Episode-1376- Life with the Birds and Extending Food Forests — 40 Comments

  1. We knew awhile back that we were really missing out on birds, and as our system has developed the more I see that really is the case. The pests are just in general completely out of control and there just isn’t enough predator pressure on them all around. I will definitely be looking at muscovy ducks as our duck choice. We have some good friends we met through the farmers market who swear by them (they raise tons of rare and heritage breed ducks, and chickens).

    We have definitely seen that you’ve got to have chickens and birds with larger livestock. The fly populations are just in general out of control around our goats, and that’s even while moving them quite often. (Max 4 days in a spot, unless its really big).

    • I do consider adding some scovs still but we have a crap ton of ducks now so we shall see, they are great birds and damn fine eating too. They are also fly inhalers.

      I love Geese because they graze but they do almost no predator control. I would say ducks are even better than chickens for bugs, they even make a snap sound as they grab them at times. They are so soft on the land too, they may eat a plant or two at times but but they don’t tear stuff up.

      I have to say at this point if for some reason I had to only keep one of the three, I’d go with ducks. They are friendly, not smart but smarter than chickens, they are more fun to be with and to watch and they don’t try to attack visitors or the dogs like the geese and again, man do they hammer the pests.

      • …and how do I talk my bird loving 7 y/o into letting me eat duck or the eggs, she claims them all as friends. Stuck w turkey, I suppose

        • You explain reality to her gently as a father about the ducks, the eggs, you just say hey they are eggs, they don’t all get to hatch, here is your breakfast.

        • @Jack
          That’s pretty much what I’ve heard about Muscovys. Effectively that they need less water than other ducks, and they fly around. (Its ok there are some ponds near me, some biiiiiig ones that they can go in all they want). Yeah i’ve heard they never leave home though, which is cool. I’ve also heard that by them flying over head it tends to keep the hawks away which is cool too.

          I don’t even think my friend feeds them which is another interesting part, not that providing a little feed really bothers me. That’s good to know that I can get a flock up and going pretty quickly. I just looked on craigslist and see that at least in Lafayette they have somebody selling them for 4 dollars a piece (for ducklings). That seems like a steal to me.

      • That friend also occasionally sells ducks, and we bought one, a Muscovy. If there is anyway to convince a person to get ducks, have them eat a perfectly prepared duck (the wife can work some wonders). Incredible.

        I definitely am thinking more and more about the ducks. I think if I put a fence up in front of the house (nothing crazy needed) i think i could definitely let them do their thing. My friend swears by the ducks because of their ease. The only thing that has made me pause on the muscovy’s is they’re hard as heck to buy, and pretty expensive, so breeding would be a must. I considered them heavy because of how much he says they’re predator proof, and the lack of water that they need. (not much at all)

        • Have you checked CraigsList for scovs? They’re are on there all the time in this area.

          The issue is the Fing g-men talked about regulating them as a “migratory bird” because like 15 crossed into Texas from Mexico where they live in the wild. There was all sorts of plans to ban them as an invasive, etc. the deal was since they “migrated” the Feds claimed to have the right to legislate them.

          These things have been living in ponds in parks and apartment complexes for about a hundred years, they never leave once adapted and never overpopulate (due to what turtles do to ducklings) but all of the sudden the Feds created a problem so they could “help” by solving it.

          They disappeared from tons of parks, the parks in Arlington now with birds for instance now have Chinese Geese (that terrorize the children by the way) and the scovs are gone.

          But the Feds in the end backed down but by that time a ton of breeders had gotten out of the game and cities were strong armed to remove them from parks and such.

          Most small breeders like your buddy just kept their ducks, so there are just a lot less of them now. A lot of breeders are afraid to go back to them because while the Feds backed off they made no definitive statement as to it being a dead issue.

