Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

Or is it supposed to be Saint V's Day? Or is it just a holiday created/co-opted by a major greeting card company? Who knows? All I know is I didn't get a box of chocolates today.

I spent today doing a lot of on-line research on chickens. That's right, chickens. Raising them, housing them, feeding them, eating them, etc. Until a few days ago I really had no interest in raising anything but ducks, but then I got to thinking how much I like to eat chicken and how good farm raised chicken tastes compared to grocery stores. There is no comparison. Farm chicken tastes better. And from what I've read, they're easier to pluck than ducks which is a big consideration as I have enough stuff to do than spend hours on plucking one duck. Besides, I like fried chicken, I've never fried duck, though roast duck is excellent.

The 5 ducks I currently have feel more like pets as I never intended them to be eaten (at least not by us,
the hawks and eagles have other ideas.) I have told my husband that assuming they breed little ducks, once we get a flock over 15, he can start culling, (he has no qualms about killing a bird to eat.) And at the moment we have no trouble eating their eggs. But the chicken thing seems more doable in getting lots of birds to eat quickly. Plus, if I want to kill and freeze a bunch at once, the local Amish have a small business in processing the birds for you.

I am looking into an all around chicken that has small combs and wattles to lessen the chance of frostbite. I also don't want to get those meat makers, which are some sort of Cornish X that simply sits there; eats, defecates and dies of heart attacks by the time they're 3 months old. They're meant to be killed by the time they are 6-8 weeks old, that's how fast they gain weight. I would rather have a chicken that runs around and feeds itself and may even lay a few eggs. I wouldn't mind a couple hens that are broody enough to hatch their own chicks as well. Otherwise I can ask my father-in-law if he could hatch a few eggs in his incubator. A self sustaining flock is what I am aiming for.

So now I have to build not only a duck house,
but a hen house. It seems possible to house them in the same building, but everything I'm reading is pushing me to build two houses. One for the ducks down behind the garage and nearer the pond and the chicken coup up on the other side of the house, under the trees and in the fenced yard. They'd be a little safer there from neighborhood dogs, which though they are infrequent visitors, have been known to use my driveway as a short cut through town. (Have I mentioned I have a 1/4 mile long driveway?) Plus, they can fertilize my lawn in spring and summer and eat the bugs that invade my shrubs and flower gardens. I'll have to run the idea past my husband and see if he's interested in building 2 houses. I'm guessing, no.

Either way, I've got maybe a month to make a decision, the local feed store will probably be ordering the birds in late March. At least I know I am going to buy 4 more Indian Runner ducks. They are good egg layers, don't eat much and are fun to watch. Whether I get any chickens depends on what kinds the feed store offers (I know they had about 10 varieties last year, including those meat makers) and whether or not I come to my senses in time.

The photo is of my female runner, her partner was eaten by an eagle. I think she needs some friends her own size.

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