Foraging

The computer is working!

For now…

Having a computer that sort of, kind of, sometimes works is both more useful than one that does nothing at all and infinitely more frustrating.

But, it’s working now and so quick before it crashes I give you….

A duck!
Ancona duck

Not just any duck, this little lady came to me all the way from Washington State and will, if all goes well, be the mama to some new fluffy ducklings come spring.

Actual spring that is, not this 60 degree February nonsense that’s been going on the last week.

The ducks (and the geese and the chickens) have all enjoyed getting out and foraging in this ridiculous weather.  But despite hearing the siren song of spring myself on these last few warm days,  I’m not believing it. I see freezing temperatures in the forecast and no matter how nice that sun feels or how excited I am for fluffy new arrivals – it’s still February.

And there will be no duck babies until real spring arrives!

 

 

Caged!

 

Ducklings, goslings and children all move.

A lot.

But, if you build a 20 duckling, 2 gosling, 3 kid cage, you can photograph them all at the same time!

ducklings, goslings and kids

Remarkably even when you stick these 25 creatures in one small cage, you still get a very good sense of all their individual personalities.

Ivy, is seriously working on socializing the ducklings, she is busy, and can not smile for the camera.

Clara is willing to grin for the camera but will not stop doing what she had been doing, in this case plucking bits of greenery from the floor of the cage to hand feed to the birds.

Jane, of course, abandons all pretense that she was ever doing anything else to make silly faces at the camera.

Meanwhile, the ducklings, observed only by Ivy, are in a slight panic. But only a slight panic, because there is also water in their midst and, as all ducklings know, all water needs to be thrown on the ground immediately.

The goslings are boldly investigating. We are new to geese, but so far bold investigation seems to be their thing!

And, at the rate all 25 of them are growing, this is likely to be the only picture I ever get of them all together.

Happy Animals

I like to keep my animals happy.

I let my chickens range free, I open their mobile coop door in the morning so they may roam about all day and I lock them up at night to keep them safe. Except when I introduce new young chickens to the daily routine. Then I open the coop door every morning and crawl under the chicken coop catching and counting chickens every night. Those silly young birds take awhile to figure out that even if you can see your friends above you, there is no getting through the wire floor, you just have to use the door. Eventually they will figure it out. young AmericanaUntil then I figure that when I find myself under the chicken coop on one knee other leg extended for balance, one elbow on the ground because that hand is already holding a chicken stretching as far as I can for a second bird, well, that’s just an excellent ab hold.DSCN2973-(sm)

These chicken induced exercises will be slightly amusing to me for about a week and then I will be second guessing my “let’s have happy chickens” philosophy.

I also try to keep my dog happy. He’s my dog, I love him. So I let him out to run around outside with me whenever I’m out. The other day he scrummaged around in the woods for ten minutes while I watered plants. Ten minutes and he came back, muddy, wet, tired, hot, limping on a hind leg and smelling like he rolled in something much deader than than the freshly caught chipmunk he proudly gave me. happy Trip dogBut happy? Oh was he happy!Happy Trip dog

Me, I was second guessing my “let’s have happy dogs” philosophy.

I just got a pile of little ducklings and a pair of goslings. And so, because it’s been so nice out, I made them a little wire pen they can be outside in during the day in the front yard. I put the goslings in and they munched on leaves and grass and looked oh so happy. I put the ducklings in and they nibbled and explored, chased bugs and happily popped right out through the  holes in the wire. I then spent the next two hours babysitting my new babies and herding the occasional duck back in the pen while trying to think what else I had around that I could patch the holes up with. DSCN3067-(2sm)The shade was a perfect temperature with just a hint of a breeze, the grass was nice and soft and the little birds were endlessly entertaining.Ancona duckling

I’m pretty sure “lets have happy ducklings and goslings” is my favorite philosophy!

 

And Then There Were Six

Ancona ducks in the snowThere are risks to letting the birds free-range during the day.duck feather in the snow

Two ducks disappeared.duck feather in the snow

Nothing was left of them but a few feathers in the falling snow.duck feathers in the snow

There are risks.drake ancona in the snow

But I like to think it’s about the quality of life.Ancona ducks in the snow

Between the legions of furry, sharped-toothed animals and the freezer, many of our ducks won’t live long. But they’ll all live well.

