Saturday, May 20, 2017

Ducks and Chickies and Kitties...OH MY!!!

Big things are happening at Kneuper Acres and our newest arrivals are here with webbed feeties!  Waaaaayyyy back in February after doing a bit of research and deciding on a breed, we ordered 10 Welsh Harlequin Ducklings.  Since ducks are seasonal breeders, our potential ducklings wouldn't be shipped until April and we were told that we would get a call mid March to let us know when we could expect them.  Now, I feel like the last 3 years of my life have flown by, but that month and a half from ordering them to "the call" must have just crawled for poor Gokey.  He came home from school every day and the first thing out of his mouth would be, "did ya get the call?"  This child wears every emotion and I am sure everyone who knows him can envision the fallen shoulders and forlorn expression when I would tell him no.

"The call" finally did come, though and we were told that we could expect our ducklings the week of April 24th.  It's quite the operation!  They have thousands of eggs that are set in incubators to hatch Monday into Tuesday of their hatch week.  As soon as the ducklings are up and fluffy, they are placed into boxes and shipped out all over the country, their huddled bodies as their heat source and their absorbed yolk from their previous eggshell home as their nutrition.  

We got notification that our package was on it's way from Oregon on Tuesday afternoon, April 25th and that they should be at our local post office no later than Thursday.  I called the post office to give them a heads up and was assured that they LOVE ducklings, so they should be in good hands until I could get there to pick them up. Bright and early Thursday morning as I was getting breakfasts ready for the kids, I got a call and Gokey immediately beamed.  Our ducks were here!  I quickly jumped into some clothes, called the bus barn to tell them not to pick the kids up for school, threw a pajama-clad Squeaky D and Ella Forever into the van and I was off.  

Upon arriving at the post office I was greeted by the peeps of tiny birdlings...there was another gentleman there picking up his shipment of quail chicks.  He opened the box to get a peek of his order and I got a glimpse of the tiniest balls of fuzziness I have ever seen!  I quickly opened my own box and all 10 Welsh Harlequins and 2 extra ducklings (sometimes extras are added to orders for heat) called Golden Cascades were all peering up at me, healthy, though a bit terrified.

So...3 1/2 weeks later we are the proud parents of 11 rapidly growing ducklings and they have been fantastic entertainment in the short few weeks we have had them.  Each of the kids picked a suspected female, except Squeaky D who picked a male, and named them.  X-Man's is Maggie, Gokey's is Louise (he picked this name out about 2 weeks after we ordered them...I sure hope she stays a she), Jillibean's is Rosie, Squeaky D's is Wobbles and Ella Forever's was Two (sadly, we lost Two a week ago).  The other 7 are nameless at the moment because they're really hard to tell apart unless they are banded, aside from the 2 extras.

Ella Forever and Two
Squeaky D and a lapful of ducky love

X-man snuggling Maggie

I think Gokey is whispering sweet nothings to Louise

Their first swim!!!

A ducky trio safely cradled by Jilly Bean

Jilly and Rosie

Exploring the great outdoors

Dottie is very affectionately fascinated by these new arrivals

This is one of the Golden Cascades...see the little eye stripes?  So cute...

Wilma would like a taste...

The rest of our flock has introduced themselves one by one...this is one of our pretty Ameraucana girls

They fought and fought over these giant leaves

Our strapping too is strangely very protective of his new charges

Settling in for a nap in the sun
We have had SO much rain this spring and the edges of our yard along the east pasture is a normal puddle place when we have excess rainfall.  I decided to bring the ducklings all down to enjoy some real swimming.  They couldn't get enough of it! I could sit and watch them forever, especially when they start zipping and darting which starts just after I zoom in in the following video.

And here we are 3 weeks later!  Look how much they have grown!!!

They don't quite fit in the palms of their little hands anymore
(and Jilly's hair was out of control today...wind didn't help) :)

Ducks gone wild!!!  They really aren't fans of being held...

In all of our duck mayhem, our latest broody chicken, Flopsy, hatched out 7 sweet chickies on Mother's Day!

