Chicks and Ducklings: Mission Accomplished

Back in August, we had a couple of fun surprises. First, a mother duck hatched out eleven ducklings. Shortly thereafter, a mother hen hatched out nine chicks. Given the propensity with which baby birds get picked off — even when being raised by the most-attentive mothers — we decided to move both broods into a portable 4×8 garden pen. They weren’t happy about sharing the space, but it was our only option. They did manage to co-exist, and both broods thrived.

The pen turned out to be a great choice, for several reasons:

  • We were able to get lots of high-protein feed into these little birds. Had they been running around the barnyard, they would’ve been limited to forage and would not have grown nearly so large nearly so quickly. With autumn approaching fast, we’re glad they’re in good shape.
  • They cleared out TONS of overgrown weeds from a fallow swath of the garden, that we would otherwise have had to deal with. They got all that green stuff in their diet.
  • They eliminated lots of crickets, beetles, and other bugs from the garden area.
  • They converted all those weeds and bugs into a wonderful layer of rich fertilizer. This portion of the garden will be exploding with growth after next Spring’s planting.

Here’s a good picture of what they managed to accomplish (in tandem with a second pen, home to nine layer pullets we’ve been raising since April):

And here’s a good shot of what things looked like inside the pen:

With cooler weather and shorter days, we decided it was time to transition the birds and their mothers into the broader flocks. Plus, ducks go through an unbelievable amount of water. I was having to fill their five-gallon waterer at least once per day. (For the nine pullets in the other pen, the interval is more like once per week.) Time for them to go splash around in the swamp with their brethren.

The toughest part was getting the mother hen, and all nine chicks, into the barn last night. We’d turned them loose in the area behind the barn, hoping they’d follow the other birds inside as darkness fell. Unfortunately, they kept trying to get back into the garden; after all, that was the only “home” they remembered, and even Mother Hen had trouble convincing them there was any better place. The two oldest Yeoman Farm Children helped me catch the nine chicks and physically deposit them deep inside the barn. Once Mother Hen joined them, they settled in for the night. They were still piled up in the same nest when I came out this morning.

So far, so good. Next task is to move the Barred Rock pullets. Problem is, they’re now so big they’re indistinguishable from our two-plus-year-old Barred Rocks which need to be culled. I don’t have the time or freezer space to cull them right now, so it’s looking like I’ll need to put an orange zip tie around a leg on each of the old ones.

Never a dull moment on the farm.