Ancona ducks in the snow

And that makes all the difference.

For those of you who have been wondering, the ducks do fine in the winter. They always can go in and out of their house and on very cold sunny days they usually sit inside soaking up the rays coming through the windows. But, as you can see, even when it’s snowing, they’d rather be outside. 

Winter is Coming

They say winter is coming.

The area is full of winter storm warnings, dire predictions and people shivering at the mere thought of snowy weather arriving.

duck sleeping in leaf pile

Napping in the autumn sun.

But not me.

I’ll welcome the true winter weather when it comes.

Unfortunately, I suspect we are heading into nothing more than the transition period. The time of cloudy days and freezing temperatures with no snow but plenty of frozen puddles and icy mud patches that precedes real winter. duck in leaf pileI hope I’m wrong. Maybe winter will show up for good tonight.

We’ve been spoiled by a long fall of gorgeous weather but it’s about time for a little cold. It may come with beautiful snowfalls and freezing temperatures or it may be a month of slush, but I’ve got my warm fire and a pile of books to read.

I’m ready!

Update: It’s snowing!!! It may all melt tomorrow but first snow is always magic! 

 

Goodnight Ladies

“Goodnight ladies.” I say as I come up, shining a quick light through the coop to be sure the rouge possum that’s been about hasn’t found it’s way in for the night. The feathery bundles hardly shift from their toe warming hunker as I close the door. But if the chickens are indifferent to my presence the ducks make up for with their blind panic at my after dark arrival. Years of the same nightly routine and not even my “Hey Ducks.” called out as a warning that it’s just me calms them. So after a quick head count, I scoot the door closed on their frantic quacking.

Evening lock up done, I call the dogs and we circle back to the house taking the long way. The dogs happily bound ahead through the snow, no doubt hunting bunnies. The cold air is sharp on my cheeks but I’m bundled up against the cold and I turn my flashlight off, enjoying the sounds of the dogs, the glow of the snow and stars and relish the fact that I’m doing “chores.”  As in, I’ve got to go out and take care of the birds. Have to haul that water. Have to make sure they have feed. Have to get the eggs.  Have to close them up, safe from predators and the nasty wind that’s building.

Have to.

Twice a day.

I have to go out in the mornings when everything is covered in last night’s blanket of snow. I have to bring the dogs along and watch them tear through the fresh powder. I have to go out through the storms, hearing nothing but wind and snow, cocooned from the rest of the world inside the weather. I have to go out on the crystal clear nights and see the stars hanging low and bright. I have to go out where I can look back at the glow of the warm house through the trees knowing that if I’m a bit chilly, the fire inside will feel extra warm when I get back.

What a “chore.”

I head back into the warm house taking one last look at the bright stars, one last breath of the air that stings my nose and wonder – as much as I love the winter weather, would I leave my warm fire without those indifferent birds awaiting my care? Would I miss all this? I’d like to think not, that when the temperature drops I’d still be out just for the adventure of it all.

But I’ll keep my birds – just in case.

An Unusual Egg

For most of my life I have been around chickens and their eggs. Therefore I am no stranger to odd eggs; the double yolkers, the “wrinkled” shells, the eggs with no yolks, the shell-less eggs… But today Clara found a duck egg that was a first for me.

As she handed it over, she told me that it was bad and we should get rid of it. At first I thought it was just a shell-less egg. Which, I must say, never fail to give me the hibijibies when I’m not expecting them. Just imagine. Reaching into a darkened nest box to pull out an egg, expecting a hard, smooth, warm, shape that fits just perfectly into your hand – and touching instead a cold, squishy, leathery feeling, blob. Uuughh, it makes me shudder just to think of it. After I recover from my split second of panic, when I think I’ve actually found a small alien in my chicken coop, I think they are fascinating – all wiggle and squish! Fascinating or horrifying they are nothing more than a regular egg that didn’t “cook” long enough to get a shell. I see these shell-less eggs most often in the young, the old and the severely startled birds.

In any case -this duck egg went beyond shell-less, it was shell-less with a tail.egg with tail

The tail is a tube, about three inches long, that is open on the end and leaking out a bit of egg white.

Weird.

Fascinating.

I took picturesegg with tail 2

I’m so glad I have a blog so I can justify(?) my pictures of weird eggs.

It makes me feel less crazy.