          That said Mike a 3 Ducks and a Drake will make a LOT of babies, they are very broody and will take care of themselves. They do FLY, but won’t leave once they know they are home. The problem with that is only this. For us to keep the ducks off the porch we only need put in a low fence, something decorative that we can walk over and the dogs can hop over. With Scovs they WILL fly over such a low fence IF they really want to be inside it.

          If you have enough land, and a pond though, or a pond like series of kiddy pools, etc. and lots of room to roam they are not going to be up on the porch and all.

  2. Jack,
    great show and I understand why you say its not worth plucking your birds. However, I disagree. I’ve plucked birds once and swore I’d never do it again. Instead, we took advantage of a service from our Amish neighbors. they plucked our birds for $2 per bird. I thought that $2 was worth every penny to get the skin and extra meat.
    Didn’t Joel Salatan prove its a skill and really can be efficient to pluck birds? Now I’m in suburbia Texas far away from an Amish community and an OHA that forbids chickens so I’m not plucking birds today .
    Anyway, keep up the good work.
    sam the cook.

    • First I would pay anyone who’d do the work 2 bucks a bird to pluck them. Far as Salatin odd are they use a mechanical plucker and if you do volume they will pay for themselves and cost less than 2 a bird in the long haul.

      Even with 2 bucks, I’d not pay two bucks for most culls to be plucked the layers in general just don’t have enough meat to be worth it even to pay someone else to do it. But meat birds, 2 bucks a bird for plucking, hell how about 3 and let them do it all, I’d do that quick.

      • When I heard the problem I thought, “waste is OK so long as it goes somewhere”. The first thing I would think of is, could another animal eat it? Is it possible to bury the carcases near trees? Would one want to compost them?

        The problem with using ALL the resources up yourself is there isn’t enough to share with other life cycles.

  3. Chestnut question: Since (I think) chestnuts are wind pollinated, what would you consider is the best spacing. Mark Shepard mentions this in Restoration Agriculture, that if his trees flower in three years then placing them at 30′ spacing is bad before maturity, so he is putting it at much smaller distances. I think he says like 5′ and then he is using double rows(?), then figure out which works and chop the under achievers later so in ~20 years you have the right spacing.
    I want to do swales in a keyline silvopasture layout with a chestnut/apple/pear mix in line on swale. Should I figure on a APCAPCAPC ultimate layout or should I pair the chestnuts APCCAPCCAPCC or something? Or should I separate just on swales AAAA, PPPP, CCCC?
    Location is 80 acres in NE PA on gentle slope.

  4. Jack:
    It’s funny you were talking about each animal having their own call and coming to it, I know several cattle ranchers in central Texas and they don’t use horse back cowboys anymore to move cattle from one pasture to the other, they have them all trained to a truck horn and they did this by putting a bale of hay in the back of the truck and honking the horn as they pitched small amounts of hay at a time out of the back of the truck, by doing this the cattle learned they had better run to the truck or they might miss out on the fresh hay, now to get them to come through the open gate into the new pasture all they do is drive the truck in and honk the horn…it’s pretty funny and almost amazing to watch the cattle come running

  5. Awesome Show Jack!!

    i was thinking about your permanent fence problem and may have a solution for you.

    i live out in eastern Ontario right on the Canadian shield which means i have similar soil issues except its solid granite instead of limestone

    a friend of mine who farms pasture raised cattle recently rebuilt his fences from the old fashioned cedar fence to an electric fence for his herds
    to get passed the fence post problem ( that being he cant dig the posts into the granite) he used tires, concrete, and posts
    essentially placed the tire were the post will go had someone hold the post in position in the center of the tire and then poured concrete into the tire hole to lock it in place thus not only holding the post straight but locking it to the granite rock bed

    not the prettiest design but it might help you get an idea for something in your area


    • Good idea but in most places I literally could not dig a deep enough hole to bury the tire flush to the ground. Unlike cattle I would need to do that for chicks or it would provide them a means of escape.

