Thank You!

A big thank you to Ms. Hutchins of Ft. White for donating a pair of White Wyandotte Bantams to the Columbia County 4-H Poultry Club! My club looks forward to working with Mr. and Mrs. Banty!

Mr. Banty

Mrs. Banty (she cray-cray)

Wyandottes were developed in the US as a dual-purpose breed in 1870s. Though they are said to be slow to start laying we hope to get some eggs from Mrs. Banty soon 🙂
These are beautiful birds and the kids look forward to training them.
Keep warm!


Canines and Chickens

Fact: My dogs will eat anything you put in front of them.
However, I have been extremely fortunate that none (except one) have shown any fowl killing tendencies. The one that did is a 3 month old puppy that ate two of our Buff Orpington chicks, and that was our fault. Being hounds our dogs will occasionally chase the birds (Baxter, our Beagle/Lab mix, in particular loves the noise the Peacocks make when chased up on our roof) , but no one has descended to eating chickens yet. We have a couple egg eaters, but no chronic chicken killers.


Unfortunately this was not always the case. Before Baxter we had a full blooded Chocolate Lab that ignored the chickens and geese but went after everything else. Turkeys, ducks, and guineas, he would run down with no remorse. While he was alive we gave up on trying to raise these animals as sooner or later it lead to their untimely demise. Near the end of his time with us he had started to learn to live with the birds but he passed away before that happened. Another dog we had in the past was a Jack Russell, she was the opposite. She had eyes only for the chickens and her greatest joy was chasing them down and ripping out their feathers. However she turned out to be teachable as she eventually learned to leave the birds alone. Our current dogs tend to ignore the birds (except for the occasional Peacock chase) and haven’t (yet) done any lasting harm.

Here are some rules for introducing your dog to new birds (the same could apply to cats as well but fortunately we’ve never had trouble with our cats before. They seem singularly uninterested).

Birdy and a Buff Orpington

Always supervise your pet when they’re around new birds, especially if it’s a species that’s new to them. Continue to supervise for at least a month if not more. Baxter didn’t discover that the Peacocks made funny noises until several months after they were introduced.

Never assume that your pet will ignore the new arrivals. A family member assumed that since the older dogs ignored the chicks the puppy would too, this was not the case. We lost 2 chicks before we noticed that the puppy had discovered that day old chicks are tasty.

If your pet discovers that they like to eat your birds there are three options:

  • Train your pet to leave the birds alone (this is time consuming and there is no sure fire way to do it, each animal is different and responds to a method differently. However it is very rewarding though when your barnyard is peaceful).
  • Keep your pet or your birds penned when your not around to supervise (I did this with my waterfowl for a while)
  • Most drastically you could find new homes for the birds or your pet. I would only do this if the dog proves to be an unrepentant bird killer.

Keep the above in mind when introducing new birds to a dog or a new dog to your birds. The dog usually is easily dissuaded from future conflict and the smarter birds usually learn to steer clear of the dog.  Keep an eye on them though, you can’t predict what will happen. With any luck both your flock and your pet will be healthy and happy.

Happy Keeping!


Duck Duck Goose

Waterfowl are and most likely always will be my favorite birds. Yes chickens are cool, yes turkeys  have some merit, and guinea fowl and peafowl are always fun to watch. But waterfowl, specifically  Geese (and some Ducks) are my absolute favorites. They were among the first fowl I bought with my own money as a child and they will always have a place on my farm.


Duke (my Pekin drake) and co. Saying “FEED ME WOMAN!”


My Pekin duck is quite happy to supply me with eggs, so four weeks ago I set Duchess’s first clutch in my incubator. There were six, two of which turned out to be infertile and one that died approximately 3-4 days before hatch. The other three hatched the day before Easter. They’re about the tiniest ducklings you can imagine. Most ducks are bought at about a week old and are quite a bit larger by then.



Teeny Tiny Duckies

Waterfowl, despite a stigma of being bad tempered, can be great pets and wonderful watchdogs. One thing you don’t find enough when people raise waterfowl is socialization. I’ve noticed a trend when I buy adults rather than ducklings and goslings that the bought adults are more suspicious and aggressive than the adults I’ve raised myself.  The best way to deal with aggression is to prevent it. When you bring your waterfowl home (especially with goslings, ducklings not so much) spend time with them. Goslings imprint on their parents and a when you  are the one raising them you become the parent.  Talk to them, let them nibble your clothing, the very young ones may try to burrow under your clothing, let them. Do this at least 4 times a week if not every day. Once geese associate you as a flock member at a very young age they will remember for the rest of their lives. The same goes for if the gosling had a bad experience when it was young. My Brown Chinese gander was badly injured by some puppies when he was about a week old. The puppies were just trying to play but they ended up ripping a hole in his neck a couple of inches wide, which for a week old gosling is a pretty big deal. To this day he hates dogs and will hiss and go out of his way to bully them if they come near.



