caring for ducks in winter

I love my ducks, turkeys and chickens—but, I don’t always want to go outside when it’s 16° f and barely light out to feed them each morning. Once I’m out there I feel better and enjoy my time in the coop and in their yard. When greeting them each morning I gobble at the turkeys. The toms gobble back, the rooster follows with a crow, the ducks quack and mutter, and the hens all cluck merrily along. It’s much different than a dog or a cat greeting you at the door.

caring for ducks in winterCaring for them in winter can be brutal but it adds much needed structure to my day. The time I go out can vary more in the afternoon but penning them up at dusk is essential to keep them safe from predators. Remembering to go out on time and planning ahead to put a heated bucket in their pen when I’m away is difficult for me.

Working from home can be rewarding and I enjoy the breaks I have throughout the day in the coop. If I get stiff from typing too long or need a break from the mix of housework and writing I step into my rubbers and take a gander out. The coop chores can be put off or done a day or two early allowing a lot of flexibility in my schedule. Today, for instance, I turned the shavings in one side and worked on upgrading the nesting boxes.

maine homestead chicken

In addition to my personal enjoyment, we know where our food comes from and that it had a happy life. This is important to me personally after learning more than I really needed to know about our food system in college.

The kids often join me in the coop and help with various bird chores.

Tomorrow I plan to separate the male ducks, that are called drakes, from the females. Once they are separated I’ll save one drake for fertilizing eggs and butcher the rest for our family to eat. They hit full maturity a few weeks ago and at this point they are only adding to the feed bill and making an extra mess to clean up.

Our kids are accepting of this process. They enjoy saving the down for quilts and coats, using the shiny green wing feathers in crafts and hatching out new birds each spring. All of these things help us live a little slower in this busy world. Slower living boosts mindfulness and reduces stress.