Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Lessons learned from our first year of raising chickens and ducks Part 2 of 2...

 More learning opportunities...

1. Be flexible with your business plan.  Our entire business plan revolved around selling at the Moscow Farmers Market.  With the COVID-19 taking over in the early spring, the start of the Market was delayed and completely reorganized to allow for social distancing and we were drowning in eggs!  Doing a delivery route was Back up Plan #3 but it became our main selling strategy.  The bonus is that Mark LOVES doing the egg delivery!  It allows him to have a more active role in the business.  Having an online storefront was not even ON the business plan and now we have one!  In fact, I was terrified at the idea of a website to sell eggs but we HAD to put one together to be a part of the Motor-In Moscow Farmers Market and now I love it!  Also, we are getting everything lined up so that we can sell the duck eggs at an actual storefront, the Moscow Food Co-op!  AND we provide eggs to a local farmer for her farm stand!  Grateful for new opportunities that turned out to be successful for the egg business!

2. The shade shelter doubles as a snow shelter too!  We always knew it would be good for the girls to have shade but didn't realize that it really is a necessity if we want them to encourage them to be out on pasture.  Therefore, when we do get the actual coops built, we are going to have to put together some of these little shade/snow shelters in the paddocks.  There are more trees where the coops are located but some of them are still small so they don't provide a lot of shade immediately.  
3. Everything likes to eat chicken.  We already knew this and that is one reason we have the livestock guardian dogs.  They do a great job of keeping the coyotes away but they couldn't get to the west side of the barn where a raccoon entered and killed 3 chickens a few weeks ago.  SO, we have learned new skills of trapping and working with game cameras.  Last year, I did catch an ermine (weasel) in a small trap.  This year, we had to buy some big traps to try and catch a raccoon (more unexpected expenses!).  Grateful we continue to learn new skills and keep the girls safe!
4.  Breaking news...this just happened this past weekend...make sure to check items that are ordered and sent to the farm.  Last May, we ordered a fodder system.  This is a way to grow greens in the winter for the girls.  It has been busy around here this fall and the fodder system got shoved to the bottom of the To Do list.  Henry promised to help me put it together this past weekend.  I opened the "Instructions" and realized that we got the wrong system!  In fact, the fodder system we received costs $1000 less than the one I had ordered!  (Yes, you read that correctly...this is a VERY expensive system...only the best for our girls).  I know you are probably wondering why I didn't notice that this was totally the wrong system when it came.   Well, it came in many many boxes so we just unloaded it all and took it down to the garden porch.  AND the packing slip says the correct item on it!  So, I assumed that we had the correct system...ugh...will be making a call tomorrow...here is a sneak peek pic of the fodder system we are supposed to be getting...look at all those greens!
Lastly, not really a lesson learned, but if you get eggs from ReMARKable Eggs, you might be an egg snob and that's okay!  It is so great to have loyal customers!  Grateful for our egg delivery customers!  We feel so bad that the raccoon is getting so many of our chickens and we can't fulfill all our egg orders right now.  
~Have an eggcellent day!

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Lessons learned from the first year of raising chickens and ducks Part 1 of 2...

Being Grateful for Lessons Learned

I started writing up about our lessons learned and there were so many that I am going to break this into 2 parts.  Here are the first set of lessons learned...

1. Get a written contract for any work that you need from a contractor!  If you didn't know, we hired a contractor in the spring of 2019 to build a duck coop and a "double" chicken coop (2 chicken coops connected together with a storage area in the middle...so, technically, it is one big building with 2 chicken coops).  Each coop will also have it's own run.  I got the estimate and we verbally agreed that he would start working on them in the fall.  In early August 2019, he said he was finishing up a job and ours would be next and he asked for money to buy the materials.  I gave him the money and then there were many excuses about how his other job was delayed and then it was winter.  I was hopeful that he would get going on it in the spring and some things did start to happen (got concrete pad down for the foundation) but then he just did not show up.  A letter from Mark's lawyer got him moving again in September 2020 and both coops were supposed to be completed by October 31.  The duck coop is finished but the run is not.  The chicken coop has just been started...I don't think it is going to be completed any time soon...
The worst part of all this scenario is that we should be caring for our second batch of chicks and ducklings right now.  BUT, since the coops are delayed, we will not be able to expand Mark's business as we had wanted.  Grateful for the barn that the girls are staying in for now!

