Friday, June 16, 2017

Muscovy Ducks in Springtime

The ducks start courting and mating as early as February some years. This year the courting got off to an early start because February was exceptionally warm. Courting usually involves the males preening their feathers and strutting around to attract female attention and then splitting off into harems. A relatively cool March and April slowed things down a little, but once May rolled around there were ducks on nests all over the farm. The ducks definitely have different styles in terms of where and how they like to nest, although many of them prefer the area of the rabbit barn because it is more protected and close to where they are fed. The following pictures illustrate different nesting styles. This duck likes high sides and ground level, but is constantly annoyed when showered by rabbit urine. She tends to look up at the rabbit and make threatening noises, which the rabbit simply ignores. This choice of nesting area perplexes me, but this same duck does the same thing every year.
This duck likes high sides and ground level, and has made a better choice since she is not directly under the rabbits preferred urination area.
This duck has a good view and won't be bothered by rabbit showers, but gets terribly anxious whenever we are feeding or working with the rabbits. She also has to cope with her nest of hay being slowly eaten by the bunnies. When the eggs hatch it is also a long way down for the ducklings (luckily they bounce well).
This duck likes privacy with a ground level view and protection from the elements.
This duck makes a good choice far away from other ducks, rabbits and with a good view.
And of course we now have lots of ducklings wandering around.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Shearing Day 2017

Due to an exceptionally warm February, we were able to get our bred angora does and bred Shetland ewes sheared on Saturday. The angora goats know what is up, and will glare at me as they await shearing their turn.
After we get started they generally relax, and it only takes about 10 minutes or less per goat. The fleeces came off very easily and were exceptionally clean this year.
After shearing we put sheep coats on the goats to help them stay warm. They also have heat lamps in their shelter.
The Shetland ewes tend to be very relaxed about being sheared (once caught that is). This year was very unusual in that all the adult Shetland ewes were already "on the rise." The rise is thought to be caused by changing seasons. During the winter, the wool growth slows down, causing a weak spot in the staple of the wool locks. In the spring, when wool growth resumes, the old wool thins and weakens where the new growth begins. Shetland sheep are best sheared slightly before or just when the rise is starting; shearing must be carefully timed to get the best quality fleeces.
The adult Shetland fleeces already well skirted, but will be given a final skirting before being used in our yarns and rovings, or sold as grease fleece.
The adult Shetland ewes were all snug in their barn this morning. The sheared goats were still wearing their coats. And everyone is looking very well. We'll be shearing last years lambs and kids, plus the Jacob sheep flock later in March and April.