Spring and early summer are extremely busy times for all hatcheries. We work overtime to get everything hatched and shipped during those frantic months of March through June. We hatch year round but two thirds of our business is in this one third of the year. It is during this time that I dream of having time to visit customers and relax during the fall. Well, guess what! It never happens! There is too much to do during the off season! We have several projects going on now to prepare for next year.
1)Our biggest project right now is to build two bunkers for wood shavings (we get 160 cubic yards at each delivery) and a bunker for hay and straw. Each of these is 16' x 35'. No more pulling tarps off and on every other day and buying new tarps every year! We are going with a concrete floor, 6' concrete block walls and hooped metal ribs going over the top with a custom designed tarp as a cover. More pictures as we go.
2)We also ship our birds to feed stores and for other hatcheries. However, our website is not set up for easy ordering for them. Our objective before next spring is to make it easy for them to download orders and to get numbers from us on what is still available to sell. This will be completely automated so this exchange of information might be as often as every 20 minutes throughout the year! No more accidental overselling (we hope)!
3)The problem with ducks is they oftentimes make a mess in their nests as they rest in the nests during the day. The only time they need the nests, however, is from 3am to about 8am when they lay their eggs. So we are going to fence off a section of the laying barn with automatic gates. The gates will automatically open at 3am to allow the ducks in to the nest in area and then we will close them after collecting eggs and shooing the ducks out of the pen in the morning. In this way the nests will be off limits for 19 hours of each day. This picture is of a prototype gate hooked up to a winch and timer. Will it work as it is supposed to? More pictures when we are done.
4)Of course we are raising the duck breeders that will be coming into production next spring. We hatch them in July so they start laying in December and will be in full swing for the spring. These replacement ducks are split into four groups: Pekins, Runners, Mallards and all others. In this way the Pekins can be kept on their diet and the smaller breeds don't get run over by the larger breeds. We are also raising a large flock of Embden breeders as we could not keep up with this breed's demand last spring.
5)In our diligent efforts to keep wild birds out of the duck buildings, we realized we had to replace all the major doors. So that made six doors (one at each end of the building) for our three duck breeder buildings. New doors (screening to allow ventilation), a raised concrete threshold, bollards to protect the door frame and a nice paint job (this one needs a third coat!) makes them nice again.
6)Due to the SE outbreak that you have all read of and our desire to protect our customers, we are starting a Salmonella monitoring campaign. This involves regular environmental testing of the duck buildings, equipment swabs of the hatchery equipment and submission of hatch fluff (residual down after each hatch) to our state laboratory. We don't expect a problem but we want to be on top of it if anything suspicious shows up. In this picture Leo is walking the length of the building with cotton swabs soaked in condensed milk to collect environmental samples.
We have other activities but these are the main ones for now! We will keep you posted.
Next week we will discuss Hawaii and why their Fish and Game department does not allow any breed of domestic duck (eggs, ducklings or adults) into their state. How does this impact the native taro root production?