Saturday, August 30, 2008

No Ducks on the Pond Tonight

Hal and I managed to capture the 7 mallard ducks and put them in the garage tonight. Tomorrow we'll take them to his parent's farm for an unknown amount of time. I've lost 3 ducks this week, two muscovies earlier this week and one mallard drake last night. Seems to be happening every 3 days. I took the dinghy into the pond today and found the little drake's body. His body was still whole, bobbing in the water but his neck was laying on the bank, eaten down to the bones and his head was gone. There were feathers plastered up the side of the bank.

We bought a couple of spring traps yesterday thinking we were after raccoon, but having found the body in that state, it points to a mink. Those are nasty little critters who wander far and wide and come back over and over till the food supply is gone. They are hard to catch. It's possible I may not be able to keep my ducks. Not unless I can stop this mink. If I can't get it I'll have to lock the ducks up every night.

It's generally impossible to get the mallard ducks off the pond once dusk hits. So we spent all afternoon catching them with a net, one at a time, waiting for them to come back to the garage after they ran away in a panic. Can't do that every day. Nor do I want to pen them up 24 hours a day. What's the point of having a pond if I can't let the ducks swim in it?

If I do have to get rid of the mallard ducks I hope I can keep the muscovies as they aren't as pond oriented. We took the raft off the pond today so they can't sleep on it. Apparently, a mink can easily grab a duck from the raft, dragging it into the water and drowning it. I know that's where the 3 girls were sleeping the night one of them vanished. Better if the muscovies don't have the chance to sleep there anymore. Tonight the two remaining muscovies are sleeping on the deck railing only 12 feet from the bedroom door. That's at least 40-50 feet from the pond. But I still can't risk keeping them unless I can lock them up at night, too.

I've had better weeks.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Oops, Rocket's Birthday

I could have sworn I already posted about this but that must have been on some other forum.

Rocket turned 11 last week, on the 21st. He had a nice breakfast of lamb and rice kibble with some "country stew" on top, followed by his usually walk through the woods to Uncle Butch's house where he spent the day, also as usual. A couple days earlier the morning was cool for August so we and Luna, of course, took a long walk down to Mud Lake where everyone had a dip and Rocket could also have a little fun walking through the big culvert under the road. He is an avid spelunker and has often squeezed his large frame into 15 inch diameter culverts. I try to persuade him not to do that because I fear he'll get stuck one day but he insists. So far, so good.

I also took him to the vet last week to have his blood and urine checked. He is on arthritis medication and it can cause liver and kidney damage. The vet says he's "tolerating the drug well".
I am glad as it's made a new dog out of him. Unfortunately, though it eases the pain, it can't fix his age. I'm afraid his right rear leg is going to give out on him eventually. Even now of it drags over a root or other ground obstruction it will collapse under him. He simply gets up and keeps going.

He's a wonderful dog.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Dawn of the Dead?

This photo depicts what sleeping baby guineas look like. To the unsuspecting they appear dead. Though I knew what to expect it's still a bit unnerving and I have to watch carefully to see that each one is breathing. Occasionally, one will be dead but generally those do look more dead than the rest.

These are the replacement birds sent to me by Estes Hatchery in Missouri free of charge after I lost 10 in the first shipment due to shipping stress. The weather last week was cooler and consequently, more survived. It's possible they were also treated less roughly by the post office. Of 21 birds one was DOA and another 3 died within 30 hours. One I managed to save but lost a different one unexpectedly. This morning I did not find any other dead birds.

Between these birds, the 11 left from the first hatchery shipment and the two that are 3 months old, I have 51 guineas. I am doomed. I do not have large enough facilities to house them plus the 31 chickens. At most, my 6 by 8 foot square coop could house 32 birds and that is pushing it. Eighty-four is nearly triple the number. There will be fights, picking of feathers, blood letting, and other nasty things birds do when over-crowded. Even eating the 2 adult guineas and 2 extra roosters now is not a quick enough solution. I really need another coop or temporary structure for some of these birds until mid December when some could probably be butchered at 4 months old.

And all this chaos is happening because I over compensated when I accidentally killed one of my first 3 guineas and wanted to replace it.

