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Permalink 09:26:12 pm, by Karen Email , 59 words   English (US)
Categories: Journal

House chicken outdoes herself

The house chicken laid an egg. She's done it before so that's nothing special. She's laid 4 in the last 5-6 days. But with the fourth one this week, she must have been trying to impress us. This had to be painful. What do you think? Yes, those other eggs are normal large size eggs from some of our other hens.


Permalink 07:29:23 pm, by Karen Email , 656 words   English (US)
Categories: Journal

Magnificent Muscovies

Yesterday Ken and I drove a couple hours to pick up some Muscovy ducks that were being given away by a man who could no longer keep them. We had been planning to get some ducklings this year, either locally or shipped from a hatchery, but when I posted on a farm bird list my wish to find Muscovies, a couple people emailed me with a contact regarding some birds being given away. The contact was a lady who agreed to house all the ducks (and Toulouse geese) that the man needed to get rid of, and yesterday was moving day. There were a couple other people that came along to pick up both ducks and geese and we all motored over from her house to the man's place to round them up.

He had all the ducks caught and inside a large wire dog crate, so we picked out the ones we wanted, and the other people did the same, and then the rest went into crates in the woman's pickup. The geese were still loose, so they decided to come back and round them up later.

We took 7, after only figuring on taking 4 at the most. But there were so many, and not enough people to give them homes, and so we took a few more.

As we drove back, we were following the pickup. When the ducks stood up in their crate, you could just see their heads over the tailgate. It was quite amusing watching heads pop up every so often and swivel back and forth as they tried to figure out what this new circumstance in their life meant. Or maybe they were just complaining about the frost heaves! I started singing a silly little song about "all the little ducky-ducks, riding in their trucky-trucks". I was tired. That's my only excuse.

So, why Muscovy ducks? And what ARE Muscovy ducks, you may be wondering?

They are originally a South American species of duck, not related to the Mallard. Just about every other type of domesticated duck was derived from the wild Mallard. They are fairly large, with males weighing up to 15 lbs and females up to around 8 lbs. They love bugs, and do not need a pond to swim in, although they have webbed feet and can swim. They actually will roost like a chicken and have claws on the ends of their toes to help them grip. They are very very quiet as well. The males make a soft hissing sound, and the females a sort of soft trilling coo. And did I mention they love bugs? Slugs and spiders too. They are a great aid on the farm where there may be an overabundance of flies, mosquitoes, or other insect pests. They are very hardy and are excellent foragers. They also are wonderful mothers, and can raise a few clutches a year. Their meat is lean and it is said to resemble veal, but with less fat and calories than turkey, and is served in high end restaurants.

So, those are all reasons why they are popular on small farms and why we wanted to acquire them.

They are beautiful birds. The natural wild coloration is black, but in domesticating them, several colors were developed. They also come in white, chocolate, blue, silver, lilac, and probably a few other colors and patterns. They can also have various white markings with any of these colors. The ones we picked out appear to be variations of blue or chocolate. They have red fleshy growths called "caruncles" around their eyes and over the top of the beak, and the males develop these more than the females, rather like chickens and their combs and wattles.

So, on to the photos! These were taken while they were in a crate on our front porch where they spent their first night here. They are now outside in the poultry pen, in their own shelter.


Permalink 12:59:43 pm, by Karen Email , 363 words   English (US)
Categories: Journal

More snow, a chicken in the house, and other fun

About a month ago one of our hens was attacked by a hawk. I got out there before too much damage was done, and she spent the last few weeks in a crate in our living room next to the woodstove, living the good life. She healed fine on her own and started regrowing the feathers the hawk had ripped out of her neck. It is notable that the hawk picked the white hen, the only white hen we have. The rest are various shades of brown, grey, black, chestnut, etc. White seems to say "pick me! pick me!" to any predator passing by.

Anyway, on Saturday it was sunny and relatively mild, which is to say it was around 32 degrees, so I took her outside and put her back in with the rest of the chickens. No one really bothered her, except for the roosters of course, in their own "special" way. But she was not being harrassed that I could see. However, Sunday morning when I went to open the coop and feed them, she was up on a roost and her back had been picked completely bare of feathers and was a bit bloody. Apparently someone started in on the broken feathers on her back, and that was all it took. A white chicken shows any little bit of blood so easily and chickens love to pick at anything red. She is now back in the house, in the crate by the woodstove, and seems to enjoy it very much. A house chicken.

Meanwhile, it is snowing AGAIN. We are expected to get another 6-10 inches today. It is granular powder so it is not sticking to anything, including the ice under the snow. I was walking the dogs this morning and even though I knew the ice was there on the driveway, and was being careful, I still ended up flat on my back. It was the perfect slapstick fall in the best traditions of old vaudeville or Dick Van Dyke. It didn't even hurt, although it was quite surprising. I should have made a snow angel while I was down there - it was a perfect opportunity. Maybe next time.


Permalink 12:35:46 pm, by Karen Email , 112 words   English (US)
Categories: Journal

January thaw slightly late

We finally got our January thaw, even if it took until February to get here. Yesterday was a glorious 55 degrees. Everything is very squishy. It's impossible not to track mud into the house, but I'm not going to complain. I keep a towel by the door to wipe the dogs' paws.

Spring fever is catching now I think, and we are ready for winter to be over. I'm afraid we have a ways to go yet, but even though it's supposed to get colder over the next few days, it's not going to be the frigid temps we've had for the past month or more. The end of winter is in sight!

Permalink 03:02:38 am, by Karen Email , 93 words   English (US)
Categories: Journal

Enjoy your Valentine's Day edibles


I think everyone should read this article, and the ones it links to. We are so, so, so weight-obsessed in this country, that anyone not fitting the government BMI charts is automatically labeled "unhealthy" and if you are a celebrity, every pound you gain (or lose) is scrutinized and yakked about ad nauseum. No wonder eating disorders are so prevalent.

Please, enjoy your Valentine's Day yummies without guilt, or counting the calories, or thinking you have to "give up" something else to "make up" for eating them. Just enjoy them and be thankful.

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Sharing ideas from our small farm in NH, where we raise Icelandic sheep and assorted poultry. We are members of ISBONA (Icelandic Sheep Breeders of North America) and the CLRC (Canadian Livestock Records Corporation). We also participate in the Voluntary Scrapie Flock Certification Program (NH54). Contact us at karen [at] birchtreefarm [dot] com. Please also visit the farm website at Birchtree Farm.
Farm Bill
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