The Old Bamboo

If there is one resource that my family has, it’s bamboo. Not just a couple of canes, not just a couple of clumps, but enough that we could exclusively feed a Panda for about six months. With my waterfowl flock quickly outgrowing the chicken coop it was time to do something with all this free building material.

Goosey Goosey Gander
The Flock says “FEED ME”

When I was about seven my parents decided to plant bamboo. After selecting about seven varieties from a local botanical garden, they planted about 15 clumps. Three clumping types and four running types. In fourteen years the clumpers haven’t done much, but the runners have all but taken over our yard in the name of bamboo freedom everywhere.

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Our rainforest

Recently our efforts have turned to eradicating it from certain parts of our yard in an attempt to use at least some of the 2.5 acres for something other than rainforest. (Seriously, the stuff is a wildlife sanctuary unto itself. Unfortunately if we don’t clear it periodically, there isn’t any room for us) Clearing bamboo usually involves my brothers, a reciprocating saw, about 20 saw blades, a couple of machetes, and a lot of manual labor. Needless to say we always end up with a ton of cut bamboo and nothing to do with it. Usually we burn it, (interestingly burning bamboo, thanks to the chambered canes, explodes with a almost gunshot like intensity, making it sound like the Mafia is shooting up our yard on an annual basis) but this year I decided to use some of it for fencing.

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The yearly bamboo pile

One of my favorite farm reference books is ‘The Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency’ by John Seymour. (You can find older versions in PDF form online for free) Though it doesn’t go in to great detail, it is still a good primer for a starting farmer (bonus points for being free). In the section on fencing it describes Wattle-hurdles, portable woven wood fence used to keep in non jumping livestock. The author is British, so he suggests making them from willow or ash but since those trees don’t grow in my area I decided to use bamboo. The result did not look a lot like the pictures but it works very well for my birds.

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Wattle-hurdles

Since I wanted the fence about 2 1/2 feet high, I cut about 30. stakes at about 4 1/2 feet. The area I was fencing was about 75′ x 50′ but two sides were already fenced so I only needed enough stakes to fence the other two sides. I used a hammer (and a piece of 2×4 to distribute the hammer strike so the bamboo wouldn’t spilt) to pound the stakes into the ground. I spaced the stakes about 5′ apart. It took awhile and quite a few blister to finish but I think it looks pretty good.

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A tufted Roman goose looking over her new fence

This fence was relatively easy to make and only cost the labor to cut the bamboo and build the fence. If you have a large stand of Mimosa Trees (an invasive species) it would work too. Any kind of long flexible wood would work really.

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A Mimosa tree

Knowing that I just saved myself about $150 in fencing is a pretty good feeling, knowing that that money can go to medical supplies or feed is even better. Now I need to finish fencing in the new goat pen so the girls have more room.

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Maaa, find us a boyfriend!(or corn, we’re not picky)

See ya! ~Kc

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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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!

-Kc