Monthly Archives: January 2017

Hatching Ducks

About 9 days ago, 4 precious duck eggs somehow happened to gently “fall” into my incubator.  By gently, I mean I tenderly placed them there, and by fall, I mean I put them there.  Guilty!  I’m a hatchaholic.  I love hatching my own birds; it’s such a fun process to see life grow so quickly and join the world in 21-28 short days.  It never gets old and I’m always amazed every single time.

This is my first time hatching ducks.  I took four eggs that had been sitting on my counter (pointy side down, of course, because I’m always storing eggs ready to hatch at any given moment HA), and decided to try and hatch them with my husbands blessing.  He loves the ducks he just doesn’t want to admit it.  I always am super crazy when I start incubating, especially something new.  I check my temps several times a day when I’m home, make sure humidity is perfect, and now since they’re ducks I’ve been misting the eggs twice a day to simulate what the mama duck would do after she takes a swim.

I’ve been treating my duck eggs slightly different than the chickens and guineas.  I do what is known as “dry incubation” for the chickens and guineas.  This is where humidity is basically ignored until lockdown (3 days prior to hatching) when I increase it.  As long as the humidity is near 20-30% I don’t worry a whole lot about it.  With the ducks, I’ve had my humidity pump hooked up since day one.  I figured since they’re waterfowl they may need more humidity for the growth stage in the egg, so I’ve got my incubator programmed at 40%.  I’ve been candling to make sure there’s been enough water-loss and a big enough air cell.  It’s basically all guessing.  And so far, all four of the duckling embryos are viable, pink, and lively!

And now, some pictures of my future duck-kids!

 Day 2 of incubation, 99.5-99.7*F and 32% RH.  Not able to see a whole lot unless compared to initial pre-incubator candling which I didn’t take a picture of.  I noticed some darkening of the upper half of the egg in comparison.

 

Day 4 of incubation, 99.5-99.7*F and 40% RH.  Definite embryo growth.  Approx 50% of the egg has darkened and looks a healthy, viable pink color on the candler.

 

Day 7 of incubation, 99.5-99.7*F and 41% RH.  This is usually when I candle for the first time, but since it was my first set of duck eggs, I candle more frequently for record and learning purposes.  Here, you can definitively see veins and the dark, pea-sized duckling embryo growing.  I also saw 2 out of 4 ducklings dancing around in their shells!  Sure sign of life!

 

Day 9 of incubation, 99.5-99.8*F and 40% RH.  The babies have grown again.  I also took a cool video of egg #1 dancing around in their shell and posted to instagram.  So amazing!  The veins have increased in size and the egg is a more dark red/pink color.  And the black, pea size embryo spot has almost doubled in size!

It’s amazing how quickly they grow!

I’m keeping records on what I do so once the ducklings hatch I can share with everyone exactly what I did and what did/didn’t work so well.  Good record keeping, in my opinion, includes pictures, temperature, and RH.  I always take pictures of the eggs when I candle to compare to the next time just in case I’m unsure about an egg.  I number all my eggs and take pictures in that order.  I also record the current temp and RH level at candling to record variations within the incubator.  T- 19 days-ish til HATCH!!

Any duck hatching info would be very much appreciated.  I love to hear how everyone else incubates to tweak my current processes.  Thanks in advance!

-Ruby, self-appointed Crazy Duck Lady

 

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Dairy Cow Diaries

I’ve been doing some major planning today in regards to our dairy cow addition.  With Buttercup now a year old we’ll be getting her bred in about 5 months or so so she’ll calve when she’s 2 and also when it’s warmer. That’s how we’ve always done it, even with the beefers.  Beeves?  Let’s just say heifers.  Almost hurt myself there.

I’m planning on getting her AI’d and will more than likely use some red angus that we’ve been using for the other heifers.  I’ll have to discuss this more with my husband, because I’d loooove to throw some more brown swiss in and possibly have another future milk cow.  My luck it’d be a bull though..

I’ve been pricing butter churns and molds.  The custom molds they make for butter where your farm name or last name or cows name shows up on the top of the stick are adorable and I’m a sucker but I don’t need it.  I’m thinking those rubbery (silicone?) baking things that make small loaves would be perfect.  Gosh, I can’t wait until I don’t have to buy butter anymore.  Homemade is sooooo much better.

I’m not sure if I want a cream separator or not.  It sure would be nice but I think I can get away with not having one.  I’ll survive scraping cream the ol’ fashion way.  Maybe.  I’ll have to learn by trial and error.

Cheese making shouldn’t be too awful.  We really only eat mozzarella here, not really any hard cheeses.  Thank goodness.  So that’ll be easy enough.  Same for cottage cheese.  Easy peasy.  I’d love to figure out cream cheese.  Goals.

I’ve read some places that you can freeze  milk and then thaw and use it just as you would fresh.  That seems odd to me and I’m going to have to research further and probably learn through good old trial & error.  I’d like to be able to freeze it and then pull out a bulk of it and make a big batch of some sort of cheese.  I’m putting this on my list to try once Buttercup freshens.  (Freshen is a term used when a heifer/cow calves and is now producing milk).

