This week has been dramatically eventful at JustPicked Farms. Last week while I was at work, my daughter called to tell me that something had killed two of our free-range hens. She didn’t see what killed them but at first she thought it was a hawk, because she saw one picking at one of the carcasses. Personally, I believe the hawk was just getting an easy meal, and it was actually a dog that killed them (not mine, she was indoors). Both chickens had been bitten at the necks and had their necks broken, and only one looked like anything had actually started to eat it. This type of killing for sport rather than food seems like the work of a domestic dog to me, since coyotes or foxes would have eaten or carried off their meal.
With that sad event, I had to make the difficult decision to no longer let our hens free range while I’m away from home. We quickly got one of our new hoop houses ready, since their existing henhouse would have been a little small for them to be spending so much time in. This weekend we built nest boxes to go inside the hoop house. I still plan to let the hens out whenever we’re home and working outdoors, but I’ll keep a shotgun a little nearer by in case of predators.
This past weekend we were back and forth to Kansas City on Friday, Saturday and Sunday for a conference, so we didn’t have much time to work on the high tunnel or poultry hoop houses, other than getting the nest boxes built. However, while Martin was in his conference sessions, I was free to shop! I stopped in a Tractor Supply store to buy some feed for the chickens, and found that they had chicks and ducklings for sale. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity, so I bought 6 new ducklings. The sign on the bin said “assorted”, so I don’t know for sure what type they are, but by their markings they look like Rouans, which when they grow up look like a large mallard.
Ducks should be a good addition to the garden, since in addition to eating slugs, snails, and other pests, they won’t damage the crops as much as chickens would. And, they’ll give us occasional yummy duck eggs!
Mourning the loss of the hens, celebrating the arrival of the ducklings, trying to keep all things in perspective -