Saturday, November 14, 2015

First Eggs!

First eggs from Golden Cascades, 14 November 2015

There were TWO EGGS in the duckhouse this morning! This is a full month earlier than the first eggs we'd gotten from our previous ducks.

One of the eggs (the larger of the two) was crushed, but the other was unbroken. They both had some blood on the outside, and the shells were not real hard. The smaller of the two was about the size of a medium to large chicken egg. I did not want to eat the egg, due to its messiness on the outside, but I cracked it open and it was fine on the inside.

One of the ducks, Bess, had a gooey mess hanging from her rear--I imagine she was one of this morning's layers. A couple of days ago I noticed she had a quacking fit. Quack, quack, quack...constant for several minutes. Perhaps she knew this thing was growing inside her. I can't help but wonder what these ducks must be thinking the first day they lay an egg???

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Lights for Eggs

The ducks are now 21 weeks old. I love the way their color camouflages them to protect them from predators. This is one of their favorite hangouts. Can you count all five?

On Monday (10/26) I put a timer on a light in the duck house. It's coming on just before dawn right now, and each week I'll increase the amount of light they get until they've got at least 14 hours of light per day. Hopefully they will think it's becoming spring, and this will stimulate egg production. We've also gotten a thermostat to put on a heat lamp, so on the coldest nights they'll have some warmth. How pampered they are!

It was 17 degrees in the morning a couple of days ago, but usually around 25-30. I'm beginning to have to break up the ice in their water bowl each morning, and sometimes their pool. Eventually I will stop filling the pool, but as long as it melts during the day, I'll let them continue to enjoy it. Soon we'll be adding the water heater to their bowl, so at least they'll be able to drink and dip their heads.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

And Now We Are Five

Golden Cascades, 17 Weeks Old, 4 Hens, 1 Drake
Now we've got the final count. After discovering that we had two drakes (rather than just one, as planned) we have now donated one of the drakes to a nearby Wolf Sanctuary.  I'm sure the wolves there appreciate the donation. The photo above shows the ducks we plan to keep indefinitely. Hopefully, the drake will allow us to have a few baby ducklings in the spring.

The last batch of ducks we had remained unnamed, other than the colored bands they had around their ankles (pink, green, blue, etc.)  This time they look different enough that I'm planning to go ahead and name them. The names are still up in the air a bit, but for now they are as follows:

Wily - This is the drake that fooled us into believing he was a she, and now his life has been spared. Other than the blue-gray bill, I believe his plumage is closer to the preferred colors for this breed. (Per Dave Holderread.) Also, he has better camouflage than the other drake had, which is my preference.

Next, we have Bess, until I think of a better name. I thought about "Brownie" because she's quite brown...I could change my mind.

Here is Ellie May. I just thought it was a cute name, and this duck has no outstanding characteristics.

Meet Gertrude. I just thought a duck should be named Gertrude.

This is either Spot, or Splash, or Dory.  One of these days I will decide. Spot would be because when she was little she had a spot on her right foot. Now she has a couple of black spots on her beak. Splash would be because she's the first one in the pool many a time, and runs there first thing in the morning, before going to the food dish.  Because she likes the water, Tim thought of Dory, after the fish in Finding Nemo.  So, Dory would be cute....but which name will stick? Any ideas?

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Duck Population Decreases

Things were getting a bit crowded in the pool:
13 Ducks in the pool; 12 weeks old.
We've decreased the population. Now there are 6 calmer, happier ducks.
Our six Golden Cascades; 13 weeks old.
We sold two females, then butchered five others. We'd planned all along to butcher the White Appleyards and the Golden Cascade drakes. I've been carefully selecting which GC's I would keep: 5 females and 1 drake. Long ago I identified two drakes, and chose which one I would keep based on his prime coloring. I chose two GC females to remove; one was sold, the other to be dinner--one was small and not the right coloring, the other was just TOO crabby.

Just after we finished the butchering and were getting back to business, Tim noticed that one of the "females" wasn't quacking, but was making that drake sound. OH, NO! I shooed it out to make it mad; still no quack. I picked it up; still no quack. And, to top it off, I noticed a curly tail. Other than the lack of a quack, and a curly tail, this one looks like a hen. Or so I thought. :( He disguised himself by having a blue-grey beak and no white ring around his neck.
Golden Cascade drake; what a surprise!
I believe that the drakes should really look more like this:
Golden Cascade Drake
So, now we have 4 hens for laying and 2 drakes. I don't know what I'll do about the extra drake; I really only intended to keep one, and if this oddball is really the wrong coloring I don't want to breed with him.