I guess when it’s in writing, my major planning for today sucked.  While I wrote three pages worth of pricing and notes, here it looks kinda silly!  I just want to keep kind of a journal about our journey to being a homestead dairy, if anything, for me to look back on and see how hard I worked for it.

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A picture of my sweet Buttercup from November 2016

—Ruby

 

Introductions

Life got a little crazy for a year or so, and I totally neglected to write things, so I figured I would completely start over and delete most of my old posts and totally revamp my writings and turn them less toward just chickens and rants, and more toward homesteading.  I’m more than that girl that loves chickens, people!  (although my reputation precedes me, and I’m still and will always be known as “the chicken girl.)

 

My name is Ruby.  I married the love of my life back in July 2015, a grain and beef cattle farmer, as well as a full time territory rep for a grain bin company.  Needless to say, I don’t get to see a whole lot of him, so our time is precious and spent doing farmer-y things.  We’re currently living in a small rental house on about 3 acres with a small garden.  We have beef cattle, a horse, a puppy, ducks, chickens, and guineas.  We can’t explode with farm things because our landlord won’t allow it, so many of our critters are kept at our family farms.  We’re hoping this year is the year that a farm comes up for sale!  We keep our cattle on my hubs’ grandpa’s farm for now as he doesn’t use the barn or pasture anymore.

 

My hubs has been raising beef cattle for approximately 10 years or so and I’ve recently been nudging him toward starting our small business selling grass fed beef.  Long explanation short, some (not all) people these days have NO CLUE where their meat/food is coming from.  I aim to change that.  I am fueled by a comment on Instagram I read not too long ago where there was a picture of someone butchering their own beef and this person commented “I couldn’t kill a precious and innocent animal, that’s why I buy all my meat from the grocery store.”  Insert facepalm here.  I could rant about this for days/weeks/years but I’ll just leave that little excerpt here and let your imagination go wild.  Basically, I want to be able to teach people that meat can come from animals that know love and comfort and have names.  It’s their purpose.  My opinion I know, I don’t need to be attacked by the vegans.  You do you, I’ll do me.

 

I was raised on a small hobby farm and have been helping my mom can and preserve every summer since I was tall enough to reach the stove.  I owe so much to my mom for teaching me how to can the produce from my garden to enjoy year round.  It’s so much better knowing where your food comes from!  Canning is so addictive and I encourage everyone to do it.  Start small and grow.  I got my best friend addicted a couple years ago and she can’t stop.  Last year alone I canned over 300 jars of food to feed my small family of 2.  You wanna know what I canned?  Well, I’m gonna tell you anyway.  Green beans, chunk tomatoes, pizza sauce, pasta sauce, salsa, habanero salsa, peach salsa, blueberry pie filling, pickled banana peppers, sweet pickles, dill pickles, sauerkraut, shredded chicken, chicken bone broth, apple butter, and apple sauce.  Plus, 6 pecks of bell peppers, 24 quart strawberries, 18 quart blueberries, and 20 quart peaches for the freezer.  Whew!  Gotta love it to do it, that’s for sure.

 

I’m hopelessly addicted to gardening.  Looking at seed catalogs is FUN to me.  I cannot wait until I can go nuts and order everything I want and just go crazy and plant for days.  Goals are to have my own strawberry patch, blueberries, and maybe even get a bit crazy and have a small apple and peach orchard.  Who knows what will happen down the road?

 

Last winter I raised a brown swiss cross bottle calf, Buttercup, and am hoping to get her bred this summer and have our own family milk cow by next spring.  Buttercup’s mom was a deadbeat, basically she calved, Buttercup came out, and the cow walked away and never looked back.  I’m all about making my own butter and cheese and probably overly excited about the whole thing.  I mean, what girl gets excited about milking a cow?  I plan to post updates as my plan comes together. (I worked on a dairy for about 8 years, so I know what I’m doing.)

 

Last year I also added ducks to the mix.  I’ve always had chickens, but downsized considerably.  I went from raising and selling 5 different breeds, to having 5 chickens.  I have 1 rooster and 4 hens, chocolate and chocolate cuckoo Orpingtons.  Being the sucker that I am, I saw 6 sad ducklings at the farm store and brought them home without talking to my husband about it first.  I now have 6 beautiful Pekin ducks, 2 drakes and 4 duck hens (whatever you call them) and have enjoyed them so.  I plan on getting at least 6 more ducks this spring, as my duck egg sales are greater than duck egg production, plus I just love them.

 

I post quite a bit about our homesteading/farm adventures on Instagram, handle “rubybroeske” if you’d like to check it out and throw me a follow so I can follow you back.  #TheFreakinPekins are my ducks… if you want to see hilariously cute duckies.  If there’s something homesteading-ly or farm-y (totes made those words up) that you would like more info on and me to post about please comment below, I’d be happy to share.  I don’t know why every time I try and type share, I actually type shart and don’t realize it until it’s underlined in red and spellcheck says GIRL GET YOURSELF TOGETHER.  

 

I digress.

 

Best of luck in 2017

Ruby