Friday, September 18, 2015

Do Ducks Make Good Pets?

When people think of pets, “ducks” are not typically one of the first things they think of but many people enjoy keeping ducks as pets.

Ducks are considered to be waterfowl and are less aggressive than geese. There are whistling ducks and “other ducks” with the “other ducks” being divided into three groups; diving, dabbling (surface birds), and perching ducks. Most pet ducks (other than the Muscovy which originated from perching ducks) derived from the Mallard duck, which comes from the diving group.

Ducks are noted to being beneficial to their owners not just for providing eggs, but more so for controlling insect pests, such as flies, slugs, ticks, and so forth. Muscovy ducks are probably one of the best to use around the garden for pest control. Other ducks are often kept as ornamental birds, or show birds.

One interesting thing about ducks is that it is the female who is the noisy one; males make a quieter raspy sound, while females quack loudly. Some duck breeds, such as the Call duck, tend to be noisier than others, with Muscovy ducks noted for being the quietest.

As with all types of pets, certain duck breeds are friendlier than others, with Rouen ducks being noted for being calm and Pekin known for being more nervous. Ducks that were hatched in incubators and held at an early age may be imprinted on humans, and thus be a better “pet” than naturally hatched ducklings, but ducks soon learn that you bring them food and can become quite friendly. Hand raised ones can even come to enjoy sitting on a lap or being carried around. Certain breeds are more likely to fly away so most owners do clip their wings or keep them in covered aviaries.

Four Call Duck, Duckings

The main thing with ducks is that they long for water to swim in (Muscovy ducks a bit less) and actually require access to clean drinking water at all times, in fact they can get very sick if they are without water for even a few hours. They tend to be messy with their drinking water, often spilling it.
There are commercial duck food rations available for them but if given enough space they will eat vegetation and insects and wont require other food except perhaps through the winter, but feeding them a ration once a day does help keep them tame and friendly.

Obviously ducks are not legal as pets everywhere, in fact most cities won't allow them as pets (even if they do allow chickens). Always check your area's by-laws before getting any unusual animal as a pet. Speak to your veterinarian about health concerns for ducks in your area.

I have only kept Call ducks as pets and we quite enjoyed them. We let them lay eggs and hatch ducklings. We did learn (the hard way) that until they are 3-4 days old, ducklings can get water-logged and can drown. Other than that we had good experiences with the ducks, but they were more work, and messier, than chickens.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Taking Pictures of Donkeys

If you own a donkey you know the same thing that every other donkey owner knows... they are nearly impossible to photograph unless you have help!

Donkeys are very curious and if raised well they are also very personable.  If you are trying to photograph a donkey that does not know you it will try to get to know you, getting impossibly close to your camera.  Even if the donkey knows you it will get up close and personal, looking for snacks, pats, or just saying "hello".

She would be even closer if she was not behind the fence!
I have deleted more pictures of donkey noses than anything as my donkey, Aggie, always wants to sniff the camera just to see if it is edible. She is cute though!

In all seriousness if you want to take a picture of your donkey one of the best solutions is to have a friend help you.  The friend can either hold the donkey on a halter and lead and keep it a reasonable distance from the camera, or they can use themselves as "donkey bait" standing just off camera but having the donkey focus on them so you can get your camera in a better position for picture taking.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

How to Stop Hens from Eating their Eggs

Recently we got 6 laying hens from an auction. We separated them, leaving 3 in a large enclosure for the purpose of producing eggs, and giving the other ones to a rooster for the purpose of raising chicks.

In the past we have never had any issues with the hens.  We either had them produce eggs, or raise chicks, no issues at all.

This year, something seemed wrong.  First of all it was ages before we got our first egg and it did seem that we were not getting as many eggs.  Odder still was that the hens with the rooster were not laying eggs at all.

Finally I found one egg in with the hens and the rooster.  Yeah!  I got excited, however after two days the egg disappeared.  I looked around to make sure no predators had gotten into the enclosure.  Then a few days later I found another egg, but it too disappeared after a couple of days.  By now I was suspecting they were eating the eggs.

When chickens egg their own eggs there is no evidence, they even eat the shell. 

