Birds, Birds, and MORE Birds!

With our ducks and chickens getting older and pretty much on auto-pilot, we are ready to add to our flocks.  I wanted some pretty birds, so I ordered several chickens just to look at.  The pretty birds we ordered are silver-laced, buff, and gold Wyandotte pullets.  We also chose Barnevelder and gold laced Polish pullets.

Baby guinea fowl, chickens and ducks.Unfortunately, the silver laced Wyandottes were short run so we had to substitute them with barred Plymouth Rock.  They will be just as pretty.  I’m so excited to see the pullets when they grow up.

Since we already had the Australorps with a rooster, we didn’t get any pretty bird roosters because too many roosters leads to trouble.  Depending on how many chickens we need in the future, we might consider separating breeds and getting the roosters for each breed.  We’ll decide based on egg sales.

We also ordered five more khaki Campbell ducks since some of ours met up with a couple of snakes.

The most exciting new birds are the 25 guinea fowl.  We ordered “hatchery Thirsty chicks.choice” birds.  Since the hatchery doesn’t sex them, it’s going to be a waiting game to see how many dinners there are.  We’re betting the ratio of 50/50 male/female.  The females will be kept for breeding along with one lucky male.

This bird arrival went much more smoothly than the last.  They all arrived on time and appear to be in good health.  The ducks are the largest, more than twice the size of the guinea fowl.  The chickens’ sizes are some where in between the guinea fowl and the ducks.

For right now they are getting the chick starter.  I’ll get some turkey starter for the guinea fowl since they have a whole lot more growing to do than the others in just about the same amount of time.  They need more protein to build their little bodies.

We used the same brooder crate we made for the previous two groups of hatchlings.  It works great for the ducks and chickens, but the guinea fowl are so tiny they fit right through the chicken wire.  That called for some fast thinking.

David had already cut some 8′ x 12″ boards for use in the garden, so I grabbed those and put them up on sides of the crate to prevent them from getting out, or worse, getting injured or killed in the wire.

The feeders were a different story too.  We use the regular chick feeders, the ones with the holes for each chick.  While the guinea fowl can easily reach their food from the floor, they seem to prefer to stand on the food.  For this they can fit their whole bodies inside those little bitty holes!

To fix that problem I grabbed a couple of new, but cheap, ice cube trays.  They worked perfectly!  They birds can get all the food they want without climbing inside the feeder.  They are perfectly happy to stand on it.

20130712_075927Watering is no trouble with three one gallon chick waterers.   The twist is that the guinea fowl like to climb in it to drink.  They are so cute, but they won’t fit in there very long.

Of course, the chicks are always a hit with my granddaughter.  She is a curious two year old who wants to check on the chicks every few minutes.  Just when I think she has forgotten about them, nope.  It’s time to go check on them again.

The Value of Chickens and Ducks

Chicks and ducks raised together.

On our quest to be independent we decided to get busy with livestock.  We have had chickens in the past and know how much fun they can be and about their easy care.  Well, almost easy care.

This time around we chose Australorps for eggs and meat because they are a great dual purpose bird.  They are docile, meaning they usually are not going to give you any trouble by pecking you.  They lay well, up to 250 per year (or more).  With ten hens, production should be about 2,500 per year.  Feed cost per year per bird is about $304.00.  The eggs economic value for this region is about $729.00.

Chickens are not the only great source of eggs and meat.  Ducks are a great duckchoice too.  We chose Khaki Campbell ducks.  They are beautiful to look at and will produce about 300 eggs per year.  With ten females, there will be about 3,000 eggs per year.  The economic value for this region is $1,250.00.

If every now and then we let some chicken and duck eggs hatch, those birds can be used to increase the flock for more eggs, or as meat birds.  These birds are nearly free since baby chicks eat small amounts of food, and by the time they do eat 1/4 pound of food per day, it’s time to cull them.  The number of birds to cull every year depends on how many times you allow your females to go broody.

Given all this, there is the added work of feeding and watering the birds each day.  Those processes can be automated, making it only necessary to check the flock each day.  In the end, your family will consume tastier birds and eggs.  Considering that duck is only found in certain types of stores in some parts of the country, for us, to have a meal of fresh duck or duck eggs would be considered something otherwise unaffordable.

Knowing the products are healthier to eat and free from all manner of antibiotics, diseases,  salmonella and other hazards of the poultry industry is priceless.