Sunday, April 13, 2008

Farm Report 04-13-08: Trashy Fowls and Rats

Our First Chick reported on last week turned one week old on Friday:

It's wing feathers are starting to show, and it's already quite tame. Now it just needs some siblings to keep it company.

In the past week, I tried to save a Bantam chick that got crushed in it's egg a few days too soon before it was ready to hatch. I put it in a small incubator, it lived for a few days, using up it's yoke sack, but it then died anyway. Another Bantam chick was born in the coop yesterday, and I took it out before nightfall.

This is the reason I remove chicks from their trashy moms:

The Bantams like to crowd together in the nest boxes. There are four in this box. A fifth one climbed in soon after I took the photo. The larger pullets like to climb in with the Bantams and lay their eggs in the Bantam's nests too. As a result, eggs and chicks can get crushed. You can see Bantam #5 climbing in on the left:

The hens on the other nests are full sized pullets. They often sit on eggs in the morning but usually abandon them by the afternoon. In the photo below, you can see the empty nest boxes available, but the Bantams crowd together anyway.

The hen in the lower left corner is our Chinese Coachen. Of all our hens, she is the most reliable sitter for hatching out eggs. Some of the Bantams succeed, but it's hit or miss with them. Our most reliable Bantam from last year went out into the woods to make a secret nest, and probably got eaten by something.

We've had a rat problem that's been too big for the cat to handle alone, so "Victor" and I have been giving her a little help:

Some folks imagine that living on a farm is like a "Dr. Dolittle" movie. But the reality is, there are some critters you just can't waste time talking to.

And that's the end of this week's FARM REPORT.


Bob said...

You guys need an incubator. Failing that, get some Muscovey ducks. They'll brood anything.

Chas said...


I've got a setup with a heat lamp for the chicks. The first year we tried it, we were very successful, with 40+ chicks. Now, we really have too many! They give us more eggs than we need.

Last year I tried to stop them from hatching any. I few renegade Bantams made secret hidden nests, and managed to hatch 3 chicks. I let the moms raise them, and it worked out well.

This year, I let them brood, to keep them from making secret nests, but I take most of the eggs out. This first chick is our first Coachen hybrid, so I wanted to save it. We want more like her.

I tried to let the mom keep it in a separate area of the coop, but when I moved the nest, she abandoned the eggs and the chick. I've got a bunch of slacker Moms this year!

A few more chicks would be OK as company for the first one, but we aren't really trying to raise chicks in a big way this year. There's already too many eggs!

I would love to get Muscovyes, but we are delaying getting any more ducks (or getting geese) until we get the waterfowl housing and cleaning situation perfected. We would also like to have some sort of small pond in place for them too. I know Muscovyes don't NEED a pond, but they do like use one if it's available.

Also, we have a pair of Mallards, and SHE is cranking out the eggs like there is no tomorrow. Again, too many eggs!

Anyone got some good recipes for Keesch, crepes or other egg-based dishes? We're up to our ears in egg salad already!

Walker said...

OOOh. A relative recently said they said a sweet looking rat on their bird feeder but they wouldn't kill it because they are 'budhasts' (read: buddhists). I thought, give it a month or two and you will be Republican budhasts who kill rats.

I mean, you just can't have rats. But I admit I sort of think they are cute but you have it right: There are just some creatures you can't waste time talking to. Great line.

You know I always like the farm report.

Bob said...

I once observed a muscovey sitting on her ducklings, four leghorn chicks, three rocks (as in stones), and some kittens.

Nowadays, I always carry a camera.

Chas said...

I once read an interview with Elizabeth Taylor, in her home. She and the reporter were in her kitchen, and Liz was feeding stale bread to some baby rats in her back yard, "because they were so cute".

I completely understand Liz's attitude; they are truly as cute as any Disney character, especially when they are babies. I also don't doubt that when the interview was over, Liz told her housekeeper to call the exterminator to take care of the problem; even she has a practical side.

I used to keep gerbils as pets when I was a kid. Gerbils are basically Mongolian desert rats.

While dealing with these rats, it's been impossible to ignore that under different circumstances, I might call them pets.

I'm careful to position the traps for maximum effectiveness, but sometimes the trap doesn't kill them, it just gets their tail and traps them. Then I have to finish them off with a shovel.

As much as I hate that, it has to be done, because the sad truth is, wild rats carry communicable diseases, and there is a seemingly endless supply of them. I dare not allow myself to think of them in any other way than as vermin, lest the farm be overrun by them.

I completely understand when people say they are cute. Vermin can be cute... until they overrun your home.

I once lived in a rodent infested building, where mice would run across my face while I was sleeping. That permanently cured me of cutting any slack for vermin! I'll gladly share the planet with them, but not my home or the farm.

Everything I've read about Muscovey ducks makes me want to own some. I hope we can get a few when we've sorted out our water situation.