      • You might be able to a drill with a concrete bit and drill a hole through the tire and set an eyehole screw in it to attach the bottom part of the fence to the tire and just cut out the fencing to go up and over the tire flush..just a thought

      • I ran across this site where they make and sell moveable fence posts for chicken yards I’m thinking of making some for myself. They, or a modified version of them, may work for you too. I know how expensive and time consuming it can be to set up a good fencing system, and I hope you are able to find a good option for your place.

    • Flat piece of metal or shape the fence around the tire? I like your panels though. They are expensive though, did you just grab them on craigslist?

  6. Great episode. I have just under six acres and just started a small garden this year. Watermelon, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, cantalope, and some hot peppers. Wish I had some fruit trees but not sure how they’ll do on my hill yet. Thanks for the info, your podcast is inspiring.

  7. Love your peach story. I can no longer eat strawberries from the store. I told the wife don’t buy them they are too sour and all white. Tomatoes are starting to be the same for me along with snow peas.

  8. Jack:
    I wanted to add a couple more solutions to go along with what you came up with for the chics that go to slaughter, 4H, FFA, Food kitchens…they might not work but hey you never know, when I was in FFA if your parents couldn’t afford for you to raise an animal for your project either someone donated one for them or they got to plant seeds in the garden outside the Ag. building…I would also be surprised if Universities like Texas A&M wouldn’t be interested, just a couple of thoughts off the top of my head

  9. Jack, do you have any plans to incorporate quail or rabbits into the homestead? I would think that a quail/rabbit combo would be great for urban environments seeing as they are generally very quiet. The neighbors would never know they were there, as long as care was taken in keeping their habitats clean.

    Always enjoy the ducks and geese update. I used to have geese and ya, they could be real gangsters, lol. Cheers!

    • Only if someone wants to be a small “element partner” and run it on my property for me. I am about tapped out right now on workload.

  10. Jack,

    As a long time listener, I love these kind of shows. I really enjoy your older “teaching” shows. I’m looking foward to hearing more of these types of shows. An occasional add clown would be cool. Maybe we could have an occasional throw back Thursday style of show! Maybe even on a crappy recorder, in a Jetta Diesel while yelling a stupid drivers! lol. Love the show! Think about a throw back Thursday show.

  11. Jack had an idea on providing swimming water for your ducks, that would incorporate you’re in place irrigations system and swales. If you took a piece of pond liner wide enough to lay in and up the sides of your swales, any length, ends of the liner could be braced up with freestanding plywood “bookends”. When the water becomes soiled just remove a “bookend”, the nutrient rich water will flow into the swale. The system could easily be moved around the property. Would be less work than empting kiddy pools and the water would nutrients would be where you want them. You would always have some nutrient rich water to dip into if a plant needed a little boost.

    Joanne Damon

    • Ive been thinking of something like that, it is a bit harder than it sounds, water weighs a lot so the ends have to be easy to remove but yet sturdy enough to hold.

  12. I don’t really see a practical solution to the whole chicks in the grinder problem.

    I mentioned it before awhile back but the age old solution to the problem was to castrate the male birds so they would put on weight much better and not end up a waste of feed.

    But many people view that as cruel as well as it involves performing surgery on the bird and is done traditionally without anesthesia.

    It definitely could be done under anesthia so its not as cruel but I am not sure if that would cost effective.

    • Now yea capons used to be an option but that was before the modern layers. Even if you do that to a white leghorn or production white cockerel they just don’t put on any real weight. They are too small and light of frame.

      I don’t think there is a market for 30 million capons either even if it were cost effective on paper and they take a LONG time to finish.

  13. Jack, where is the video you mentioned showing the rain on the swales? I saw the first one you posted a while back showing the first rain on them, but this one sounded like it was different.

  14. Jack, you said the next workshop would be June 25, 26, 27th. I’m assuming you meant September, right?

      • Jack,
        Thank you so much for your thoughts on the fall planting being preferable. We are heading to Bob Wells to shop and order our bare root trees on Wednesday from Oklahoma. Rob was so awesome to talk with and coordinate with me for the fall.
        Thanks for all you do,
        Ps the flag idea is awesome. Will implement.

