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    My Hedge is Cuter Than Your Hedge

    April 6, 2011 by Brandy Vencel

    Like I said earlier, we consider our flock to be something of a hedge against inflation. Or, at least, inflation is one reason we considered increasing the size of our flock. Some people buy gold. Okay, yes: it is shiny and sometimes nice to look at. But really? How does gold compare to one of the cutest hedges I’ve seen in a long time?

    …exploring her temporary home…

    …grazing lessons…

    …settling down in the clover for a nap…

    …hello, world…

    I have already decided I like this new breed better. We’ll see if my initial thoughts prove true as they grow. But for now, I will say they are much more docile. The Khaki Campbells were frantic when they first arrived home. They ran around in circles, they were very skittish and almost impossible to catch and hold.

    These Welsh Harlequins are so sweet. Their chirping on the way home was quieter than the KCs. They are easy to catch and generally don’t seem as nervous as their older sisters. Their reputation tells me they are better foragers and bug catchers than KCs, and I believe it, for they already caught their first bugs today. Our KCs didn’t do that {that we know of, anyhow} until they were a couple weeks old at the least.

    And they are oh so sweet. Did I mention that? Because they are.

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  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts April 8, 2011 at 3:16 am

    Rahime, I have come to prefer duck eggs over chicken eggs, too. I have also come to understand why the French prefer them in baking–they really boost a cake!

    In regard to your city, I just don’t know why cities would differentiate as long as you got a quiet breed. I understand if they were Pekins. We had Pekins once. They were loud like geese. It was totally embarrassing. They would stare in our sliding door and quack loudly whenever they were hungry (because they were also bad foragers and wanted grain all the time).

    But enough about that…

  • Reply Rahime April 8, 2011 at 3:08 am

    We get eggs through our meat coop (the meat is mostly for dog food, honestly, though it’s great for people too), and their birds don’t lay in the winter. I LOVE duck eggs. We just started getting chicken eggs again in early April, and I was disappointed that there weren’t enough duck eggs yet to go around, so we just got chicken ones. They’re one of my favorite foods…especially right now since eggs are among the few things that stay in my tummy these days.

    I’d love to have ducks, but I think our city only allows chickens. I don’t know how well the dogs would do with them anyway.

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts April 8, 2011 at 1:31 am

    That means you are like me and do not have to worry much about breed hardiness (unless they are sensitive to heat, but usually it is cold that can be the issue). 🙂

  • Reply Books For Breakfast April 8, 2011 at 12:21 am

    Brandy, I live in southeast Texas. We rarely get snow but we do usually get at least one freeze each winter. Kansas Mom, thank you for the information on chickens.

  • Reply Kansas Mom April 7, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    I think Kansas Dad pays $15 for each 50 lb bag of feed. Now that I think about it, we may go through slightly more than one bag each month, but we feed them more during the winter. That also doesn’t include the scratch and the supplements for the eggshells, but we use very little of those. We also give them lots of kitchen scraps.

    Our winters are much colder than Brandy’s. Even when we don’t need the heat lamp, though, we keep a light burning in the winter to increase laying. I was surprised that “fake” light would play the role of sunlight, but it seems to work quite well. You could skip the light, but then you’d probably see a significant decrease in laying.

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts April 7, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    That might be another difference: I have never noticed our ducks laying less in the winter. Then again, we have mild winters. But my understanding is that the issue is daylight, and laying ducks tend to be less sensitive.

    They do, however, stop laying during the seasonal molt like most laying birds.

    One more thing: some people think that duck eggs have a strong taste. I suppose they are a little bit stronger, but we eased ourselves into it naturally because when they first started laying, there weren’t enough for a whole pan of scrambled eggs, for instance, so we would mix a couple duck eggs with mostly chicken eggs. By the time the pan was all duck eggs, we were accustomed. BUT if you have picky eaters, chicken eggs are surely a safer bet, especially as the taste surely varies with duck breed.

    NOTE: Some ducks {such as Pekins} are as loud as geese, and completely bad neighbors, so if you go with ducks you want to get a good backyard type bird.

    KM: $15 a month breaks down nicely because that is only about $1 per bird! How many bags of feed is that? I am assuming that the cost of feed is less where you are than here, but maybe not? Of course, you are grazing also. I think that is key in keeping the costs low. The hawks we have here are so small that they are not a danger to our ducks once they are grown. The little ones we keep in our garage anyhow, until they are bigger. We do have issues at night–skunks {who want to eat the eggs}, racoons, etc., so they are locked in a tractor at night. The tractor is only moved once per week since it is only a nighttime home, and we move it around our little orchard.

