Chickens & Ducks
In September, egg production dropped dramatically. Now we are getting between one and three chicken eggs every day. Despite increasing feed and turning on a light for more daylight hours, production has remained at this rate.
The good news, though, is that my ducks are laying between one and two eggs every day! That means we are getting between two and five eggs per day total. At this rate, I can sell about one dozen decent (not small or cracked) eggs per week, so that is what I am doing. This leaves Hubs and I with a good dozen+ eggs per week, so we probably won't have to buy any.
Right now there are 32 birds in our chicken coop: two male ducks, two female ducks, seven roosters and 21 hens. Later in the month I have plans to butcher one of the male ducks, half of the roosters and perhaps some of the really old hens. That will give us enough chicken to last the winter, hopefully. It will also cut down the number of birds to feed over the winter. In September I increased the amount of feed from 5.5 lbs. to 8 lbs, in order to fatten the birds. That way the cooking birds will be heavier, and the overwintering birds will have some extra cushion for the cold weather. Once we butcher, I will cut the feed back between 6.5 and 7 lbs. This should be sufficient for 20 chickens (4 oz. per day, per bird) and 3 ducks (6.5 oz. per day, per bird). If I have alternative feeds, I will probably cut the feed amount down more per day. I use a half-and-half mix of corn and layer mash to feed the birds right now, plus they have all of the lush pasture that their little hearts desire. During the winter they won't have that pasture though, so I will try to find some alternative green feeds for them.
Duck Hatching Experiment
My latest new hobby farm experiment was hatching my own ducklings. At the end of August, I saved a week's worth of duck eggs, and the neighbor also gave me a dozen as well. I sent them over to my brother, who bought an incubator earlier this year. I offered to pay him $20.00 for his time and the use of the incubator.
The first duckling started pipping (pecking at the egg shell to get out) on September 25th. He hatched the next day, and I brought him home when he was a couple days old. He was so cute! I put him in a large storage box lined with an old T-shirt and some newspaper. I put a homemade feeder in with some chick starter, and also a lid with water. I was a little afraid at first that he would drown if I used a real chick waterer.
Three days later, the second chick hatched. This one was "late", and he took so long getting out that my brother had to assist a little. The duckling had already pooped in his shell, and probably would have died in there without the help.
What happened to the other 18 or so eggs is kind of a mystery. Half of them weren't fertilized, but the other half were partially developed or were fully developed but didn't hatch out of their shells. We are going to try it again next spring after a little more research. One thing we learned this time is that the smaller eggs are actually more likely to be fertilized and hatch. Double yolk eggs in particular are not likely to hatch, so those are better just to eat.
Apart from the $20.00 "hatching fee", we spent $7.41 on chick starter. The bag will probably last until they are old enough to have grower, which we already purchased for the last set of chicks. So the total cost for this project was $27.41, or $13.71 per duck. Though these ducks were much cheaper than my 4-H auction ducks, they ended up costing more than TSC ducklings in the spring.
In the spring when we try hatching again, I will pay my brother with ducklings instead of money. His cost for running the incubator for 28 days is about $3.00. If I give him the duck eggs for free, his cost is $3.00 for at least one duck (but probably more, if we can get the hatching rate higher!). I believe that TSC ducklings are $4.00 or $5.00 each, so this would still be a savings for him. All I would have do is donate the eggs, which are about a $3.00 value. So I would get at least one duck for $3.00, and he would get at least one duck for $3.00. It would be a good deal for both of us, especially if we can get more than two to hatch!
We will see how I like keeping ducks over winter. Right now I think it is a good idea, because my two female ducks are still laying eggs when the chickens have quit. If I still like the ducks come spring, I will probably buy some more at TSC (in addition to those that we hatch in the incubator). I like the fact that duck hens can provide us with eggs all through the winter, plus the meat is worth more than chicken, if we decide to butcher and sell.
At the end of September I went down to milking Adi once a day and put the buck in with her. Soon I will quit milking her altogether. Now I will be watching for heat cycles in order to estimate her kidding date in March. I decided to breed one month earlier this year, and plan on having her inside, where it is warm, when she has her kids. I think having them weaned earlier will help me sell them faster.
Adi and Barry both look great. I was a little worried about Adi in July because her hair was dull and she seemed skinny. I started giving her an herbal wormer once a week. For the past two months, Adi and Barry have had their own pastures; more than they could possibly eat. I didn't feed Barry any grain, and Adi got about 1.5 lbs. per day during milking. Now both of them have got some meat on their bones, and Adi's hair is thick and shiny again.
Profit & Loss
Layer Mash- $44.00
Light bulb for heat lamp- $2.99
Heat lamp- $8.99
Poultry waterer- $5.99
Duck incubation- $20.00
Chick starter- $7.41
Total Expenses: $99.38
Milk products- $39.83
Garden Produce- $24.00
Baked Goods- $75.35
Total Income: $177.18
Net Profit: $77.80
Year-to-Date Net Profit: $460.25
I almost made it to the $500.00 net profit goal! And honestly, I would have made it, had I not took on the duck incubation project. But that's okay.
A Time for Rest
I am looking forward to the next few months of fewer chores and fewer selling obligations. We will still be doing chores twice a day (because the chickens need to be let in and out), but they won't take as long because the animals are fewer and housed close together.
Though expenses will be higher (about $30.00/mo. for chickens and $20.00/mo for the goats) and income much, much lower, I'm hopeful that our summer earnings will carry us through those expensive winter months. I am going to budget $50.00 per month, but try to spend less than that by giving alternative feeds. I estimate a $10.00/mo. egg income (thanks, ducks!), so that will help a little bit as well. Over the summer I toyed around with selling at a craft show or two. We'll see if that happens or not. I like the idea of keeping a bare-minimum hobby farm in the winter, and then expanding during the summer for income purposes.
If all goes according to budget, we should end the winter (Oct.- Apr.) with a surplus $100.00 for new hobby farm projects. I think that's pretty good for my first year of P&Ling. I was hoping for a lot more surplus, but we have spent a lot of money on one-time purchases this year: feed cans, wool processing, kidding equipment, baby poultry stuff, books, ducks. I was hoping to start beekeeping in 2017, but $100.00 is not nearly enough money to purchase equipment and supplies. Plus there are a few other things I'd like to focus on next year, and I'm not sure I'll be able to handle the time & learning commitment of honey bees. The good news is that I have a running list of cheaper projects that I would like to try as well. Yay for new projects!!!
Until next time,