I love the way they're looking at each other

And because we didn't have enough going on, we have also added a fierce Coop Cat
to the mix!  Meet Cooper B. StinkyCat.  We are in love with this guy!
And I have to end this little diddy with a shout out and a big congrats to my Uncle Dave and my NOW Auntie Darbie on their wedding day today!  I wish we could be there to celebrate with you guys, but know that we are there in spirit and sending wishes for many many many beautiful, enchanting forevers together!  We love you guys! <3 p="">

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter 2017

After an exhausting week full of lots of manual labor (a story for another post), we had a great, family-filled weekend and Easter celebration.  I am continually in awe of how beautiful, smart, talented and funny my sweet family is and am so thankful for all of the blessings that have been rained upon us. Happy Easter!

Declan made me shape the eggs in a heart "because we love Jesus!" 
These two warmed up the camera for the rest of us...
Have you ever seen a cooler brood?

We told him to open his eyes and stop squinting...I can't win!

Love this guy...
Releasing them to hunt for eggs!
Very serious business...

That bunny was tricky with this egg!
counting her eggs! 
This bubble gun was in her Easter basket and was a huge hit!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Chickies and Sickies

Spring has sprung and the evidence is thick in these parts right now.  We are loving it!  There is not a more glaring sign of spring than new arrivals in our little chicken coop we now know.  At the end of February one of our little Isbar pullets, nameless at the time but has since been tagged as "Mamacita," was found in a nest box mid-day presumptively laying her daily offering as usual.  When I reached under her to pull out any eggs that may be there as I do every day, however, I was treated with a quick and decisive peck to the hand accompanied by a puff up of her feathers and a very audible growl.  I knew immediately that we had a broody beast.  She happened to be in one of two boxes that I have placed a few wooden eggs to entice our girls to lay where they are supposed to AND to hopefully kickstart the behavior that Miss Mamacita was so eagerly displaying...we wanted chicks!

The last two springs I have purchased chicks from breeders and feed stores to grow our flock and have quickly learned that raising and brooding chicks is a lot of work and a BIG mess.  I had decided that this year if there were going to be chicks at Kneuper Acres that they would be hatched and raised by one of our flock leaving her to do all the work and lots of time for observation for the rest of us.  Mamacita didn't fail us.  She sat on those wooden eggs for two days straight and so I moved her up to  one of our brooding pens so that she could peacefully sit on some eggs for the 3 week incubation without being bothered by the rest of the flock. The evening of March 1st, I placed a mix of 7 eggs under her and removed the wooden eggs (and was punished severely for it...ouch!).  We marked our calendar and the countdown began!

On day 10 we candled our eggs.  This is our first time hatching eggs using any method, so I had never candled before.  I wasn't comfortable throwing any of the 7 out...I had a hard time picking much out.  Two of the eggs were Black Copper Marans eggs, so they were very dark.  I could see better on some of the normal brown I knew was from "Buffy" our Buff Orpington, but Mamacita had cracked it. The other 2 light brown eggs could have been from a Barred Rock, a Speckled Sussex or a Red Sexlink. The last 2 eggs were both green Isbar eggs and one I was fairly certain was infertile and I couldn't tell on the other.  I taped the one cracked egg and put them back and we did some more waiting.

At 14 days I did another quick candle and thought I could see some change in most of them, so we kept on trucking.  Day 18 is the last day you are supposed to do any candling, so we did and determined the cracked egg had stopped developing and that one of the Isbar eggs was definitely infertile.  We removed them both and even did a little "egg-topsy" on the cracked one so that I could verify what I was seeing during candling.  Sure enough, there was a partially developed chick that probably stopped developing around 2 weeks.  I must admit, I was nervous placing the remaining 5 back under her.  This would be our first hatch and its success would set the mood for all future hatches.  Three days to go.

