of them getting on and if it is necessary to have that many for breeding.) and 16 hens when our flock is complete. Some of these poults may be for sale in the spring, depending on gender, breed, and personality. Tom or hen, my baby will be staying on with us permanently.

That is what is going on in our world. Thanks for popping in for a visit. It is nice to have the company.

~Sonja ♥

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