We had a hen who kept wanting to set on eggs and was giving me quite the hissy fit every time I took the eggs out from under her. We had been discussing getting some Indian Runner ducks for Jack to learn how to herd with, so with that we started to look for fertilized eggs. Much to my surprise, a friend in the next town over has a pair of Indian Runner ducks. I contacted her and she was willing to help me with my little "experiment". How well will a hen take to duck eggs and will she have the desire to rear the ducklings? I did some reading up online and found a site that said that I need to sprinkle water on the eggs the hen is sitting on ... no, I don't think so!
Since there is just one hen duck, I ended up going to her house two days in a row to pick up the egg she laid that morning. I moved the hen into the corridor in our hen house and gave her a small dog kennel for her nest. She was non plussed about the move until the day that I popped the first egg under her. She gladly accepted the egg and snuggled it under her breast. The second day, no worries as she could now balance the eggs on each side of her. According to a number of duck sites, the average time for a duckling to hatch is 28 days. The first egg was placed under the hen on June 21st. Then the waiting started.
On July 17th, after getting back from the Farr's property, where I moved the non-mammas to another section of the field that they rotationally graze, I went to release the chickens. Lately, Tim has been leaving the door to the corridor open so that the broody hen could stretch her legs and get a dust bath quickly before hopping back on the nest. So, first thing I do before allowing the chickens to free range is to close that door so that "mom" is not annoyed by the other chickens jumping into the corridor. First thing I noticed was a smashed looking egg pushed near the opening of the dog kennel. Oh crap, what happened, I started to think to myself, until I heard the tiny peeping under "mom".
One little duckling has hatched a few days early! Woo hoo!
So far mom has taken to her little charge just fine. What an adorable little guy (why do I automatically assume its a boy is beyond me). Now to see if his little sibling hatches out as well.
After snapping a quick picture of the little fellow, I noticed that the purple coneflower that I was given is in bloom. What a good day, indeed!
The very next day I worked on cleaning out the ram pen building for placing the mom and her babies, if the next one hatched out, and lo and behold, by later in the afternoon, the next chick hatched out. This one doesn't exactly look the same, but mom and babies have bonded well together. See for yourself!
Lambing started with Ingrid, a first timer, giving birth to twins on Thursday, April 12, one day earlier than the beginning of lambing was due to start. Usually that is not anything to be concerned about, but this was not good. She looked as if she was only going to lamb a singleton, but she lambed twins, a ram and a ewe! They were both very small (ram was 3 lbs and the ewe was 2.6 lbs). the ram lamb was acting strange as he was walking in circles and didn't have the desire to suckle. The ewe lamb was able to suckle with assistance and although it looked as if she was blind, we figured we could handle that. By morning, the ram lamb had passed away and later that afternoon, closer to early evening, I found the ewe lamb flopping around like a fish out of water. We called the vet and found out that she was having seizures. We took her to the vet to euthanize her. It was one of the saddest trips I ever took to the vets office as she was having seizures every few minutes. According to the vet, the neurological problems were due to the fact that they were premature.
The next one to lamb was Alendil, another first timer, who on Saturday, April 14, gave birth to a singleton ram lamb. A beautiful white ram lamb with some splashy fawn-like spots on his one ear and a few splashes on his derrière.
Sunday, April 15, found us with another first timer lambing. Astrid also did great with her birthing and gave us a beautiful singleton ewe lamb. This girl is just adorable with the splashy face and gulmoget markings. I have thus far nicknamed her peanut.
Tuesday, April 17, came the day we were waiting for. Viveka, AKA the Goodyear blimp, started to "till" the ground. Hooray, she was in the first stage of labor. We were waiting with anticipation to see if she would give what we guessed was triplets all alive (last time she gave birth to triplets, one was stillborn). By 2:00pm, she moved into the second stage of labor, lying down and trying to push. By 3:30pm, nothing had progressed at all. She continued to push with nothing presenting itself. After talking to Tim, who thought I was overreacting, I called the vet. The call was either to put my mind at ease or to confirm my concerns. The vet said that something was wrong and that we needed to have a farm visit vet of the day come out to assess the situation. Long story short, we ended up having to take her to the vets office in the back of our horse trailer. Susan at Riverbend Vet Clinic examined her and found she had a condition known as ringwomb. She mentioned some of the options for fixing the problem and started to work on the most non-invasive option, manually manipulating the cervix. After a time of slowly stretching, she was able to feel the lamb and discovered that he was breech (butt coming first). She pulled him out and showed me an interesting method for getting fluid out of a lamb by letting gravity work for us. That lamb was a ram, who quickly got the name of Loki (Norse God of mischief). The second lamb started to show as soon as Loki started to nurse. This lamb was a normal presentation, but was also helped out of the birth canal. After he was born, Susan checked for another to find out that she had no more lambs left. They were a little bit bigger than normal twins at birth, and since she had triplets once before, she had plenty of room for those boys to grow! Each boy was moorit with white splashes. The second one to be born, Thor, has some white lightening bolt marks on each side.
We did try grafting a lamb from Viveka, but by that time, Ingrid had no interest in mothering any lambs and just wanted to spend her time butting heads with the other younger maiden ewes. We will try breeding her again this fall to make sure that the premature lambing was just a fluke, like Viveka's ringwomb (this was her fourth time lambing and each previous time there was no issue).
The very next morning, Wednesday, April 18, Tim found Sage (the oldest carrying lambs - 10 years old) had given birth to twin ewe lambs. Both girls were black with a few white splashes on them.
At this point, four out of five ewes had given birth in the span of a week. This is a bit unusual for our farm, as they are usually fairly well spaced out.
The last holdout, Freya, gave birth on April 26. She gave me twin ram lambs. One moorit with no marks and one black with some splashes on his head.
All in all, lambing was quite the roller coaster for me and I have never been so happy to see a lambing season end like I was happy to see this one end. Ending tally, 5 rams and 3 ewes alive. Oh well, there is always next year!