Her face really tells it all
I should interrupt this chicken story to tell what was going on inside the big ol' farmhouse on Kneuper Acres.  Spring break began for the older 3 kids on the 16th day, so the chicks were due to hatch on the 22nd...right smack in the middle of their spring break!  Unfortunately on the first day of spring break, X-man began running a fever.  He coughed and sputtered.  He vomited a couple times and moaned and groaned in misery.  2 days later Ella Forever awoke in the wee hours of Monday morning vomiting...and then couldn't stop vomiting for several hours.  A very tired momma spent most of Monday trying to appease the 3 healthy children who were very bummed that we couldn't do any of the fun things that we had talked about doing that day.  That night both Gokey and Jilly Bean fell victim and Ella Forever had another 2 1/2 hour non-stop vomit-session.  As Wednesday approached the pressure for success on this impending hatch was thick!  We needed a bright spot in this week!

Since I didn't set the real eggs under Mamacita until the evening of the 1st, I knew that realistically they would probably hatch overnight on the 22nd and into the 23rd.  On Wednesday morning, the 22nd, however, I went out to open up the coop for the flock and check on our devoted momma.  I gently lifted her with one hand to get a peek of the eggs underneath her and to my shock saw a peeping lump of black fuzz and the remnants of the sweet chickie's home over the last 3 weeks!
I ran inside to retrieve the kids and there was a hustle to throw on boots and jackets and a very speedy scurry back out to the coop.  This time I lifted Mamacita entirely off of the nest to reveal another fuzzy gray chick!  Two of the five eggs had hatched successfully overnight.  The kids were ecstatic (I might have been a tiny bit excited as well) and Mamacita was very insistent that we bug off. It took everything in me not to camp out there and check the other eggs every 20 minutes for the rest of the day, but I had sick kids to take care of.

By late morning the 2nd Marans egg had a pip in the shell and we could hear tiny peeps coming from within, which is a really cool deal and the kiddos were fascinated with this development.  It instigated lots of discussion.  Around 3 pm I snuck out without the kids in tow and discovered the 3rd chick in the last stage of hatching and just kicking free of the confines of its shell. By that point, when I would tap on the shell of the 4th egg, one of the tan ones, I could hear definite peeping from inside confirming that we should have a 4th chick in the near future. By bedtime that evening, the egg had grown quiet and it still hadn't pipped through the shell, so we locked up the coop and I had to wait and see what was to be found the following morning.

Mamacita did not disappoint.  I dashed out to the coop as quickly as I could the next morning to found a recently hatched TINY little chick, still a bit damp and very wobbly under momma.  We left the last green egg under her for the next 24 hours, but it never did hatch and when we performed the egg-topsy we discovered that it never developed.  So...the two green eggs were infertile, which makes sense because they were from young pullets.  One of the tan eggs got broken in Mamacita's comings and goings during nesting, which is unfortunate, but a very real outcome.  That left four healthy eggs, all of which hatched!  I consider that a great success and they have been a joy to watch in the days since.  The older 4 kids each claimed a chick as their own.  The first hatched, Tickle, is Gokey's.  The lone blue chick, Tinker, is Jilly Bean's.  The 2nd Marans chick and third to hatch overall, TicTac, is Squeaky D's.  And last and least in size is Tricker, X-man's chick.

An update on our house full of sickies and coop full of chickies:  It is now Sunday.  Mamacita and the chicks were moved down to a floor level brooder in the coop on Friday so the flock can get acquainted with the new members without posing a threat to them.  I did open the doors to the brooder today while I was there to supervise and let them explore the coop a bit.  The babies met their daddy and a few of the other hens in their new extended family.  They each received a sharp peck to the head by an aunt or two when they tried to sneak in to the feeder underneath them and would run back peeping to momma, but it looks like they will integrate just fine after a little more growing time.  As for the sickies...Ella Forever still can't kick this thing!  Yesterday Gokey, Jilly Bean and Declan were still nursing fevers as well, but they awoke without one this morning and so far so good.  Our ENTIRE spring break was consumed with illness.  Big bummer, but we have chicks! ;)


Tickle, TicTac, Tinker and Tricker

Ella Forever not sure how to feel about a very soft and tiny Tinker ;)

I caught sweet X-man just quietly observing the new little family after we
moved them into their new pen on the coop floor.

Poor Griffin Pickle really just wanted to sniff those chicks to his little
heart's desire, but everyone kept telling him to "go away!"  :(