Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Keeping Ducks and Chickens Together

Ducks and chickens can be in the same building but have different requirements. Chickens will find their roosts by themselves and prefer to spend the night next to an open window, even in Winter. Roosts can be quite high and many people's chickens roost in trees. Except when they are molting, which often happens in Fall after the Summer drought ends, this should be OK. Studies done in upstate NY have shown that chickens allowed to acclimate to the cold weather and given appropriate amounts of feed have less frost bite and other cold related injuries than birds that are kept in closed buildings, even with some heat.

Ducks have very short legs, most of them don't fly at all or only a foot or two off the ground and nest on the ground. They need to be herded in every night. Ducks are very sensitive to light and don't really sleep at night. If I get home late I often find mine browsing back and forth looking for snails, slugs or other delectibles and actually seem more alert at night than they often do during mid-day when they seem to be most likely to be seen resting on the ground, maybe with their head under one wing. If you have neighbors and noisy ducks if you can't be there at the crack of dawn to let the ducks out and can't herd them in EVERY night then I recommend you pass on the ducks.

Ducks are very vulnerable to any kind of predator, coons, skunks, possum, coyote that finds one nesting at night. If they find one they will probably find the rest and you could go from many to no ducks in a single night. The shelters have to be something stronger than chicken wire mesh at the ground level as some predators can tear it apart or reach in to pull whatever they can get their hands on through the cage eating everything they can pull through the wire amputating what they can't kill. A coon can easily reach though 1" chicken wire and snag a little fresh meat. 1/4" or 1/2" hardware cloth at least two feet high with a bit of an apron (2-6" bent and lying flat and down on the ground") will help keep a predator from digging in or reaching in and snagging one of your animals. You might consider putting a bottom on a ground level enclosure but I found they make it hard to clean and can be a source of disease. The best source of information I have found about duck breeds on the Internet is http://www.metzerfarms.com. If you are planning on keeping ducks I would read all about the breeds they have and sign up for their blog.

My primary coop is a rectangular box, 2 feet off the ground with a 1” thick floor that is covered with a waterproof piece of shower liner to keep wetness caused by the birds from ever touching it. The coop has a pitched flat roof that rests on one end and is higher on the other where my chickens fight to get to so they can see out and have the the fresh air. This was very simple to build and wasted no wood because the walls are made from three pieces of exterior siding, one of which was cut in half for the ends.

Over a dozen chickens have chosen to crowd in that coop rather that the larger one with more space and air even though only about half of them had the coveted penthouse roost. The roof is 12 foot long metal roofing material that creates enough of an eave on both ends that water never comes into the top of the coop and you can stand under it to collect eggs etc. in the rain without getting wet. The bird(s) that are on the lower roosts are the first ones out every morning when the automatic coop controller opens the door for them. If you put ducks and chickens in the same coop, I recommend that you don't, then you need to have enough room keep the ducks from having to sleep under the chickens. The chickens poop a lot at night and take up the entire vertical space from the floor to where they are roosting because of that. We built our coop raised off the ground with a floor and a hardware cloth enclosure beneath to shrink the footprint and to provide another 32 sq. ft. of additional shelter for feeding or sleeping. This winter we kept our ducks in a lean-to type greenhouse to help protect our citrus collection. They did a very nice job. Instead of losing citrus or having to bring the citrus inside the citrus grew outside the house all Winter.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


  Genetically engineered foods were approved by the USDA using the theory of "substantial equivalence" to other types of breeding like how we make modern hybrids of wheat that make tens of millions of people sick. Millions of people suffer from celiac disease and a recent study showed that only 10% of them have been diagnosed. The smoking gun in study after study has been modern hybrids of wheat and other cereal grains that contain proteins never seen before and rarely or never seen in nature.

Even though GMO/GE foods start with a hybrid and then modifies it even further, they are not the same thing as a pollinated hybrid. We have the right to know that the food we are eating has been developed or modified in some way might make us sick. The USDA decided to allow GMO/GE crops without ANY third party testing and NO long term testing and still doesn't require it in spite of hundreds of reports of health problems in farm animals related to these crops. Washington residents have a right to choose which foods they eat and to know what it is they are buying. The Federal government has decided to shield companies whose lobbyists regularly end up taking regulatory positions, regulating the industries where they have spent their careers promoting that company's products. It is unfortunate that the regulatory body that allowed these chemicals to enter our food stream can no longer be counted on as a reliable source of information because of well documented outside influence by the industry it is supposed to be regulating.

States have the right under the Constitution to regulate all matters not specifically reserved by the federal government. We aren't asking Washington State to bear the cost of a regulatory body or rules that will have any impact on tax payers. In fact, we expect to see a savings in the future by giving people that have already health problems related to the exposure to certain foods the choice to avoid foods that contain what for them will be harmful contaminants. A number of books have been published in the last year about the problems that tens of millions of people have because of new types of proteins and carbohydrates that occur in modern hybrids of cereals, especially wheat. Permanent brain and neural damage, cardiac disease, diabetes, hormone system issues et al have all been directly linked to whole grain diets based on new much more genetically complex hybrids. We have an epidemic of disease in this country related to the food supply and without access to all of the facts about the food we are buying this problem could grow even worse.

We aren't asking for what we really feel is necessary which is to completely ban any food that hasn't been tested whether it be a pollinated hybrid or laboratory engineered product, not because we don't feel that is necessary but because the political reality is that it would meet with such stiff resistance from groups that produce industrialized food that it would be unlikely to be passed. We do feel strongly though that for safety reasons for many and to address the personal concerns of others that allowing for free choice and freedom of information should be not only allowed but that full disclosure should be mandatory. This is like a property rights issue. I have the right to full disclosure about what I am buying to maintain myself and my property. Others don't have the right to hide facts from me when we engage in commerce whether it be selling a house or buying the groceries. The way things are currently, no one could even tell you what the facts are because their is so much pressure from certain members of this industry to keep secrets. Capitalism only works when the markets are free of such subterfuge and back room deals that give one party an advantage over another.