Grey the Gander at 4 weeks

Going back to baby waterfowl in general though, here’s a few things you should know:

  • Set up a brooder like for chicks but under no circumstances allow access to open water. Baby waterfowl do not have the waterproofing oil in their feathers yet. Ducks (especially) and goslings love to play in water and will not come out unless you make them. If they were with their parents the parents would limit the access to water and have some of the mother’s waterproofing rubbed on the babies. Supervise the babies when they’re in water and make sure they’re dry afterwards. They should be fine with full access to water by 6 weeks when they start to feather out.
  • Waterfowl poop, a lot. The average duck poops every 15-20 minutes, the average goose every 12. An adult goose is capable of producing 2 lbs of  droppings a day. Keep this in mind when setting up a brooder. The babies are fine in a normal brooder for about 1-2 weeks but after that production outpaces the sanitation. A rabbit hutch with a very  small gauge wire floor set up a bit from the ground works well for young waterfowl.
  • Warmth. Ducklings and goslings feather out much quicker and require much less brooding than baby chickens.  Start them at about 90° F and decrease by 5°-10° Each week until you reach outside temperature, after that they don’t require anymore heat. Use the birds reactions as a guide to where you should have the light. If it’s at 90° and they’re panting and trying to get away from the heat, you need to raise the light.



Peeps at a recent photo shoot

Raising waterfowl is a unique and rewarding experience. Well socialized birds (geese and ducks) will come up and “talk” to you when ever you’re in the yard, honk and quack when somebody they don’t know is there, and produce a lot of eggs perfect for baking (not to mention meat and feathers).  I hope that this something you’ll consider in the future.

Have fun!


Caring for Chicks

Spring is an interesting time for me. Between juggling youth softball, the spring hatch of assorted eggs, 4-H, and lastly and most importantly college finals, life can be hectic to say the least. But amidst the chaos there are reasons spring is my favorite season. My favorite part of spring (besides fresh veggies from the garden) are the barnyard babies.

My favorite animal, Geese! 

The ducks are laying almost too many eggs to count. Unfortunately they’re lousy setters and I’m going to have to incubate if I want ducklings. My Turkin hen has been disappearing for days at a time lately and I suspect she’s setting eggs somewhere. Knowing she’s a bantam I won’t be surprised if she shows up one day with a brood of new arrivals. On top of all this (as my family well knows) I shouldn’t be allowed near a feed-store this time of year unsupervised. All this means in late spring my house is full of cheeping, chirping biddies.

These guys are Cochin chicks that hatched in my incubator a few days ago.

My younger sisters are participating in the 4-H laying hen project this year, which involves (surprise, surprise) day-old chicks. I’m rather excited (more than my sisters) because this year they’re doing Buff Orpingtons, which we haven’t had before. Here’s a short walkthrough of our preparation for, and care of those little balls of fluff.

Brooder set up
Before you get chicks it’s best to have a place to put them ready. This doesn’t always happen at my house because we don’t always know we’re coming home with chicks at the end of the day. But we’ve done it so many years that all that’s usually required is to grab a bag of feed on the way out of the store. Here’s a list of go to items in our chick starter kit.

-Feeder: either the tray style feeder or the kind that screws onto a mason jar. The style depends on how many chicks you have. The mason jar is best for a small amount of chicks, usually 5 or 6, any more and not everybody is going to be able to get food. The tray style is best for large amounts of chicks.

Feeder styles

-Waterer: Again the kind that screws onto a mason jar. Try not to use an open container, chicks can very easily fall in and drown. If you have a large amount of chicks multiple waterers are needed. Sometimes feed-stores will stock the gallon plastic waterers, but these usually become brittle and need to be replaced every few years.

Waterer styles

– Brooder Light: Feed-stores usually stock these at a pretty high price. These are official chick lights but you can also get almost the same thing at the home improvement store for much less. For a bulb, get a red colored one or a heat bulb. For a smaller light you can also use an old fashioned filament bulb. Don’t use the new halogen bulbs or LEDs, they don’t give off enough heat. Adjust the light as needed in the brooder. If the chicks are huddled under it, they’re cold and you need to lower the light. If they’re at the far corners avoiding the light and panting, it means they’re too hot and you need to move the light up some. A well placed brooder light will have equal amounts of chicks under it and chicks not under it. As the chicks grow, raise the light a little each week until they’re ready to go outside at about 6 weeks.

-Brooder box: Although official brooder boxes are available they’re usually quite expensive and you really don’t need one unless you raise a ton of chicks each year. That being said if you find one cheap used go ahead and get it, it’s nice to have a brooder that was made to be a brooder. I usually use a Rubbermaid container or a cardboard box lined with newspaper to brood chicks in. The down side to this is that you have to change the newspaper frequently or things get smelly.


Typical Brooder Setup

-Feed: There are hundreds of feed choices out there but it all boils down to two types: medicated and non-medicated. Which you choose depends on your preference and how you feel about havering medication in your future layers and broilers. The medication is usually out of their systems by laying time and it prevents coccidiosis and other nasties that chicks can succumb to, but the choice is yours.


Contrasting Feed Labels

That’s about it. We make a point to check on the chicks at least twice a day if not more. This allows use to get a jump on any problems and to establish a baseline of normal behavior so we’ll know if something is wrong. Remember that the little peeps are newborns and need a lot of attention. This is not a start it and leave it project. Keep an eye on them, treat them well and they’ll be chasing bugs around your yard in no time.

Good Luck!