Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.


Posted on | February 12, 2010 | No Comments

It finally happened.  Today I opened the barn door to the sound of peeps and chirps.  There was Grey Girl, huddled over two freshly hatched chicks, a bright yellow and a mixed tan.  Huh.

Back in December, Grey Girl decided she had to have some babies.  She chose a corner of the goat barn and dutifully sat a clutch of 8 duck eggs.  Ducks should not be sitting eggs in December.  The temperatures are too low and the necessary humidity is nonexistent.  Besides, a corner of the goat barn is a bad choice.  The eggs were trampled just a couple weeks after she started her mission.  All except for one slightly cracked survivor.  Grey Girl stuck to her guns, rebuilt her nest, pulled some more feathers, and went on with her business.  I watched her, hoping she would discard the egg and move on.  I could have taken it, but more surprising things have happened here than a duckling hatching out of a cracked egg. We waited.

On the 48th day of brooding, I coaxed her off the nest with corn.  Muscovy duck eggs hatch between 38 and 42 days.  But a duck will sit a rotten egg for months, until she is sick and weak.  I figured it was best to take the egg and let her recover some vigor for the coldest months of the year.  Turns out the chickens beat me to it.  When Grey Girl left her nest, she revealed 14 chicken eggs,  smooth and warm.  The hens had been laying eggs in her nest, leaving her with the hard work, and chuckling over my perplexed chagrin at the empty nest boxes in the chicken coop.  Clever opportunists.

This was bad.  An egg laid under a broody duck on Monday will hatch earlier than an egg laid under her on Friday.  Different hatch days will result in chaos in the nest.

This is good because now Grey Girl will get to have her babies, although they may appear a bit different than she expected.  We’ll also have spring pullets to sell and cockerels for the freezer.

Funny how life is such a mixed bag.

So, despite the odds, the first babies of the year have arrived.  Welcome, little ones.  We are happy to see proof, once again, that life is stronger than winter winds and frozen nights.  Evidence that a mother’s determination is a force to be reckoned with (and that the chickens are sneakier than the devil himself).  Welcome to the world.

© Stevie Taylor 2010. All Rights Reserved.


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