I haven’t raised any poultry in  a long while, it was one of the many extras that had to go while I was working in Seattle. My duck population is low, from attrition and butchering all the males. So I loaded up the incubator with a big batch of eggs.

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I was delighted this spring to learn that our nearby Cenex store would be the keeper of a new set of rental poultry processing equipment, which is funded by the Northwest Ag Business Center. There was a set up at a Mount Vernon feed store, but the drive was far enough that I never bothered to rent it. This new development gave me no excuse to procrastinate any longer on butchering some roosters and drakes I had that were just standing around eating too much food.

I hate butchering poultry, it’s the plucking of smelly birds that I find the most distasteful. Plus, I’m not fast at it, so it’s so much work, and the whole time I keep thinking I can buy a chicken at the grocery store for five bucks. The equipment makes it a lot easier.

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I had a duck die from the Electronet the other day. This is my fourth animal to die in the Electronet: two sheep, and two poultry. I still think compared to taking chances with the coyotes, the Electronet wins. But it’s not 100% safe. This duck had somehow inserted her head, then rotated her body a couple of times until the wire was wound completely tight. It was very difficult to get her unwound, I almost resorted to cutting her head off to get her out of there! The ducks are the worst about trying to dive through the hotwire to get through- sometimes they are successful, which perpetuates the habit.

This duck had a weird and interesting disease: progressive damage on the end of her bill.

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I have a huge problem with soft shells in my laying chickens. My ducks have bulletproof, hard and thick shells. They eat the same feed, a layer pellet. Though a friend once told me she loves the thin chicken shells because they are so easy to crack, I do not love them because they are fragile and they don’t last very long in the fridge.

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ChicksI ordered a batch of ducks and chickens, to grow up to be replacement birds for those who will be getting old in a year or two.

I got these from Welp hatchery, just because they had both Magpie ducks and Rhode Island Red chickens, and had availability of both in the near future. Last week turned out to be their last planned week of Magpies, so I got my order in just under the wire.

I just got 20 ducks and 10 chickens.

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 birdyard

Relocating the birds to their new yard was mayhem. Poultry do not like change!

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PoultryYardWe decided to do a major switcheroo in how we are housing our poultry. Thus far, I had been letting them run loose during the day. At night they’d naturally roost in their A-frame houses, and I’d just close the doors and open them back up in the morning. They had about four acres on which to range, and they made full use of it.

One advantage to this system is that there are fewer equipment costs. Just some night structures, and one set of community food and water dispensers. Not having food and water in their night houses keeps the mess down in there, requiring less bedding expenses. Letting them free range all day tends to lead them away from the food bin, so they harvest m ore of their own food and consume less purchased feed. And it spreads their manure out all over the place.

But the biggest downside is also: it spreads their manure out all over the place!

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