Four hens should be plenty for eggs for the two of us, so fewer ducks is ok, although I had thought five would be nice to have extra eggs to sell. We'll be fine with the four.

It is very nice to have fewer ducks. They are much calmer, less competitive for food or pool time, and it's SO NICE to be putting out half as much feed. The two that I sold helped recoup the money spent on food, which is nice, considering we hadn't intended to keep them around so long. We've just been so busy building a house, we haven't had time for this task of "decreasing the population."

Friday, July 10, 2015

Growing Ducklings

Life has been busy here, making plans and working on the property and house. Little by little, the duck's house is complete, and heeeere it is....
It was made of materials left over from the barn. Our house is going to be round, or round-ish--it'll actually be a tetra-decagon, with 14 sides. That's how we came up with the idea of the duckagon, to match our round theme. The duckagon has only 8 sides, but it'll be awfully cute next to the big house when it's done! We actually put two doors in it, with the thought we may want to separate some ducks in the future (for breeding), but we are currently only using one door. Two of the roof panels are hinged and open up, for cleaning, and in the future for getting eggs out. Hopefully this will work out well.  

Here are some pics of the ducks today, at 5-1/2 weeks. Click on them to view them larger. The Golden Cascades are all different, as you will see in these five examples (two drakes, three hens).
All the ducks - July 10
One Golden Cascade drake.
The other Golden Cascade drake.
One of the darkest Cascade females.
This is the female I call "Pinky".

This female shows wings coming out in blue.
The 4 White Appleyards all look alike.

It's been fun watching them grow, especially now that their feathers are growing out. They're getting BIG, too! A few days ago we switched from the smaller pool to the larger one, and even it looks small with 13 ducks in it!
13 Happy Ducks

Saturday, June 27, 2015

New House & Paddock

The ducks continue to grow, and are a lot of fun to watch.  They’ve been in their new house and paddock area for about a week and a half now.  They’ve got a small kiddie pool, and we gradually increased their “pool time” each day, until we began giving them free choice pool time about 5 days ago. There are bricks around the side, and a big rock inside, to give them easy access in and out.  They are frequently in the pool. It’s been fun to watch them dive under water, even though it’s only about 6-8” deep, but now I think they’re getting too big for that. Soon we will need to graduate to the larger pool.

The ducks are beginning to grow feathers in spots. The little one with the pink bill shown in this post now is turning to a blotchy grey & pink bill, but I still call her "Pinky". This Cascade is the lightest in color. They are all quite a variety of shades of brown. The males are getting a more distinctive look; their necks are light in color with darker heads, and their bills are yellow with a dark spot on the tip. 

Their cute house is almost complete. They are living in it now full time, but I'm holding off on adding a photo until it's done. At night they are locked into the house, and the yard is secured as well. I think it would be quite difficult for a predator to get to them. (More on house and yard later.)  I find I don't have much time to write posts, and this one will be post-dated to reflect the correct timing of photos and events.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Ducklings: Videos

Here are a couple of videos of the ducklings' first days:

This one was taken June 5, the day after we got them:

This was yesterday, June 11. Look how much bigger they are!

The ducks are really growing. Tim is working fast on their new duckhouse for this location. It won't be anything like the last one, but we think it will be great.  Just wait to see!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Ducks @ One Week

Ducklings - June 5, 2015
Here's a shot of the ducklings the day after we got them (above). The ducks are now one week old. All is going well, and the chores have now become habit. In addition to providing food & water, each day I clean out their brooder box. This procedure is a lot like what we did with our first ducks, and we are using the same car-top carrier box as before. There are videos of the 2011 brooder box & cleaning routine HERE.

All Ducks, June 9
The little guy front and center in this photo is my favorite, at this point. He (at least I think he's a he) has managed to escape this box at least two times already! I think I may call him "Houdini".  We've now begun to do a duck count every time we go in to see them.

Based on their beak and foot color, I'm guessing that of the Golden Cascades, we may have 3-4 males and 5-6 females. Two of the White Appleyards are larger than the other two, so I'm thinking the larger ones may be males. Time will tell! They're awfully cute, and it's amazing to see how fast they grow. I've taken a photo of each one, and will see if their coloring allows me to keep track of them as they grow and feather out.

