I have a lot of updating to do! The ducklings are getting bigger and we're having lots of fun watching them grow and eat and swim. We've been taking photos and videos, so I'll be posting some of those and post-dating some blog posts to fill in the progress on the ducks, their house and some thoughts chronologically. So, stay tuned--by going backwards! Meanwhile, here are some up-to-date photos.
The duck house & small temporary yard are working out nicely.The ducks have been fine outside, and know they can go back in the house when they want to, so we’ve decided to leave them outside pretty much all day now, as long as we are home.I am in the garden much of the time keeping an eye on them.We’ve also taken the barrier off the pool, and allow them to go in when they want.They usually go in after eating, to drink and bathe.We also put up a chunk of plywood on blocks that they can sit under for shade, and they do seem to like it.
At first, only one or two would go in the pool.They look so much alike it’s hard to tell if it’s the same one or two, of if they’re all taking turns, but I never see Whitey go in.He does look much better now (see previous post), but he still seems less active than the others.
The ducklings are so cute in the pool.They float, they dip their heads down and sometimes dive and swim under water, even though the pool is barely deep enough for them to do it.They can actually stand on the bottom, or lift their legs and float.They look so natural when they’re in the water—it’s quite evident that their bodies were made for it.We have a step inside for them to use to get out more easily, but often they don’t bother with the step, they just jump out somehow and do a belly flop on the ground.Often when they get out of the water, they stand up tall and flap their little wings.Very cute.
The video is a little out of focus when zoomed in, but you’ll get the idea.
The ducklings are three weeks old now.They’re getting so big!We’re so glad we didn’t get them until June. I cannot imagine having ten ducklings this size in our basement.We had planned to get a larger box of some kind, or build something to keep them in down there, but with the smell and poop and trying to keep the thing clean it would have been quite difficult.
The ducklings’ down is beginning to change to small feathers, and most of them are getting darker on their backs.(Whitey is getting lighter and creamier in color.)Their tails are more pronounced, and the oil duct at the back of the tail is evident.They rub their faces on it, then rub different parts of their body to groom and add the oil water-repellency to their feathers.We wonder which are the drakes or ducks, and are hoping to have at least three ducks to lay eggs.Their voices haven’t changed yet, they still peep and squeak.
We get such a kick out of watching the ducks.We keep a couple of chairs out there and sometimes just sit and watch.We’ve doubled the size of their outside pen, to include the whole tree.This way they can get shade under the tree at all times of the day, and they have more space to run around.It is so funny to watch them waddle when they run!Sometimes they run over each other or tumble.One of them did a forward summersault when he got tripped by another!One time as they were being herded in for the night, Whitey got pushed over by another duck and laid there on his back, feet waving in the air, peeping like crazy until he managed to roll over.It was pretty comical.
Whitey is doing much better, and I’m not so concerned.He/she is about as active as the others, gets in the pool and enjoys it, and seems just fine.His/her color is getting lighter, more of a creamy yellow.I kind of hope Whitey turns out to be a female, so we can keep her for laying.If not, we’ll have a nice, plump roast duck to compare with the others for eating.
I’m a little concerned about Whitey, the White Appleyard. He (she?) seems a little more lethargic than the others, and sits a lot, even while eating and drinking. He’s got an odd reddish spot alongside his neck that particularly shows up when he’s wet, he just seems a bit odd.
I wonder if he’s growing too fast, and if we’ve given the ducks too much protein. According to the book, we should be dropping the protein content about now anyway, so I’ll mix some lower protein ingredients into their food to drop down the protein percentage. We got some organic “hen scratch” at 8% protein, so hopefully that will help, along with a little more oatmeal. I’ve also been adding some water or whey to their food, as suggested, with my kitchen pastry blender. It makes a nice, moist, crumbly consistency, and I’ve noticed they don’t run to their waterer quite as quickly or frequently now while eating. I should have done this from the start—that food seemed awfully dry!
The ducks moved out to their own house today, at two weeks old!This morning one of them managed to escape the brooder box in the basement, so we decided to hurry up and get their own house completed enough for them to move in.Tim took a break from work, and I helped, too.Tim made another frame with hardware cloth on it, so added to the first frame (which was in the brooder) we’ve more than doubled their living space inside. It'll be a lot cuter when it's done and painted, but for now it's functional--it's even insulated! We put the heat lamps out there, since it's still pretty cool at night. We got this nifty door at a recycle place: it has interchangeable glass panes or screen door, so we can close 'em up and night or when it's cold, and let them have more ventilation during the day.