  15. Very entertaining episode! You mentioned making some videos of the birds, I would love to see that.

  16. I love my two buff orpingtons! While they both lay a little and I mean just a little better than a number of my light brahmas of which. I have eight hens, I think they are about the same as a bird goes.

    Neither of the orps have so far become broody but I have had a couple of brahmas go broody and let one sit on some eggs. These birds are big about nearly the size of a turkey. The roosters come in at twelve plus pounds live weight.

    The brahma that has successfully hatched and raised a brood is very gentle. We also could fit a ton of eggs under her. But this is also why this year we added a couple of cochins. That is just for brooding out batches of eggs. You can throw turkey or geese eggs under these larger birds no problem. But with geese or duck eggs I would not mix chicken eggs. I would however mix turkey and chicken eggs but it is not necessary with a hen raising them.

    One thing I have noticed is that brahmas have large breasts and their skin is white. I will see what it is like to dress them sometime. The rooster grew as quickly as I have heard hybrid meat birds grow. I am not sure however if the dressed weight would be the same.

    I started with three ducks last year. We had two cayugas and one pekin. The pekin turned out to be a drake and the cayugas both girls. One was broody and hatched out six of the fourteen eggs in her pile. Two were stolen the second night by cats most likely.

    When then put them into some nifty tractors my better half made out of a design she found on line. I love these tractors as they are simple to build and will keep out most everything.

    I will send you some pictures of them. We also use old dog kennel crates as their homes. But as of yet we have not had a need to lock them up at night.

    I will send some pictures of the tractors. I think they are easy to scale up or down. If scaling down you need to add some more weight to them so say a coon can not just toss it over.

    Our ducks learned from the geese how to get on our deck and love to leave their calling cards. When we got rid of the geese, the male was too vicious to the other birds, the ducks quickly took over the deck. We usually chase them off except this winter was so cold we allowed them up there.

    We also have gunieas. We trained the gunieas to the coop and since a wild turkey has joined the flock and flies up into a nearby tree at night the giunieas have taken to doing the same. Gunieas are loud birds but they are more like an African turkey but just a bit bigger than a leg horn. They forge for most of their food.

    You are correct about using flags and setting them down for planting sections. I did something similar in my annual garden it was much easier to plant.

    While the meat breeds are just a tick below dedicated meat breeds it is a tick below. You will find in the winter, at least where it is colder up north the dual purpose will out lay the smaller breeds in the winter significantly. Not counting artificial light or heated barns as we do not use that stuff.

    Nice to hear about your birds and some thoughts and experiences with them.

  17. What a great episode! Jack, I especially like hearing about the things you are DOING, not just about what you know. I mean, seriously, you might as well be an encyclopedia, but…you just have a bit more excitement and passion in your voice when talking about the things you are doing. Haven’t done ducks yet, but they are on my list. I’ve done a few hundred chickens and turkeys, so I’m racking up experience, but you seem to have such a great composite knowledge when discussing all of the different items on your show.

  18. Great show Jack. I remember as a kid my great-grandfather had chickens, turkeys, geese, guineas, and ducks. Started adding our own fowl a few months ago with 4 chickens. Hope to add some others soon.

  19. I have a 4 acre pasture. I was inspired by this video of a chicken caravan. . My version is a retired 20 ft construction trailer. The front room is the feed room and the larger back section is where the birds sleep, I have added an automatic solar- powered door that opens at first light and closes at dusk. The whole thing is surrounded by an electric poultry net with solar charger. My next new project is to add rain catchment to the roof do I don’t have to haul water.

  20. You mentioned a Permaculture Nursery kickstarter? Do you have a link to that as I can’t seem to find it?


  21. Baby chick solution? Game feed? I wonder with a little work adding them to an open hunting ground if they might make good food for foxes, coyotes, and big cats?