A good hen, rooster, and their family!
I tried to combat this by offering them more oyster shell, and also by placing fake eggs in their nesting boxes.  It seemed to do the trick as a couple of days later I found an egg, but not long after that, it disappeared too, so I know they ate that one as well.

Another suggestion was to empty a couple of eggs and then fill them with Tabasco sauce or something spicy, but I have not done that.

The only other suggestions would be to remove the eggs sooner and put them in an incubator but we do not have one, or to take the chickens and make them into soup, which is not going to happen either.

At least we did get a few eating eggs from the other hens, as long as I check them early for eggs I typically find some, but I suspect they are also eating eggs if they are left too long as would be on the days we leave early for work and get home later.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

High Pressure Tactics Used By Livestock Buyers

When many people think of high pressure sales techniques they think of the techniques that sellers use to pressure people into buying things, or into paying a high price.  In my experience selling sheep I have actually encountered a few buyers who use pressure to try to get me to lower the price.

Of course typically I will lower the price a bit on sheep from time to time, but what I am talking about is when I have already negotiated a price and the buyer then comes up with some reason why I should lower it further.

I had one jerk that I actually did let myself get bullied by several years ago.  It was winter.  One of my ewes had got herself stuck in a feed trough and died, leaving two orphaned lambs (about 2 weeks old).  Another ewe had rejected one of her lambs, so I had 3 bottle baby lambs in the middle of winter and I was working away from home at the time too.  It was simply too much work for me.  I had other ewes for sale at the time too because I was very short of cash and needed to pay some bills.  I had negotiated a price for all the sheep over the phone with a buyer.  He lived 2 hours away, and while he was on route to come and get the sheep I actually turned away other interested buyers because to me they were "sold".

When the guy got here he said that I should lower my price because he had to come from so far away.  Then he said I should lower my price because he thought 2 of the ewes were older than I had stated, which I know was false.  I had already caught all the sheep and put them in a pen ready to go.  Catching and separating sheep is a lot of work, not something I wanted to do again.  I did not keep the phone numbers of the other buyers, I was at a loss.  So I gave in.  I was furious at myself for allowing him to bully me like that.

Just recently I had another potential buyer call about the sheep I currently have for sale.  He too tried to bully me.  I only have 3 lambs for sale at this time and he said that since he had to come from far away I needed to make it worth his trip so should lower my prices.  To note I had already offered the three sheep as a package deal for a price lower than if a person bought them individually.  Then he said I needed to sell more sheep to make it worth his trip.   Needless to say, this time I as firm with the guy and said "NO".

I really do not mind being fair to other people, offering a reasonable price, but it is not my fault if a buyer lives far away.  It does not lower the value of my sheep if a buyer lives father away.  I just do not like bullies!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

What is the Value of Old Barn Wood?

Old, weathered, barn wood, is in big demand these days.  You may also see this advertised as "reclaimed barn wood".  Old window frames are also something that many people want.

The window frames are often turned into picture frames, or just hung on the wall as "art" itself.

The barn wood is also used as art, for picture frames, and other craft projects.  I have seen people use reclaimed barn wood to build tables or to use for other home decor items.

The value of the wood depends on many things, including the type of wood.  Some, such as chestnut, may be worth more.  If the wood was painted and the paint has come off in strips, it adds to the character and may be very much in demand.  In the case of window frames, the condition of the glass is important.
I sold this one for $20.00

I recently posted a listing featuring two large window frames for sale, and I had very much underestimated how much people were willing to pay for them.  To be fair I mostly wanted them gone anyhow so the fact that I got money out of them was a bonus for me and I hate to be greedy.  I sold them for $25, but probably could have gotten $100 or more for the very large ones (8 ft long). 

I have seen prices for weathered barn wood (as would be on the barn pictured below) anywhere from $1 per foot to $3 per foot.  A long beam, made of oak from an old growth forest, may be worth hundreds of dollars because of rarity.  Wood from old growth forests is much stronger than wood from younger trees.

