This time of year, the hatchery catalogs and incubators show up in the homes of poultry farmers. When there’s a bank of snow outside the window and the temperature is well below freezing, thinking about fluffy peepers in the spring makes winter feel a little bit shorter.
Our farm is currently home to two dozen geese, about a dozen chickens, some guinea fowl and three ducks. In planning for 2019 we aim to expand our collection of ducks and better manage our current flocks.
Ducks are an area of expansion for us in 2019. We love our duck eggs because they are more reliably laid year round than chicken eggs, and they have thick orange yolks that are perfect for baking, which is the primary way we use eggs. Ducks also require less infrastructure than chickens. The don’t roost, and they don’t lay in nesting boxes. In addition to laying tasty eggs they are very active foragers.
We like to use all our animals in multiple, permaculture ways, and ducks are perfect for helping keep slugs and other nuisance bugs at bay. They work in conjunction with our flock of guinea fowl, which eats ticks, to keep the general bad insect population down. Because we want to utilize these abilities as much as possible, we’re adding Runner Ducks for the first time this year. Runners are some of the most actively foraging ducks, and they are also excellent layers. A small flock running around the barnyard should keep us cooking with eggs and hopefully limit the number of bug-related problems in the gardens.
Meanwhile, we have two dozen geese so adding to the gaggle is no longer a priority. We have enough to serve the function of a goose flock on our farm very well. They sound a raucous alarm at anything strange or out of the ordinary happening on the property, and they lay far more eggs than the two of us can eat during their three-to-four-month laying season. The areas where the geese wander during the days have the most lush and green grass on our farm, and with these personable birds the entertainment factor in the barnyard is also high.
We do hope this year to start selling goose eggs for the first time, and we might home-hatch a few flock additions if we get fertile eggs.
Our main poultry goal for 2019 is separating our guinea fowl and chickens into different coops. They have cohabitated very well, but we have enough of both species that our coop is crowded. I expect guinea fowl would be difficult to train to go to a new coop, we’ll move the chickens while the guineas will remain in their spacious barn stall. Our chickens will have their own little coop in a new location, hopefully with a fenced run to keep them from bothering our gardens.
This is always an exciting time as you start laying out plans for the coming year. It is fun to expand flocks and to think about new baby birds. The only thing better is when they arrive.