Archive for the ‘menagerie’ Category

Poultry Update

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

Clark has finally named the ducks. He wanted to announce what they would be himself:

Clark here. I have finally given names to my boys, and I wanted the honor of explaining them. The larger, faster developing duck has been named 宇宙戦艦ヤマト (‘Uchuu Senkan Yamato’ which translates to Space Battleship Yamato). [She's the one with the collar marking on the left. --A] A grandiose name for a grandiose duck. The smaller, slightly more spastic duck has been named 孝三郎 (‘Kouzaburou’) after one of my favorite co-workers in Japan. While it is typically a name you give to a third-born, it has an emotional connection, and it’s a very old-fashioned name, which Alison and I tend to like. [She's the one on the right. --A] As with many Japanese names, there are slightly different (in our case, shorter) nicknames. 宇宙戦艦ヤマト’s is ‘Yama-chan’. 孝三郎’s is ‘Sabu-chan’. They’re my boys, and I am very proud of them. (and yes, they are very clearly female)

Poultry Update

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

We’ve only had our chickens and ducks for two weeks, but they’ve certainly grown and developed in that short amount of time. The chickens are really starting to develop personalities, especially now that they’re starting to establish a pecking order. Every time we give them a little free range time there is always chaos for a few seconds while they flap around and harass each other.

I named the chickens only a few days after their arrival. I’m a history fan, so each are named for Queens of France who had interesting second acts in life. One namesake became queen of England and then spent 16 years imprisoned by her husband, one ruled France as regent for her sons for nearly 30 years, and the last married in secret for love after her husband, King Louis XII, died. Out of the three, only one was born French, the other two were imports.

Elanor (named for Elanor of Aquitaine) is the alpha chicken so far, so she usually gets her way. I can identify her by her size (she’s definitely the biggest) or by the big patch of white feathers on her chest.

Mary was named for Mary Tudor; both are redheads. Mary is the smallest chicken and gets bullied by her sisters. They usually try to steal whatever she is eating, so sometimes I run interference to by Mary a few seconds to gobble down whatever she found. She’s a little more curious than her sisters, and possibly a little smarter. She’s the most cooperative one when it comes to taking pictures, good at posing and standing still, so she gets extra treats from me.

Catherine, a blonde like her namesake, Catherine de’ Medici, is the bounciest, most energetic of the three. I have to be careful when replacing food or water in the Chicken pen because she is always ready to escape. Catherine is just a little smaller than Elanor, so she is constantly challenging for dominance and the most prone to pick fights. She is going to be a challenge when she reaches adulthood.

The Ducks remain nameless as Clark is still mulling over his choices. He calls them collectively his “Boys”, though it is getting more evident by the day that they are both female. I really want to name one of them Houdini because she was an expert at escapes when we bought her, but that name was rejected.

Project #142 – Mobile Duck Pen

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

This was really a two day project, although Clark did most of the work. I need to get over myself and learn some carpentry skills, but it’s easy to move that to the bottom of the list when living with someone who is more than happy to do all the sawing and nailing for you.

We weren’t sure what to do with the pointy ends of the chicken wire, so we covered them with duct tape. So far the ducks have not tried to eat the tape, which was a legitimate fear…’cause they’re kind of dumb…cute, but dumb.

My mom was really nice and bought us a staple gun and chicken wire as early birthday gifts so we could go ahead and finish the whole thing today. I spent a few hours stapling the wire to the wood, but it went much faster after Clark got home and there were two of us to work on it. He is much better at staple gunning than me; I need two hands to push down the trigger and he manages to do it with only one.

The biggest predators we have to worry about in the city are house cats and the peregrine falcon who lives across the street. There might be opossums and raccoons around, but we were faced with making a dig-proof pen to guard against animals that may not even live here, or making a pen that could be moved easily so the ducks would always have access to fresh grass. I hope we chose correctly. The ducks have a temporary shelter inside the pen, but we plan on making a better one that will be more predator proof.

There was one type of predator that I forgot about completely: runaway dogs. Our backyard has a narrow alley running behind it that is popular with neighborhood dog walkers. Some people like to leave their dogs off leash when walking them to give the animal a little more freedom, but I guess those people never expected to run into a tasty-looking pen of ducks.

I was in the kitchen making pie crust when I heard a dog bark and the ducks peep their ‘I’m sooo frightened!’ peeps. I ran outside and saw a bear-sized German Shepherd taking a great interest in my animals and the ducks going nuts with fear. It was clear that he was big and strong enough to tip the whole pen over, even with bricks weighing it down, and attack the ducks. I yelled at the dog to get it to go away as the dog’s owner came running into the yard to claim it.