Meanwhile, we've begun to design our new duck house, and have decided where we'll put it on the property. We will need a secure pen for them, too, and plans are underway to have this all done in about a week. Our 2011 ducks outgrew their brooder box and moved into their house at about two weeks old, so we assume these ducks will be ready to go by that time as well.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Ducks Are Here!

Our new batch of ducklings has arrived! They were hatched Tuesday, June 2 at Holderread Waterfowl Farm in Oregon, and shipped out that evening. After a postal service mishap in which the shipment was delayed, we found that they were sitting in Colorado Springs and would remain there overnight unless we picked them up there. Off we went, yesterday afternoon, to get them. They were all safe and sound in their shipping box!

Per instructions, we gave them some water with a little honey in it prior to the trip home. We had their brooder area all ready for them, so when we arrived home we put them in under their heat lamps, with water & feed, for their first night here.

We received 9 of the Golden Cascades, and 4 White Appleyard. The Cascades have dark brown & blotchy yellow coloring, the Appleyards are yellow. It's amazing that these little guys were packed into their eggs just two days ago--they grow so fast!

We're off on a new duck-adventure!

Here are the ducks, in the back of the car just after getting them at the post office.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Next Chapter

The Wellington GGR Garden has now been passed on to its new caretakers. We've closed the sale on the house & property there, and the buyers will be taking over. Our address is no longer on Shoofly Lane. It's being deleted permanently from many databases. We're now in Guffey for the next chapter! The move is good, but bittersweet. We enjoyed our little "oasis", the home, the view, the birds singing, the quiet. Tim put a lot of work into the home and property over the 28 years he was there, and it showed. He had a lot more invested in the property, and a lot more memories than I did, but I have a lot of fond memories as well. (I was there just under seven years.)

We each look back on many good times, but the best part is that we know we are moving on, TO something, that will be equally as good, or better. We have a lot of work to do, building our new home and garden, and we are excited to get to it. See more about the development of our Guffey home at Mountain Gaitway.

The garden will wait until 2016, as we have way too much to do this summer. However, a dozen ducklings have been ordered, and will arrive the week of June 1. Again, we will get a straight run, will fatten up the drakes 16-20 weeks for dinner, and save the hens as layers. We may keep a drake for breeding purposes, but will decide that later.  This year we are getting a mix of Golden Cascades and White Appleyard.  The Appleyards will be more for eating, and because white ducks are so cute. The Golden Cascades will mainly be our layers. See more about the ducks on the "DUCKS" tab at the top of the page.

Congrats to the new buyers, and we wish you well!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Leaving Soon

Soon we will be leaving our Golden Gaits Ranch in Wellington. My next post will probably be from our new GGR in Guffey! We close on the sale of the house April 23. It's a bittersweet move, as we will be leaving behind all that we've done here on the property for the garden and horses and house. Looking around, we've done a lot (mostly Tim!). He's done a lot to make it a well-functioning ranch and garden. However, we look forward to building our new home in Guffey and developing the grounds for the horses, garden and new ducks!  Here's a shot of the new property as it is at this time, with a rendering of the "Happy House" as it will sit on the knoll, with the barn at the left and the RV (our temporary tiny house) on the right.

Goodbye, Wellington--Hello, Guffey!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Northern Bobwhites

This past winter we saw quite a few of these Northern Bobwhites here in Wellington.  According to the map of their range, they are a bit out of their territory here, but there has been a covey of about a dozen of them running around our yard, and other neighbors have noticed them, too.  They are funny, fat birds, similar to quail.  It's amazing how close we (or the horses) can get to them before they scamper or fly away. The past few days, we've heard them calling their unique call.  LISTEN HERE AND READ  It's been fun watching them this year, I will miss them in Guffey!  (But, in Guffey there are lots of Pinon Jays and Mountain Bluebirds!)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

2015 Break from Gardening

I've been getting catalogs and emails from several of the seed companies I've ordered from in the past, and it's sure tempting to take a look! Normally this time of year I'd be spending hours planning my garden and deciding which seed varieties I'd like to try. Not this year! 

Even  before we decided to buy our new property we had decided to take a break from gardening in 2015, our seventh year of gardening. It seemed an appropriate time for both ourselves and our soil to rest and replenish. As it has turned out, yes, the soil is resting, we are resting from gardening projects, but not exactly resting! We are now busy planning for our new home and our move to Guffey this spring.

Today we are at the property, staying in our new (temporary) future home, the RV. Tim's project for the weekend is to put skirting around the bottom to protect it from freezing. It's nice to be here, and we sure look forward to being here permanently!