    Knowing your area’s predators is surely the best way to know how to properly keep your birds. I do think one advantage of a suburban-type environment {which is what we have, too} is that all of the fences keep out the vast majority of predators. I have never seen racoons come all the way to our house, but I know they live in the big almond orchard a few block away, and so we assume they have access to the flock and prepare accordingly.

  • Reply Kansas Mom April 7, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    We have chickens. Apparently (I asked Kansas Dad) we picked chickens over ducks because he thought we’d like the meat more from the chickens. We have dual-purpose hardy breeds. They spend most of the year in a chicken tractor Kansas Dad pulls around the yard. In the winter, he connects a couple of chicken tractors and surrounds one with hay bales for warmth. We also use a heat lamp for them in the winter so they keep laying. We pay for a lot more grain (about $15/month) but we also have more hens — 15 or so I think. (We’ve lost a few recently.)

    We have more than seven acres, but you don’t need that much space for chickens. You could build a coop and yard on much less land. We also have had roosters (one at the moment). They are loud; I wouldn’t recommend them in a neighborhood. Be sure to check your ordinances. Many towns allow only a limited number of hens, no roosters. I think in the big city near us, you can have three hens.

    We choose not to let our hens roam, partly to avoid the hassle of collecting them all at night. Mostly, though, we live in Kansas where there are lots of hawks, coyotes and other such predators. If we had huge flocks of chickens we could absorb some losses to them, but we have relatively few.

    A good book we still reference is Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens. Many libraries carry a copy.

    Oh, how I love fresh eggs from happy hens!!

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts April 7, 2011 at 3:48 am

    B4B: A question…What part of the country are you in? Does it snow?

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts April 7, 2011 at 3:47 am

    B4B: One more duck warning: IF you did ducks, you need to know that they can really stain concrete. Thankfully, we have access to a nice power washer that seems to get it off, but if they dirty it and we are not home (because they run wild most of the time) to spray it off right away, it sort of becomes cement itself. Just something to keep in mind.

    I keep hoping the chicken folks around here will chime in and enlighten us as to life with chickens.

    ps. I find it helps to plant food they like. 🙂

  • Reply Books For Breakfast April 7, 2011 at 2:26 am

    Thank you so much! This helps. They are too cute.

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts April 7, 2011 at 1:30 am

    B4B, We have just under half an acre. Before this, we lived on a 10K or 12K lot, and this flock would have fit just as easily there (well, the original flock of 6 birds; I don’t know that I would have done 11 there). The main reason we chose ducks was because we thought they might make better neighbors. Chickens can be loud, but perhaps there are backyard breeds that make better neighbors? Our KCs are very quiet, and it is said that Welsh Harlequins are even quieter (mainly because they are less nervous), but we will see how that plays out in real life.

    I would assume upkeep would be about the same, though I have never kept chickens, so I can’t be positive. We introduce our birds to foraging very young, and they forage all day long, so they receive a very minimal grain ration. It takes the six grown birds about six weeks to get through a bag of feed in the winter, and even longer in the summer because there are more bugs to feast on, so they eat even less of the ration.

    Ducks definitely cost more in water, if you have high water costs. They drink a ton, plus most breeds require a pool. All ducks have to have a water container large and deep enough for them to dunk their entire heads in–this is necessary for their health.

    Both of the duck breeds we have chosen are also heavy layers, but can also be meat birds in a pinch. Their eggs are equal to about 1.5 chicken eggs, and duck eggs are much higher in nutrients. That is another thing to consider–if you are choosing this as a source of fat soluble vitamins, duck eggs are about 3 times higher in A and D. Of course, we didn’t choose them for that reason.

    The appeal of chickens to me would be that they are probably less messy. Ducks have webbed feet, so they track mud everywhere, plus all the water means they can make a huge mess when they are having fun!

  • Reply Books For Breakfast April 7, 2011 at 1:03 am

    Curious, how much land do you have. We’ve been thinking about building a coop and raising chickens (sans rooster). We live in the suburbs, but we have a fairly large back yard. What do you know about raising ducks vs. chickens as far as cost of upkeep?

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts April 7, 2011 at 12:16 am

    Elizabeth! Good to see you didn’t fall off the edge of the internet after all. 🙂

    I considered that, but I heard a rumor it has been decided to name the four females after the children’s four great-grandmas. This has yet to be confirmed with the Man in Charge.

  • Reply Elizabeth April 7, 2011 at 12:14 am

    They are cute.
    Maybe since they are Welsh Harlequins, you can give these ducks Welsh names.

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