One moment I had my dream job with the Community College Initiative near Seattle, the next I was in Arizona, wrapped up in warm blanket of 95 degrees. My life has always taken some interesting turns, I never do know where I’ll end up next. Brent promised me from the beginning too, that hanging around him would never be boring. I promised him the same. We lucked out and found the perfect house at the foot of a desert mountain range, complete with gigantic saguaro cactus, with two acres, horse stalls and no HOA fees or rules. It was time to finally begin my mini-farm journey.
I bought my dairy goat before moving to Seattle and was able to leave her, along with my horse, in my mom and stepdad’s capable hands. I’d hoped to soon ship them up to Seattle as soon as we got everything there sorted out. I soon realized that those dreams were never going to be a reality, and that keeping livestock and especially horses there was not like keeping horses in the desert. The shipping fee was going to be outrageous, and boarding was at least twice as much as Arizona, and rental properties were very expensive.
Fast forward two years, last November 2016, we figured that since we had the place, which even came with a chicken coop, we might as well get chickens. I waited until the local feed store got a shipment of chicks and we head down to pick out four, and a duckling. Apparently Brent and I had both always wanted a duck. It probably should have concerned us more that none of the employees had a clue what kind of chickens they were.
“Uh, I think that one’s a Buff Orpington, and those are Americaunas, and I don’t know what those are,” they said.
We jumped in without a clue.
I researched the chicken feeds, and found out that the duckling needed added brewer’s yeast, like this one I used for niacin, in addition to the *non-medicated chick starter. Niacin makes sure that their little duck feet grow up straight and strong. Ducklings can’t eat most of the medicated chick feeds because they commonly contain Amprolium, which will kill your duckling.
I also chose to go the natural route with my flock and included organic apple cider vinegar (I prefer Bragg’s Raw, as it is also the one I drink and use myself!) in their water from the beginning, as well as garlic from a young age. They learned to love them both. I might add, some research is definitely needed to combat these diseases naturally if you choose not to medicate animals, be it chickens, or livestock. Animals naturally fought all the issues growing up in natural conditions, and now incur all the diseases we medicate them for in captivity because they’re often living un-naturally. Yes, the medications included in that medicated chick feed should keep your chicks from getting coccidiosis, but I wanted to know what was causing it in the first place, and how it was prevented “back in the day”. Today livestock’s diets and lifestyles have been modified so much, that of course we’ve had to come up with quick and easy solutions to the outcomes, instead of providing a natural environment from the beginning so that their bodies can help fight these things off on their own.
Now back to the ducklings. I found out that ducklings will make a mess. Out of everything. They scoop up their food in their beaks and dunk it into the waterer like we might dunk our donuts in coffee and end up dribbling food all over, clouding up everyone’s water. Then they splash around and make big soppy puddles of it all.
Our little guy (pictured above), who we dubbed Ballard, was fondly named after the hip little Scandinavian part of Seattle where we lived last year. Ballard had a knack for soaking ALL of the bedding he shared with the chicks, and was proud of it.
It is possible to raise a duckling in a group of chicks, but the duck will make a puddle out of everything, and you’ll have to regularly clean up his mess. I started with newspapers on the bottom of a plastic feed trough, and covered it all with pine shavings, and eventually ended up putting the waterer inside of a dog bowl, so that the splash stayed more or less contained in the bowl. He usually hung out in the wet pine shaving side of the trough we kept them in, and the chickens stayed on the dry side. It should also be noted that the waterer stayed on the opposite end of the heat lamp that everyone slept under at night, so that they were all able to stay warm and dry. Ballard snuggled up to the chickens at night. It wasn’t until he was a few weeks old that we took him out the pond for the first time, but more about that later.
I’ll continue updates about our chicken/duck journey in the next blog, as well as the goat and horse, but this is my first step in getting you all caught up, because I feel that we are WAY behind. So I might as well start from the beginning.