Raising ducks: Weeks 7–10


First flight: Polly makes a break for it. Toby is concerned.

The ducks look like adults now. Their feathers are all in, and their wings, especially, have grown—as you can see in the photo. Most evenings before we herd them in for the night we let them wander around the yard, and they have started trying to fly. They will run across the yard, flapping their wings and hopping, and occasionally get a few inches off the ground.

They are turning into beautiful ducks. Each brown feather is tipped with white and their flight feathers are partly white, so that they provider a range of colors. From a distance they still appear solid brown, but the closer you look, the more beautiful they are. Until one of them craps on your shoe, anyway.

Raising ducks: Weeks 4–6


Yes, I am one hot little duck.

The ducks are now six weeks old and have been living outside for two and a half weeks. One morning in their fourth week, when I went in to the brooder to take them out to their grazing pen for the day, I found Patsy running around the outside of the brooder peeping at the top of her little lungs. (All the others were running around the inside of the pen peeping at the top of their little lungs. Where the heck is Patsy?) So I picked Patsy and the other six ducklings up, took them outside, and that was the end of life in the brooder.

In full bloom

It has not rained for four full weeks. We are barely able to keep enough water on the garden, but the big raised bed is going strong. The cabbage and broccoil have yielded several meals, and we have pulled out the spent pea plants and planted cucumbers at the base of their trellis. (Well, "trellis" is an overstatement: it is a piece of old wire fencing. The peas didn’t seem to mind.) We have eaten the first tomatoes; the potatoes are nearly ready for harvest; and the herbs, which can take a little dry weather, are growing well.

Meanwhile, the ducks are growing fast. They have moved outside now, and they look and sound more like adult ducks: they have all their first feathers, and they are quacking more than peeping. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck…

ducklings

Raising ducks: Weeks 2–3

ducklings
Attack of the killer ducklings! (At least if you’re a mosquito.)

The ducks have been here three weeks today. They are now living outside in their grazing pen during the day and coming inside at night to stay warm and safe in the brooder. We are securing their nighttime pen this week so that they can move outside for good in a few days—they are getting large and stinky. In the meantime they are enjoying the fresh air during the day and their baby pool, to which they have free access.

Ducks!

This month we took the big leap into livestock with six Khaki Campbell ducks. (Well—seven Khaki Campbell ducks. We got a bonus duckling from the hatchery. We ordered six females, and I’m sure we have six females, but even if we assume the seventh to be male—which he probably is, because males of laying breeds are not of much value to hatcheries—we have no idea which one he is. So we’ll hold off on naming them until the mystery duck makes himself or herself known.)

The ducks arrived at most two days old; I’ve posted a few early photos below. I am building a section of this site for information about ducks, so look there for more photos when it’s up. By Thanksgiving they will be laying eggs—up to 3 dozen a week among them, so we read, but we’ll see. We’ll keep you posted.

Meanwhile the garden is doing as well as we could hope given the lack of rain. The soaker hoses have gotten a lot of use, but we can’t keep the cabbage and broccoli entirely happy. On the other hand, we’ve gotten more sugar snap peas and turnip greens than ever before—we have figured out how to grow those, at least, and they seem to be happy with the unusually warm spring.

a baby duckling

Raising ducks: Day one


a baby duckling
Cheep!

The ducklings arrive via U.S. Mail from Clearview Hatchery in Gratz, Pennsylvania. Most hatcheries have larger minimum orders, but Clearview would send us as few as six, which is what we wanted. Well, ok: they only charged us for six, but they sent an extra duckling. Number Seven is not marked, so we’re guessing it is female, but when we may find ourselves with a drake when their feathers come in. Until then, there’s no reliable way for an amateur to tell.

Warming up

We planted the tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers last weekend. The raised beds don’t get enough sun to make tomatoes really happy, so we moved them last year to pots along the fence at the bottom of our driveway. That worked just fine so long as we remembered to water them, but the raised beds need regular water anyway. This year we have Early Girls, cherry tomatoes, and some heirloom varieties, and we planted marigolds among the tomato pots to purty things up a bit.

Meanwhile it has been very warm and everything is growing like mad, as you can see below. We still have not had much rain, so the soaker hoses are getting regular use. I’ve included photos of the big and medium raised beds separately.

Smells like mud

By the middle of March around here it is already spring. At the equinox the daffodils are waning and the hyacinths are in full bloom. The spring crops are coming on strong; we have already had a salad or two. The dogs, oblivious to the flowers and to any vegetables they can’t reach to nibble on, are taking advantage of the warmer days to sleep in the sun.

I was going to subtitle this page "waiting for rain," but then it rained all week. Nothing says spring like a noseful of good clean mud.

First planting

In the Chinese Calendar, the New Year, which arrives four to eight weeks after the winter solstice, marks the beginning of spring. (That’s late January to mid Feburary for you Westerners.) That makes sense to us, because in North Carolina, it’s time to plant potatoes, lettuce, greens, onions, peas, and cabbages and their kin. We planted lettuce, turnip greens, red and white onions, sugar snaps, broccoil, cabbage, radishes, and carrots in raised beds. The potatoes go in "bins," chickenwire cages lined with newspaper and filled with topsoil and compost. As the plants grow taller they can be covered with more dirt.