2. Buy more poultry than you need.  Those first 3-4 days are hard on newly hatched chicks.  We wanted to have 25 ducks and 75 chicks.  We received 26 ducklings but 5 died in the first 3 days.  We received 78 chicks but 8 died in the first 4 days.  It was pretty discouraging to see them dropping like flies but after those first few days, things went much better.  Next time, I think I will order 30 ducklings and 80 chicks.  Grateful that we only lost one hen during our first year (until the raccoon came last week and now we are down another 3 chickens)!

3. Ducks are messy!  I had read this many times in preparing for our new venture.  BUT nothing can quite prepare you for exactly how messy they can be.  Mostly it is the water...they get everything soaking wet.  It is helpful that they can go out into the run area now during the day and make a mess out there.  They do not seem to be bothered by the snow at all.  Grateful for their spunky personalities that make it worth the work!

4. Unexpected expenses - we used a LOT of pine shavings and that got expensive! (because of the messy ducks!)  We bought some straw this fall to help get us through the winter and that was also expensive.  I knew we would need bedding but just didn't realize that this would be a major expense.  Now we know and can plan for the future.  Luckily, the coops will be smaller than the barn so we (hopefully) will not need as much hay/shavings.  Grateful that we sell lots of eggs to cover the expenses!

Of course, many things we learn are posted in these blog posts every other week!  Stay tuned...

Have an eggcellent day!  

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Experiment: Baking with duck eggs!

In the Barn 

The duck egg coop is getting close to being finished.  I am really hopeful that we will be able to move the ducks out of the barn and into their own coop this fall.  We are really enjoying the duck eggs and wanted to share a little more information about duck eggs and why they are better than chicken eggs!  

Can you guess which of these cakes was made with duck eggs?  Keep reading to find out...

It's rare to see a duck sitting on a nest.  They usually have all their eggs laid before we come out to feed and water.  I found this duck sitting on a nest of about 6 eggs for 2 days in a row.  I wonder if she was broody and wanted to hatch some eggs...
I think the ducks really like to have a nice deep place to lay their eggs and they tend to cover them up with straw.  We made these special duck egg nest boxes for the ducks but the chickens keep scratching all their nice fluffy, straw out of the nests.  It will be better once we can get them separated in their own coop.
As I mentioned, the ducks tend to bury their eggs in the straw.  Here is a video of me digging for duck eggs...

In the Kitchen

Okay, enough about egg laying, let's talk duck egg nutrition.  I posted this pic on Facebook a couple weeks ago.  I think the first thing that you will notice about a duck egg is that it is bigger then a chicken egg.  The duck egg is on the left and a chicken egg in on the right.  
There are a few more calories in duck eggs (obviously- the size alone would indicate that!)  Duck eggs contain more protein than a chicken egg and the protein is different.  If you are allergic to chicken eggs, chances are that you will not be allergic to duck eggs.

The vitamin and mineral content is higher and there are more Omega 3's in duck eggs.  Ducks seem to be really good foragers and they are efficient layers.  The shell of a duck egg is stronger and that gives the egg a longer shelf life.  

Duck Eggs for Baking

Why use duck eggs for baking?  The higher fat content in duck eggs make cakes rise higher and gives meringues more volume and stability.  Your sweets will be richer because of the larger yolk that contains more fat.

If you are baking for someone who needs gluten free, they’ll be pleased to get some of the ‘body’ back in their baked goods that is lost without the gluten.

I had read that you can substitute 2 duck eggs for 3 chicken eggs.  BUT I could not really find any "proof" that baked goods with duck eggs would be more lighter and fluffy.

So, I did my own experiment.  I did my best to keep everything consistent except for the type and number of eggs.  I used store bought cake mixes and weighed everything in grams and milliliters so everything was precise.  I even weighed the eggs.  The chicken eggs were 60 grams and the duck eggs were 70 grams each.  I tried 3 different scenarios: 3 chicken eggs, 3 duck eggs and 2 duck eggs.  

It is a little difficult to see from the pics so you will have to take my word.  Both of the duck egg cakes rose up about a quarter inch taller than the chicken egg cake.  It even appears that the duck egg cake with 2 eggs rose taller than the duck egg cake with 3 eggs!  I did not bother to replicate the experiment (there is only so much cake you can eat...)  BUT I think this shows nicely that you can use 2 duck eggs in place of 3 chicken eggs and your baking will turn out lighter and fluffier!

What is your favorite way to use duck eggs?