But until the housing problem looms larger as winter approaches the new keets reside in their box under the picture window of my living room. Their one week old cousins are on the opposite side of the house in the dining room. They can hear each other peep but I can't combine them, the boxes are too small. As long as they are getting enough to eat and being allowed to run all over each other they seem quite content although at times the older ones sound as though they are trying to barrel through the cardboard walls.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

More Keets Coming

Tomorrow, assuming the mail works correctly, I'll have replacement keets for the ones that died. I lost 10 of the 31 they shipped me and when I contacted them (while only 8 were deceased) I was told they'd send me 10. I expected to get a credit or refund because the website says they can only ship a minimum of 30. So either they're risking the 10 or sending extras. We've got the box set up tonight with the temperature already adjusted and it's big enough for extras should that happen. But if they really only send 10 I don't see how they can expect them all to survive when I lost a third of the first order. Still, that's better than the half lost from the other hatchery.

But as it stands now I have 21 keets in the dining room, 11 in the garage, 2 in the coop for a total of 35. Plus there's the 4 chickens in the coop and the 27 in the garage. This is way more birds than I bargained for. What was I thinking?!

In other news Hal and I (Hal mostly) rotated the duck pen 90 degrees in the garage for the ducklings to test it out. I lined the floor with plastic carpet runner and straw. We were able to block off the rest of the garage so now the ducks can only be in the pen or outside in the little fenced area. The garage is already feeling cleaner. Once I get the keets straightened out I can work on cleaning the garage floor of the excess straw, duck poop, etc. Then I can think about painting the duck pen the final coat. It's only primed so far, except for the back end which was inaccessible till Hal turned it around.

So much to do and so little time!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Chicken/Guinea/Duck Update

I couldn't resist the sale at a hatchery in Missouri called Estes so I ordered 30 more guinea keets. They were half the price I'd normally pay for them. The ones that arrived alive seemed well but soon the lavender ones started dying. As of today I've lost 6 out of 11 lavender and 1 of the 10 purple to seemingly the same thing. They stand erect, eyes closed, won't eat or drink, breathing only a little harder than the others. A few of them had "pasty butt" which is a clogging of the vent where they eliminate. I keep cleaning them but one died between 6 and 8 this morning when I fell back asleep. I've got another that I'm working with and he is peeping a little now when I pick him up to feed him with a syringe. I've got my fingers crossed.

I've upped the dosage of terramycin and put it in the water for all of them now, not just in the syringe for the sick ones. I probably should have started that yesterday, it seems treating them after they get sick isn't fast enough. They've only been here a little over 48 hours and things went downhill quickly. I hope this treatment will work.

However, a bit of good news is that one of the pearl guineas, of which there are 10, started having leg troubles, breathing troubles, etc and I began another all out effort to save him. I placed him in his own little container within the box because the others attacked his feet which stuck out behind him and quivered. I fed him a sugar/honey/electrolyte water mixture. I did this on the hour all day yesterday till about 3:30 pm when I went to my neighbor's to dog-sit for 3 hours. When I returned he was sitting up, feet under him and trying to hop out of the container. I placed him back inside with the others and I can't say which one he is now.

I had one duckling hatch, another brown rouen. Another egg pipped and then died. The other 5 don't seem to be doing anything at all. I suspect they're dead too. We'll have to rig up a cage with a light for this guy and put him in the garage with the month old ducks so he can know he's a duck. I don't want him imprinting on me and thinking he's human. There are 14 eggs left in the incubator which aren't due to hatch for another 4 days. After that batch I'm not incubating any other eggs this year.

As for my previous chick orders, I've named one chick named Spin-Dry. A gold laced wyandotte chick was not looking good a few days ago, sitting there rather ruffled and uninterested in life. We put him in a box indoors with his own heat lamp and started him on electrolytes. When we discovered he had blood in his diarrhea I added some old antibiotic I had from when we raised parakeets. I fed him via syringe, too and also added milk powder to his feed for extra protein. He started perking up within 24 hours but then started spinning in circles, always clockwise while
wandering around his box. A couple days later he was still spinning but also cheeping, looking up, seemed very interested in his surroundings and began drinking water on his own.

Yesterday morning I put him back with his buddies and he seems to be doing well. I marked his feet with a sharpie pen but it seems to have worn off already. I meant to give him a little extra antibiotic via syringe for a couple days but I can't tell which one he is unless he's spinning.

The remaining 11 keets from my first guinea order seem to be doing well also. Their side of the brooder is often populated with some of the chicks who have discovered they can fly over the 8 inch tall partition. Occasionally a keet will hop over and join the chicks but mostly, it's chicks doing the flying. Once they're capable of reaching 2 feet I may have to cover the pen to keep them inside. Can't have chicks running around inside the garage, it wouldn't be healthy.

In the meantime the semi-adult chickens and guineas in the coop are doing fine, free ranging and doing naughty things like sitting on my chaise lounges.

And the adult ducks just hang around the pond or the garage and demand to be fed.