Monday 30 January 2023

How to keep ducks - keep them free of mud


I was asked recently if it is possible to keep ducks as pets in your house. I replied that it is possible but I wouldn't recommend it. Ducks are very mucky and are therefore better off outside in the garden or a run. Due to current avian flu restrictions all poultry is confined to cages or runs and the muck soon builds up. There comes a point, especially following heavy rain, when ducks can get overwhelmed by the mud and muck and they are unable to clean their feathers. If this happens, ducks often die. So, if you are planning to keep ducks, make sure they have access to clean water for bathing. Put something in the run to absorb the rain and keep them off mud. We use mulch, old hay, wood shavings or sawdust as available. The ducks will poo all over it but when it becomes too mucky, shovel it all up, put it in the compost bin and replace it. But the most important thing is to help keep the ducks clean.

Sunday 29 January 2023

Off my trolley


We took delivery of this useful bit of kit recently. This new trolley will take over many of the duties previously performed by a dodgy old wheelbarrow on our farm. It's already been used to move around water containers, bales of hay, manure and sacks of animal feed. It's got a long working life ahead of it!

Sunday 22 January 2023

More mulch


This is another example of people giving us their waste which for us is a resource. As we plough on through the avian flu restrictions, our poultry continue to be confined to runs. The mulch we are given goes onto the ground to keep the chickens and ducks off the mud. We get through the mulch at an alarming rate but is has a good after use once we have removed it from the runs (along with all the poultry poop). The resulting compost is great for the plants.

Cider with Jonathan


Not quite cider with Rosie but this bottle of homemade cider was given to me by a friend who grew the apples as well as fermenting the juice. A rather pleasant dry cider.

One down, four to go


Of the 5 big jobs we have to do over the next few weeks, I'm pleased to report that one is now done. Last weekend we made a trip to Lincolnshire to buy 2 Hebridean rams for our flock of 9 Hebridean ewes. It was a 400 mile round trip. The oldest is called Max (named by the previous owner). He is the older of the two at four years. The other we have named Jock. He's two. Max has been put into the paddock with the ewes. Jock has gone in with the texels and will be used for breeding next year. The two rams are not related.

Wednesday 18 January 2023

5 key tasks to do this winter


We have five big jobs to do this winter, as outlined in this video:

  • get a ram for our Hebrideans;
  • get a new billy to replace Ramesses and Perky who both died recently;
  • rebuild the duck run;
  • set up new raised beds;
  • install new fencing and an electric fence on field 2.
One of these jobs is already done - we have the ram (in fact, we have 2 rams.)

Thursday 12 January 2023

More Christmas trees moved


6 journeys with the trailer removed all the trees from the Whinnies car park to our farm today. I'm glad the job is done - for now at least. We expect more trees to be dropped off but not an avalanche of them. We will strip the branches and shred them in February, after a number of other big jobs is completed.

Wednesday 11 January 2023

Another clean up


In the duck run we have a new paddling pool for the ducks, and we also have a bath tub which is much deeper than the pool. Ducks are very mucky animals so both pool and bath need regular cleaning. You can see that from the photo above. The tub was cleaned out a couple of days ago. The good news is that the muck is great for the garden. The bad news is that the lovely clean bath was very rapidly made muck again by the ducks.

A useful swap


I gave a couple of goats - Sooty and Sweep - to a charitable organisation a couple of years ago near to where we live. The organisation carries out outdoor educational work for children who, for whatever reason, fall out of mainstream education. Over the weekend I gave Sooty and Sweep the medication we have just given to our own goats to protect them from fluke and worms. In return they gave me a bottle of homemade elderflower cordial, some homemade cider and a loaf of sour dough bread. We haven't tried the cider yet but the bread and cordial went down well.

Nest boxes


Now that the hens have started to lay again, we built a couple of nest boxes to add to the henhouses that don't already have them installed. The 2 in the picture above were made entirely from scrap wood. They are quite large and could do with being subdivided. So far the hens have avoided using them!

Tuesday 10 January 2023

Why you need to keep the duck pond clean

 Ducks produce a great deal of mess but they need to be kept clean. The secrete an oily, wax substance which they spread over their feathers to keep them waterproof. If they get covered in muck and mud, they are no longer able to keep their feathers in good shape and this can cause them to die. We have recently had to replace the paddling pool in the duck run as it had developed a leak but the ducks loved the replacement. Given the confined circumstances at the moment (all poultry by law had to be caged or in runs to tackle avian flu), the paddling pool and the bath that is in the run, which we use as a pond, need to be emptied and cleaned regularly. Job for today is the empty the bath, clean it and refill it. There is a layer of sediment which I will scoop out and put on the raised beds. Nothing wasted.

Saturday 7 January 2023

On the up


A nice surprise today: five eggs from our hens. This is the highest since September when the supply of eggs dried up. It is however a long way behind our record from last year of 42 eggs in one day.

Friday 6 January 2023

Eggs for Breakfast


Now that our hens (2 of them) have started laying again, I've been able to have fried egg and potatoes for breakfast. Unbeatable!

Christmas trees on the move


Following our appeal in December, people have been giving us their Christmas trees. For us, the trees are a resource, to everyone else they are waste. The goats will eat the twigs and bark, the branches will be turned into mulch and the trunks will be dried over the summer to be used as firewood next winter, keeping our house warm and cozy. The first tree arrived on 27th December but we are expecting the surge this weekend.

Tuesday 3 January 2023

Mucking out


Cleaning out the hen and duck houses at the moment is like painting the Forth Bridge. This unending task is not helped by the current requirements to keep all poultry houses until such point as the avian flu outbreak is under control. We are generating a large amount of muck. At the moment we are giving it all to the Whinnies Community Garden for their raised beds but we will soon start shifting some to the farm for our own raised beds.

Bath time


With all poultry confined to runs because of the avian flu restrictions, there is a danger that the ground gets churned up and birds get muddy. For ducks this can be fatal so when we spot any looking mucky, we bring them home and put them in the bath where they can clean themselves in clean water. These 2 came back home over the weekend but have been returned to their runs.

Sunday 1 January 2023



Our hens and ducks stopped laying in September. On Christmas Day, in one of the henhouses, I found 2 eggs. A rather nice Christmas present! 

How to make a mock full English breakfast


So much of what we practice in the world of self-sufficiency can be learnt from history. In this video, I demonstrate just how important allotments we to Britain during the Second World War. This mock full English breakfast was made entirely from produce from an allotment, other than the pigeon used in making the sausages. With war now in Europe resulting in rocketing food prices, learning from history has never been so important.

Give me your Christmas tree


On Boxing Day we put out an appeal for people to give us their Christmas tree rather than throwing it out. We have done this for a number of years. The trees are fed to the goats. They eat the bark and the twigs. When they have finished with them, the branches are stripped off and shredded to make a mulch which we use in the chicken runs or donate to the Whinnies Community Garden. The trunks are chopped up and dried for firewood.

The first trees (see above) this year arrived on 27th December. The peak will be the next 2 weeks.