If you have chickens, then you know that this time of year can leave your feathered friends looking a little bedraggled. Don’t worry! It will end soon … we hope. This week I’m talking about my ugly chickens losing their feathers, my beautiful yet vicious ducks, and some other things that we’ve been up to on the farmstead.
When we brought our first fuzzy little chicklings home so many years ago — going on six years now! — I have to admit that I didn’t do a lot of research about keeping them. None, actually. I knew that at some point they would start laying eggs, that they liked to eat bugs, and that they couldn’t fly. And that was about it.
I did not know that come the fall they would stop laying eggs and lose all their feathers. And so I remember being absolutely horrified one day to see that our once-gorgeous hens looked like someone had wrung their necks and plucked the tails right off their bodies. The feathers were all gone. They looked ragged and lusterless. I could see their SKIN, paper-thin and vulnerable-looking. After some frantic Googling, I found out to my relief (and also embarrassment) that they were molting. You know, a very normal bird thing that happens every fall like clockwork.
Now, of course, these many years later, I’m not surprised when the chickens start to molt. Not surprised, but always a little disconcerted. Overnight they go from beautiful birds to, well, they get a little ugly. It looks like someone started to pluck them and then remembered they were still alive. Go look at that first photo again. You can see the chicken’s ear! She looks like she’s straight out of a horror film!
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I’ve also noticed that this is the time of year, without their feathers, that they most resemble their dinosaur ancestors. It’s very Jurassic Park around here.
Speaking of Jurassic Park, I looked out the window the other day when I heard a lot of ungodly squawking and quacking, and saw the ducks chase down and eat a very large frog.
I bet you didn’t know it got so cutthroat around here, did you?
It’s another one of those things that I didn’t know chickens and ducks were capable of. I knew they all liked bugs, of course. And I’ve seen them happily chow down on dead rodents they find. I’d also been warned that sometimes ducks can choke on large slugs. But no one ever mentioned that they will all turn into vicious little velociraptors the minute a frog hopped on the scene.
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This was no small tree frog, either. It was a Northern Red Legged frog the size of my hand!
My sweet little Puddle Ducks tore that frog apart, limb to limb. They slurped it down. Their crops were all softball sized for the rest of the day, practically dragging on the ground. I’ve decided that I’m not going to worry about them choking on slugs anymore.
In other news, I think I am done canning for the year. Hallelujah! I’ve packed up all the extra jars I’d hidden away in nooks and crannies and cabinets. What I need is a dedicated canning cupboard, where the jars can live all year long, whether they’re filled on not.
I’ve also decided I need a cold room. There may be plans afoot to turn part of the garage into food storage space. Our large pantry just isn’t large enough!
Anyway, we ended up freezing more of our produce than canning it this year, thanks to the extra large upright freezer we invested in. I expect that next year we’ll be back to canning, because we’re planning on raising meat chickens, and we’ll be buying a steer from our neighbor. All that meat will get priority freezer space. But this year we had the room, and freezing is so much easier than slaving away in the kitchen with the water bath canner!
Now here’s to hoping that the electricity doesn’t go out for long this winter!
What were you up to on your homestead (wherever it may be) this week? Does anyone else have ugly chickens or velociraptor ducks? Let me know in the comments below!
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