Thursday, April 14, 2011

Ducks? Today??!!

   Talk about a shocker to the system. The post office called yesterday at noon and said we had some chicks come in and needed to pick them up. What??? Those weren't supposed to come until May 9th. We didn't feel we could just send the little buggers back, so we got their cage area ready. Looks like this...

There is a cage that a box sits on. The box has linoleum on the bottom for easy washing. Then we have cardboard on the corners to round them and another cardboard piece across the middle to keep them all on one half until they get bigger. The heat lamp hangs on a rope and can be lifted up and down to
adjust the heat. We keep it around 95 for the first few days and can tell if they are cold if they huddle and hot if they are in the corners trying to get away from the heat. Then the screen keeps the big girls and boys from climbing in and eating the food and terrorizing the babies. As the babies get larger and warmer we can open the back door with a screen door on it and let some fresh air in.

We've used this system for years and I like it alot. But, the reason I like it the best is because the little babies are in with the big kids. They listen to each other, begin to recognize voices, and start to get acquainted. The transition of putting the babies in with the larger chicks seems to go pretty easy later.

As you can see from this pic, the whole thing fits into one half of the chicken house. The large chicks still have their nice perches for at night and they put up with all the cheaping and the increased heat. There is a flip door on the side of the chicken house so we can keep the large door closed and the heat in. The big girls can come in and out during the day to put eggs in the boxes as part of our "egg program". (Most of them willingly participate in the program. Except Spike and she is a whole 'nother story!)
   The babies arrived in a cardboard box. And Tom, the postman, mentioned that there wasn't that many. Hm...I had ordered 30 chicks. I opened the box and saw little black billed heads...ducks! They were due May 16th!
   Our Cayuga ducks came early. OOOKAAY. I guess we could still use the same set up since the chicks wouldn't come until May. It would be too cold to set up the other area where we usually raise the ducklings and the turkey poults. We noticed two were already dead, but we took the rest home to get them warmed up.

This is the type of box we get our poultry in. We like to work with McMurry Hatchery in Iowa as they are so nice. When we got the babies home, we opened the box carefully and took them out one at a time. The ducks have little bands on their legs that are different colors according to their sex. We had ordered 10 female (ducks) and 2 male (drakes). The bands need to be removed before the ducklings get too large or the legs will be pinched by them.

We carefully removed the bands, and I dipped each bill into the water a couple of times, making sure that they got a good drink each time. This is pretty important for the poultry I think. It helps them find the water, hydrates them after a truly horrible experience, gives them some sustenance since they are just hatched, and calms them down some. We let them all be still for a while and soak up the heat and get their drinks. A small plate of food is available for them also.

I've noticed that the ducklings like to be shown the food. I dribble some onto the newspaper and they chase it like it is bugs. The newspaper keeps them from eating the pine wood shavings we use for bedding. I'll take the newspaper out after a couple of days a piece at a time, getting them used to the new stuff and making sure they aren't eating it.
  We did lose two more later and I got really worried. I called the hatchery and they said they thought the ducklings got too stressed during shipping and assured me we could work out a credit for them. Like I said...they are really nice. The rest of the babies did fine all through the night. I check them every four hours and adjust the light as needed for the first couple of nights. Unfortunately we don't have that automated. It gives me a chance to make sure they are doing okay.
   We usually order for delivery in May so the weather isn't too cold. I'm not sure if the mix up was mine or the hatchery, but the babies are here and doing fine. I did make sure the chicks were coming in May and that will give us plenty of time to get these raised up enough to move them out to another area by then.
   As for the breed, Cayuga ducks are a heritage breed. You can learn more about them at the American Livestock Breed Conservancy website - link at the bottom of the blog page. I love the black ones...they are soooo cute! What about the other two survivors? One is doing great, the other we are still concerned about.
Can you tell which is which? Wish them luck.

1 comment:

  1. WOW! Someone must be a grandma times 50!!! Love those little duckies. Am waiting for the little chickies.