My old barn.  Well weathered wood.
One tip for selling old, weathered barn wood, is not to fix it up.  If you have a piece of old wood with some paint still clinging to it, you need to resist the temptation to rub the loose paint off; leave it, it adds character.  If you have an old piece of wood and it has the bent head of an old rusty nail sticking out, do not pull the nail out.  The nail may be seen as character.  If the buyer wants it out, let them remove it, but otherwise leave it as a "bonus".  The same with rusty hinges and so forth, these all add to the value of what you are selling.

Old door knobs, doors, and other hardware items are also in demand by the same people that seek out old barn wood, so be sure to hold onto them and offer them for sale when somebody comes looking to buy barn wood from you.

Other reading:  Designing a Farm House Kitchen

Monday, February 23, 2015

Arabian Gelding, The Sorcerer, Zory

A few years ago I wrote a blog post about a wonderful horse I owned back in the late 1980's, his registered name was The Sorcerer, but for short we called him Zory.  I had sold him and the last I had heard was that he had been sold again and his new owner was not particularly good to him, showing him so much that he was looking very unhappy in the ring.  I wrote about this in my blog post and assumed that was the end of the story.

Myself on The Sorcerer, I think he was 4 years old in this picture.

Then, just last year (December 2014) I got a comment on that blog post.  It seems that a lady, Elain, who had purchased him (presumably from the owner I had heard about) just had a feeling to do a search for her horse;s online and found the blog.  She bought him when he was 8 years old and had owned him ever since, actually retiring him from the show ring with a proper ceremony when he was 19 years old.  He was now 31 (a good age for a horse).  She invited me to see him.

Years later as owned by Elain
 It was the middle of winter and although where he was stabled was only about an hour from my home, I decided to wait until spring.  She had told me that he had arthritis (typical of older horses, especially those that had been used in English pleasure), but was otherwise in pretty good shape.

She sent me photos of him which showed his progressive steps into going gray (this is normal for horses with a gray gene).  He looked beautiful and happy!  She told me that when she got him he was scared and not a real happy horse at all, but that she was able to bring him around to being his former self.   She told me she had often heard about how much I loved him.  I looked forward to seeing him, and meeting her, in the spring.

Sadly only three weeks after our initial talk she sent me a shocking e-mail.  It would appear that one evening he had suffered a heart attack.  She raced to the barn to be with him and although he did struggle to get up, he was unable to, and did pass away.

At that point I was able to drive up and meet with her, we shared our tears and talked about the life The Sorcerer had and she showed me her other horses.

Years later and playing with his friend "Mover"

Elain impressed me a lot with her love for Zory, especially as she did not own the farm where he was kept and actually paid board for him there.  Not too many people are willing to pay board fees for an old horse they cannot even ride, but she said he had more than earned it.

Although I am obviously sad that I did not make it up to see Zory when he was alive I was thrilled to know that in the end he did find a wonderful owner and did have a great life.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Lamb Born With Unusual Coat

Just two days ago we had a lamb born on our farm that has an unusual coat.  The mother is a Barbado x Jacob sheep, she has wool and hair, but evenly mixed.  We do not know who the father was as we had a few rams at the time, I suspect an unrelated Barbado cross Dorset ram (due to the color) although we also had some Katahdin and Katahdin cross rams too.

The lamb was born outside in the afternoon and we got her into the barn within hours of birth. I thought she had a sort of gray color to the fur on her shoulders but then noticed that she looked almost bald there.  In fact the hair on her shoulders looked very fine and totally different to the hair on the rest of her body.

The lamb is one day old here, photographed with her mom.
Could she be a Chimera?  I know they can occur in any mammal.  Or did she just not grow proper hair in that area prior to being born?  I am keeping an eye on her to make sure that she gets more hair, or wool, there prior to going outside.

I have noted in the past that when I have a white Katahdin they often have orange in the same area and that it tends to look a bit different for a few days, although not "bald", which does make me suspect a Katahdin connection of sorts.

This photo was taken within hours of her birth
I should note we have had other lambs born earlier, none of whom exhibited any signs of having different hair.  I am very curious to know of other sheep keepers have seen the same thing on their lambs or know anything about hairlessness on newborn lambs?