In addition to finishing the inside of the duck house, we put up some temporary fencing to make a pen for them outside the house.It is so warm now in the daytime, we feel they can spend a fair amount of time outside.The pool is there, but blocked off so that they can only enter when we are present.It’s been much cooler since that first day we put them into the pool, so they haven’t been in it since.When it warms up, we’ll let them go in again, with supervision.
Here’s a video showing them outside by their house.
The ducklings went outside today, at just about a week and a half old.We wheeled them out in a wheelbarrow, and put them in a small pen we put up made with snow fence.They did quite well in the water for their first time; after all, they’re ducks!Even though we’ve read some warnings about putting them in the water so young, it was a warm day, we had the water warming up all day, and we didn’t leave them in very long.They were just fine! Here are some videos.
We are fortunate to live in an area that is plentiful with livestock and feed shops.As we researched options for duck feed, and particularly organic feed, we discovered that the most affordable organic feed available to us is produced right here in Fort Collins at Ranch-Way Feeds.We can buy it right at the mill, where we’ve already been buying horse feed for several years.They don’t make waterfowl blends, but we’re combining their turkey starter with chick starter and some oatmeal and a little grit for our ducks’ starter feed.**That combination was recommended in Storey’s Guide to Raising Ducks, by Holderread, so hopefully that will do the trick.I suppose we’ll mess around with different combinations as they grow, and do the best we can.We want to keep them organically fed.
**One part turkey starter, one part chick starter, ½ part oatmeal, with some grit sprinkled on top.
Our ducks arrived at the post office this morning, so Tim went to pick them up soon after. Our order was for 10 Welsh Harlequin ducklings, and along with the 10 we received one White Appleyard as a "bonus". One of the 10 arrived dead, but with the bonus, we still have 10 total.
They are very cute, of course! We put them into the brooder that was all ready for them, and it's amazing how quickly they wander around exploring. Right away we gave them water to drink with a little honey in it and some chopped up greens. After a bit we gave them their food, and one by one they figured out what was there and began to eat. Within no time at all they were jumping over each other and over the food trough to get to the other side. The one White Appleyard is the largest and boldest of all. He will be pure white, so I'm already calling him (or her) "Whitey". Of the others, we think there are 4 females and 5 males, based on the bill color. With this breed, you can tell the sex by their bill color within the first couple of days after hatching, with 75% accuracy. Apparently, the ducks with a lighter bill color are females. We have no idea what sex Whitey is, but hopefully we'll have at least 4-5 females out of the bunch for egg production.
Well, it's been a difficult planting season! After all my planning, it seemed like everything went kaput the last few weeks. The week I'd intended to plant (starting May 15, our "average last frost date") turned cold and rainy. I knew that there was questionable weather coming, but due to our plans for a trip I needed to get things into the ground. Also, the things that were "hardening off" in the cold frame were getting too big for the cold frame, and at one time a couple of things were damaged when the cold frame fell on them during watering. I was tired of them being in the cold frame, so I went ahead and planted.
Planting the tomatoes and peppers went pretty well. Within a couple of days after planting it was quite windy and rainy, and they sure got beat up. A couple of the tomatoes snapped in half right where they had been tied up.
Squash and cucumbers went in the ground also, but got beat around in the wind a bit as well, not looking very happy. I lost the cucumbers and some squash. At least it is early enough to replant and they should be fine. I also have seen a lot of cucumber beetles, so have begun to spray for those with spinosad.
Now we've returned from vacation, and with so many plans to work in the garden immediately, I came home very sick, and won't be able to get out to the garden. It will just have to wait.
I think most plants will survive, but they sure aren't in the best condition. The peppers were damaged by hail, and many leaves were left dangling or in bad shape. The tomatoes are small and thin, but still alive. The cucumber seeds I planted after the first ones died did not come up. The squash that was still alive and in fairly good condition before I left have been chewed up, presumably by the cucumber beetles that are still everywhere. There are weeds everywhere as well. Hopefully soon I'll feel well enough to get back to work!
This week many gardeners in the Fort Collins area were plagued with a large amount of marble-sized hail and lost a lot of their crops. Fortunately, the hail here wasn't as bad and my plants aren't much worse than they were already. I guess all the locals are now pretty much in the same boat!