birth, death, a near miss and other amusements

I often wonder if industrial farmers have as many adventures and as much excitement as I do here on our tiny little farm. What a crazy time!

Maybe it’s because I have a two year old to provide me with a daily dose of perspective on life, or maybe my life is just a bit sillier than others . . . but either way it seems there is always something bizarre or beautiful happening around here.

Yesterday our first Muscovy duckling hatched in the brooder. We’ve hatched out our fair share of chickens and quails, but never ducks. Now, Muscovies are pretty much a silent bird. So when I started hearing a peep peep peep coming from the kids playroom where the brooder is, I was decidedly confused.

Do ducks that don’t quack, peep?

For two days my son would make a surprised face  – a gasp, eyebrows arched, finger to ear and eyes looking off dramatically towards the sound. We still couldn’t tell if it was actually coming from the brooder, until finally we saw one lone egg rockin’ and rollin’. By dinner it had pipped and by bedtime a tiny, wet little soul had emerged. My son was absolutely thrilled.

The wee one is all dried out and our resident mama duck has happily taken it under her wing. Check one for awesome.

One of our daily chores is to let the ducks and chickens completely loose into the pasture and collect the eggs. Seems simple, right?

Well, on Tuesday morning, we found the gate between the birds large pen and the back half of the barn open, the barn FULL of escapees. There were chickens EVERYWHERE. All three stalls were full, the little girls had managed to wedge themselves in the space between the studs behind a chest of drawers, the dog was going crazy and my son was enthusiastically “helping” fishing chickens out of nooks and crannies with his plastic shovel.

If you’ve never kept chickens, rounding up girls that aren’t yet trained to follow a shaking tin of grain is kind of like herding cats. Flying cats.

The eggs are a whole other story. Our hens are all quite new to us and our farm. We have about 55 young girls that we bought as chicks in March who aren’t laying yet, and 25 . . . errr 24 hens that we bought a week or so ago at point-of-lay and about 6 laying ducks. Some folks keep them locked up till they learn where to lay, but I just can’t bare to keep my girls indoors. Instead we leave them relatively confined until mid-morning, and hope most of them have done their laying by the time we let them out to roam.

Well, let’s just say everyday is Easter around here.

I thought my ducks had slowed down laying until I found a hen setting an entire clutch in our inherited junk-pile by the barn. I block up one enticing spot only to have them find another. Further down the pasture, along the fence line next to the creek, my boy scrambled under the hazelnut and scampered back out with a duck egg in each hand. Every morning one goofy duck breaks out of her enclosure, trots down to the creek, lays her egg in the long grass, covers it up and breaks back into her enclosure. Apparently my carefully constructed nests aren’t to her taste.

Just before lunch, while visiting with my boy, the dog and chickens in the pasture, we heard a muffled “whoop whoop” of wings and a huge red hawk dropped out of the sky, nabbed a rodent right at our feet and “whoop whooped” away again. Completely startling and totally awesome.

Making my tea later that afternoon while the boy slept, I glanced out my kitchen window to see not one, not two, but FOUR coyotes within feet of my girls. My dear Ruby, the “livestock guardian dog”, sleeping soundly on the porch bench. There I go – running the 100 meter dash between the house and the barn, in slippers, pregnant, flailing and yelling like a crazy person. Thank goodness I have no neighbours to speak of.

Coming home from our latest ultrasound, I went to release the dog from her (fortified) pen in the barn, and found a chicken in with her, dead as a doornail. She had quite deliberately, and with much apparent effort, made her way in and out of three different stalls, across a hallway and over 3 walls to climb into the pen that had the chicken-eating livestock guardian dog locked in it.

Now one might count that as strike two against the dog, but for me, I’ll chock it up to natural selection doing it’s good and important work.

So that was our week . . . How was yours?

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