The ducks were supposed to spend their first night outside in their pen tonight, but we might have to rethink that. I hope that incident was just a fluke, but we are raising some tasty, defenseless morsels and there are lots of creatures who want a piece.

Project #141 – Baaaaby Animal Party

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Our poultry adoptees are getting less adorable by the day (though, on the bright side they’re getting closer to laying eggs), so I wanted to have a small (< 12 people) party so that our friends could experience some of the remaining cute. Together with free food, baby animals create an irresistible combination.

It was tempting to buy a bucket of chicken to feed everyone, but instead I took the less creepy route and had everyone make their own mini pizzas. I used my olive oil crisp recipe to make the dough for the crust in advance. I’m kind of kicking myself for not getting a picture of the pizzas, but they were tasty and gone immediately.

We served the pizzas along with some homemade salsa with chips, finger veggies, and strawberries with brown sugar whipped cream. Many thanks to my friend Saralinda for the extensive pre-party chopping.

The ducks didn’t take to the party atmosphere and squawked at anyone who came near. The chickens, on the other hand, were okay with being handled and seemed to enjoy the attention. They even fought over the best perch on the lip of their laundry basket so they could see what was going on most of the evening.

So cute!

Project #139 – Mobile Poultry Coop Plans

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Our ducks and chickens are quickly outgrowing their current living quarters. The pen that houses the ducks is quickly developing a thick coat of duck poop despite daily cleanings with the hose. The chickens are also getting too big to be comfortable in their overturned laundry basket accommodations. It’s been a week and a half and I swear that they have doubled in size.

Clark has promised to help me build more permanent living quarters for the animals, but he needs plans to help him figure out what supplies to purchase. The new duck pen will be open on the bottom to allow them to graze on the grass underneath. We’ll be able to move them around the yard to keep them from completely denuding any one area. Ducks need about 4-5 feet of floor space to be comfortable, so we’ll need to build something that will have at least 10 square feet, plus a little extra for an enclosed nighttime shelter.

The chickens have a little easier time getting around vertically, so while the first level will be similar to what the ducks will have, they will also get a second story that will serve as their nighttime enclosure and laying area. This box will just be a (near) cube with an opening in the floor for chicken entry and exit. Of course, we will build a ramp to help them get up there.

I hope we build the duck coop soon. They are getting more and more pissy at us for bringing them in at night. The chickens are getting used to being handled, but the ducks act like we are inflicting the greatest indignity by touching them at all. We adopted two duck princesses.

Duck Bathtime

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

I gave the ducks a bath after they coated themselves in the contents of their food and water dishes overnight. Our ducks are not very good at swimming, though they seem to like it. They’re little poop machines so I had to scrub down the tub when they were finished.

Don’t adopt ducks if you’re averse to dealing with poop and washing your hands 12 times a day.

Project #135 – Duck Pen

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

I found an ad on Craigslist yesterday advertising goslings, ducklings and pullets for sale. I rented ducks for Clark for his birthday right before we got engaged, and he liked them so much that I thought it would be fun to do it again. I called up the owner and arranged to take a few ducks for a week. I’d planned to slip up to the farm while yard sale shopping with a friend and keep the ducklings a surprise, but Clark insisted on coming with us.

Luckily, he didn’t figure out where we were going or why until we were at the bird farm and standing in front of the duck pen. Of course, we ended up bringing home more than I’d planned, two ducks home plus three baby Rhode Island Red hens. I had no intention of keeping the birds, but after talking to the owner we were convinced that we might be able to pull it off, even in our postage stamp sized yard. Still, I made him promise to take them back if we find that we can’t care for them comfortably. The poles are also a little short, but that just makes it easier for us to climb in and out for cleaning and wrangling the ducks inside to take inside for the night.

Unprepared for our new charges, we went to the hardware store and purchased supplies a quick pen for the ducks. We built the pen along our garage for late afternoon shade, but we also plan to add a duck house so that they can hide from predators. The fencing is plastic poultry fencing that can be cut with a pair of scissors. The poles are made of metal and came with built in notches that we used to hold the fencing without any staples or tying. This will make it extra easy to take down the pen and move it elsewhere in the yard.

Right now their wings are too stubby to fly, so we’ll have to revisit our pen design when their flight feathers get in. I don’t want them to fly into our neighbors’ yards and snack on their grass.

The chickens are much smaller and have their own makeshift lawn tractor underneath an overturned wire basket. We’ll move it around the yard and give them a chance to poop on all areas equally. Eventually, we’ll build a bigger one with a coop and nests for laying eggs.

While they are cute on their own, our two species are not quite ready to cohabitate.