May 29, 2016
Five new ducklings hatched this morning from a grey hen that I kept from my first hatch of my first year. I feel a deep sense of accomplishment when an animal that was born and raised on my farm continues the cycle. She was a very good mom even tried to get me as I was stealing her babies from her. She only had five babies so hopefully her nest has more eggs and now that these babies are lost to her she will go and hatch out more.
I always feel terrible that I can’t leave ducklings with their mom. I know I can’t compare ducks and humans, but I would be beyond devastated if my babies got stolen. When we move out to the big ranch we will have a full sized pond for them. Then the moms will be allowed to keep their ducklings with them full time since ponds are easy to get in and out of. (I just ended that sentence with a preposition. I hope neither my mom or my old english teacher read this. I’m sure all the grammatical errors are shocking!) Water troughs and ducklings and/or goslings do not work together.
The five new youngsters are very happy to be with the older eight that hatched earlier this week. They will stay together through maturity or until they sell. I sell or trade most of my ducklings away. My main breeding flock is thirty hens and three or four drakes depending on their conditions. If I have three drakes and they look exhausted and droopy I add another one in. If I have too many drakes my hens start looking raggedy it’s a delicate balance but the kids and I don’t mind going out there several times a day to check on everybody.
I bought some new Silver Fox rabbits yesterday. They are very hard to find in my area. I really like them because they are an excellent meat and fur combo. They are also the least skittish of all the rabbit breeds I have tried. I don’t handle the rabbits much. I feed them daily and check on them several times a day, and while I talk to them I don’t often pick them up unless they are being switched around or being bred. The Silver Foxes mind the least when it comes to my picking them up. My New Zealands full on panic and scratch me up, or try to at least. All my rabbits are in cages right now and while it is clean and compact which I do like. I really don’t like having them in open air metal prisons. We have one ground cage that we keep trios ( a male with two females) in for breeding. Chicken wire and wood sides but just a dirt floor. They are much happier in there. There is plenty of room for them to hop around and do bunny things. I started the rabbits in there last year and lost three teenagers to digging. Did you know that rabbits dig? Ya? So did I! Then I still gave them a dirt floor cage anyway.
I think I was just hoping they would make an exception for me. Those three hung around in the yard and the neighbors yard for a few months just taunting me. I was never able to catch them. I choose to believe that they are happy in an underground burrow somewhere. I now have small hog panels under the cage it’s a thick metal with 4″ holes. Too tight for the bunnies to squeeze through but the metal is thick enough and spaced wide enough that it doesn’t hurt their feet. I also keep hay or straw or shavings in there. that keeps the smell down and the floor comfortable. The plan for the big ranch is to have a 2ox20 outdoor pen for them with a small indoor shelter we will put hog panels around the perimeter of the fence line but leave the inside open so they can dig to their hearts content. Just hopefully not underneath the fence. I will let you know how that turns out.
I have three rabbits that I saved over from my last litter two does and a buck. I took the oldest buck that I bought yesterday and put him with my two doelings (does that have not had kits yet) to form a new colony. He is not old enough to breed yet, but this should give them an opportunity to get used to each other. My two doelings have never been separated for that very reason. Two does put together will fight because they are territorial unless they are family. Those two have never fought the bigger one is the boss and they both know the status quo. The poor buck I put with them today is learning. He is much smaller than they are. Though very handsome with all his silver streaks. I will put the females I bought yesterday in with my buck when they are about 8 months old. I don’t want to put them together earlier cause being bred too young could stunt their growth.
Rabbits are my weakest area when it comes to animal husbandry. I have had rabbits for 2 years and I have only had three litters born in all that time. It’s a process. I’m still learning and lucky for you you get to learn along with me. One of the most important thing, for me, to have on a ranch is notes. Who got bred when? To whom? What cage? how did they feel? Who is injured? What dates were animals born? I have a little planner that I keep most of that info in, but I often forget to write it down. Then I kick myself cause I do need it later on. This blog will definitely help in the record keeping department. I also just have to remember to write it down here as it happens also!