Last week Penelope lost her entire litter. The second day the kids found one of the barn cats with a bunny (unharmed) and put the kit back in the nest box. We figured maybe the cat got it while one of the kids had the hutch door open. The next morning the same kit was gone. Vanished from the entire hutch. Weird. The following morning the nest box had been dumped over and the remaining kits scattered. Two were cold, one was dead, and the fourth was just gone altogether. I found a whole in the hutch that I had overlooked before. It's too high up for baby bunnies to escape, and too small for fat Penelope to escape... But it's not too small to prevent the slim barn cats from getting in. So I covered it up. The two cold kits were warmed up and returned to the hutch and I moved the nest box to the far side away from the hole. In the off chance the cat or something still managed to get in - it would have to go all the way across the hutch and Penelope would have that much more time to fight it off. The next morning the block was still in place, the nest box was exactly where we had put it, but the last two kits were gone. We still have no idea what took the babies or how it got into the cage.
The whole situation made me worry more about Fern's litter. She's in the next hutch over and her nest box is pushed right up against the cage bars. Surely if something could reach in and snatch Penelope's babies, Fern's litter would be next... But alas, whatever it was never came back for Fern's litter.
Fern's babies are now ten days old. All four are fat and healthy. I snapped an updated photo. As soon as they start to leave the nest box I will do individual photos of them. They will be given Y-names to follow up on the last two years of naming the litters alphabetically.
Golden Zucchini - Yes, for those of you who've been reading the blog for a few years, I'm trying it... again. Every time I've grown this in the past it's been a struggle to keep the plant alive and I've been disappointed at the wasted garden space that never really produces any fruit... I planted the last eight seeds in this jug. Maybe a new location will fix the production problem?
Black Beauty Zucchini - I seem to have collected a bunch of these seeds through various trades and decided - why not? The envelope these seeds came from said they were donated because of low germination. I planted 30 seeds in the hopes I might get ten plants.
Lebanese White Bush Marrow - An interesting variety that I have tried previously. Last time I put it in my square foot garden and it quickly got choked out by other plants. I put 9 seeds in this jug in hopes giving them their own space this year might result in actually getting to taste them.
White Pumpkin - I don't know the actual variety name for this one. It was a white pumpkin we picked up (from a grocery store?). I know we used it for pumpkin pie and it was absolutely delicious. I saved some seeds in hopes of getting another tasty white pumpkin for pie again. I put 12 seeds in this jug.
Theron's Winter Harvest Winter Squash - Wow, the seeds for this variety are humongous! Even bigger than the seeds for Dill's Giant Atlantic pumpkin. I did try this variety before but it never sprouted. I'm running low on seeds, so I'm really hoping at least one of these five seeds produces a squash.
This special little duckling was hatched with a bad leg. The left leg does not extend from the hock like it should. Instead, it's stuck in a constant "laying down" position. This means when it attempts to stand up or move with the good foot, the bad foot doesn't move, and it ends up tipping over to the left every time.
While holding the cute little beeper, I decided to name it Peg-leg Sue. If it's a girl, the name suits it. If it's a boy, he'll just be a boy named Sue. Either way, duckling has a name.
I consulted with one of my online duck groups, and the responses were pretty positive. I guess other people have ducks living with similar defects. It's not the death sentence I was worried it could be. It does sound like some pool noodle foam and some self-adhesive vet wrap will keep the leg from getting sores or getting scratched up when Sue moves around, and that Sue will eventually learn to walk. But the downside is that Sue will never be like other ducks. Sue will need specialized care (wrapping the pool noodle bumper), and would probably have better survival odds and quality of life if she became a house duck.
Let me be the first to say - we are not having a house duck. I love Peg-leg Sue, I think she's great. She's imprinted on me and loves to snuggle... but we absolutely cannot have a house bird.
In the meantime, Peg-leg Sue will be heading to the brooder tomorrow. I am prepared to give Sue their own box and mini food and water containers in case the other birds are mean.
Tonight, the second egg still had just a tiny hole. I decided to help it along, and I'm glad I did. The inner membrane was starting to shrink-wrap the duckling, despite the incubator being at 72% humidity. I was able to unwrap a portion and put the egg back in the incubator. The duckling then completed the hatching process on its own shortly thereafter. When I checked back a couple hours later, the new baby was curled up with Sue. I think they're going to be companions.
With all five ducks, three chickens, two guineas (Iris is still missing), and the goose in the barn, I locked it all up and then had Tony remove the end panel from the big brooder box.
Tonight is the night the (now 7-8 week old) babies meet their bigger flock mates face-to-face. They've been in the barn for a while and have been able to hear and communicate with the other birds. Some of the chicks already have been flying out of the brooder, but they stay close to the brooder and don't go far to explore. The chickens are fully capable of having hopped up to the edge of the brooder to peek in, though I did not see them do this. Josh is also easily able to look over the edge, and the biggest gosling is also able to peer over the edge, so this isn't a cold or sudden introduction.
The end panel came off, I refilled the big birds' food bin to full capacity (something I haven't done in a very long time), and I stood back and observed. The goslings were the first ones out, followed by about 1/3 of the chicks. They came around the edge and walked toward me, some braved checking out the big rubber feed bowl. As soon as the chicks came out, Big Red started making his angry hen noise from his perch high up on the opposite side of the barn. Henrietta and Phil moved away to the other side of the barn, selecting a different place to perch. Josh eventually brought his ducks over to the food bin, caught sight of the goslings and charged. He's not happy about having companions. The second time he charged, I was able to snag him and pick him up. He's a pretty big bird! Ryan (the biggest gosling) came by to see what I was going. Josh looked at the gosling, and when it took one too many steps toward me, Josh started to squirm. I set him down and he plodded off toward his ducks, who had wandered back to the water dish on the other side of the barn.
I turned the barn lights off tonight. We usually leave them on all night because Josh gets upset if he can't find his ducks. The only light in the barn tonight is the brooder light hanging above the now open brooder. I hope they have enough space to work it out and get away from one another. I guess we will see tomorrow when I go into the barn to check on everyone.
We're supposed to get one whopper of a heat wave. The two week forecast has at least three days that are supposed to get up to 90 degrees! After tonight I shouldn't need the brooder lamp outside anymore.