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Herbs are remarkably easy to grow, so they are a great option if you are looking to earn some extra money.

Getting Started

Setting yourself up need not be an expensive business; a small greenhouse or plastic tunnel will give you all the space you need, initially at least. If your little enterprise takes off, then you can expand into a bigger growing area. As with all new business enterprises, it’s far better to learn to walk before you run.

You will need herb seed of course, and a supply of pots. Try to source biodegradable pots; even though plastic ones are cheaper, they are not doing anything for the environment. Plant the seeds in organic compost without any other aids – except regular watering. Herbs really are that simple to grow.

Doing your Homework

There are thousands of herb producers out there. A visit to a farmer’s market will prove that, so it’s essential to offer something a bit different.

Don’t rush out and start growing herbs at random. Study your market. What sort of customers will be in your catchment area? Young mums on a budget or aspiring gourmet chefs? Organic allotment holders? Apartment dwellers with just a window box? If you are selling in an area with a strong ethnic community, try to find out what sort of herbs they use in their cooking. If you tailor your stock to a niche market, you will soon win yourself a strong customer base.

Are you going to sell potted herbs to transplant into gardens, or are you going to sell cut fresh herbs for culinary purposes? Pots of herbs are probably the best to start with as they are far less wasteful, but good profits can come from selling bunches of cut herbs as well. This is a sensible option if a number of your customers don’t have gardens or window boxes.

Your little herb stall must stand out from the crowd if you want to turn a decent profit. It may be fun to grow herbs and take them to market, but there must be some reward for your effort. Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme may have been fine for Simon and Garfunkel, but in these days of TV cookery shows and foreign travel, your herbs have to be more unusual and eye-catching. You also need to be slightly ahead of the game, so at the first mention of a new herb being used by a celebrity chef you need to find out more about it and source some seed.

Give some thought to the seasons. If you are selling cut herbs, be prepared to have the right ones for the Christmas turkey or the Easter lamb. Make sure you have plenty of basil for summer salads, and mint and borage for warm weather drinks.

Marketing

Single pots of herbs will be the ‘bread and butter’ lines but consider making up small herb collections. They make great gifts, and they will retail for more money when potted up in an attractive wicker trough, or ceramic bowl. Just three or four herbs with a culinary or beauty link attractively presented in a container will add an extra dimension to your herb sales.

Herbal teas are still popular, so how about combining a collection of herbs suitable for making teas or tisanes such as lemon balm, camomile, fennel, spearmint, peppermint, or lemongrass?

Edible flowers added to salads are very chic right now, so a collection of borage, nasturtium, pot marigold, and bergamot would make a trendy summer addition to a gift range.

Rosemary, camomile, and lavender are good herbs for beauty treatments, or as hair rinses or bath infusions.

Customers will appreciate culinary hints, or herbal beauty tips for the herbs they have bought, so a printed leaflet laid out in an attractive, informative manner can add a professional touch to your little enterprise.

Invest in one or two display items. If you can make them yourself, so much the better, but if not look out for something that will make your stall stand out from the others. A couple of garden gnomes or a brightly painted watering- can will lift up your display, and perhaps start up a conversation with a prospective customer.

Arrange your pots in tiers; nothing is more boring than a flat trestle table of green plants, and it goes without saying that your herbs must be at the peak of perfection. Dried-up, tired looking plants just won’t sell, so leave those at home to recuperate, and if they are beyond hope, throw them out and sow some more.

Herb growing can be a pleasant way to earn some extra cash, and if your enterprise takes off, you may find yourself opening a herb center before long.

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Hatching and Raising Ducklings

Ducks can be a lovely and useful addition to any homestead. Ducklings are adorable, with quirky personalities that will make you laugh. If given a chance, ducklings will bond with you and follow you around the farm. And, egg-laying breeds, like Khaki Campbells and Indian Runners, can lay almost as many eggs each year as the average laying hen. Duck eggs are especially coveted for baking because their yolks are much larger, and the higher fat content makes your baked goods richer.

Many folks assume that keeping ducks is pretty much the same as keeping chickens, but there are actually some pretty significant differences. For one thing, your male ducks won’t get aggressive like roosters do, which is especially nice if you have little ones on your homestead. Once your plants are well established, you can let your ducks forage for bugs in the garden because they won’t scratch up the ground like chickens will. Ducks are a lot messier than chickens, so keep that in mind when designing they’re living quarters. The more space they have, the less muddy their run will be. There are some differences in how the eggs are hatched and how the ducklings are raised, too.

Hatching Duck Eggs on the Homestead

We have two tabletop incubators on our homestead. While you can incubate and hatch the eggs in the same incubator, we’ve found that having a separate incubator for hatching makes life much easier. Keeping your incubator clean and sanitary is crucial for success. If your incubator is made of Styrofoam, like ours is, the best thing to clean it with is mild soap and hot water. Harsh chemicals may damage or dissolve the Styrofoam.

While chicken eggs will hatch out in around 19-21 days, duck eggs take a little longer. You can expect most duck eggs to hatch in about 28 days, but some heavier breeds can take as long as 38 days. You will need to do some research into your breed, so you know how long it will take for your eggs to hatch.

The longer incubation period can make duck eggs a little more challenging to hatch. It’s best to candle the eggs at the end of the first and third weeks. Remove any unfertilized eggs or dead embryos to avoid bacteria growth in your incubator.

If your incubator, turns the eggs for you automatically, you can just follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for hatching duck eggs. Personally, I let the incubator turn chicken eggs for me, but I actually find that I get a higher hatch rate with duck eggs if I turn the eggs by hand. If you are turning your eggs by hand, there are a few things you should know.

  • Mark each egg with an “O” on one side and an “X” on the other so you can tell which side of the egg needs to be facing up.
  • Duck eggs should be turned three times each day.
  • You may find that you get a better hatch rate if you let your duck eggs have a very brief cooling period each day. It should be no more than 10 minutes total in a 24-hour period. Opening the incubator to turn your eggs by hand provides the perfect amount of cooling off time.

The humidity level inside your incubator needs to be at about 65% for duck eggs, which is a little higher than chicken eggs. During the last three days of the incubation period, the humidity should be raised to 75%. The temperature should be kept at 99.5 degrees. You’ll need to watch the temperature and humidity closely throughout the incubation period and make adjustments as needed. Be careful not to let the eggs overheat or get chilled.

We move our eggs to the hatching incubator three days before we expect them to hatch. At this point, the incubator should not be opened until the hatching is complete. The glass may fog up as your eggs begin to hatch, but don’t be tempted to open the lid for a peek because the loss of humidity could cause the membranes to dry out and make it difficult for the babies to break through their shells. Once hatching starts, allow 24-48 hours for all the eggs to hatch and then give your new babies at least 12 hours to dry off and rest before you open the incubator.

Caring for Your Baby Ducklings

Whether you decide to hatch your own eggs or purchase baby ducklings, their care will be the same. Most importantly, they will need a heat source. You can use a heat lamp or a brooder plate, just like you would use for chicks. They need to be kept at about 90-95 degrees for the first few days. After that, you can reduce the temperature slowly by moving the heat source further and further away. Reduce it by about 5 degrees every few days until the ducklings are fully feathered.

We have always used shavings as bedding for our chicks, but ducklings are considerably messier than chicks. Pelleted bedding costs a little more, but it’s worth it. It keeps the brooder drier for a longer amount of time. When it comes to feeding your ducklings, any good chick starter crumble is just fine, as long as it’s unmedicated. For treats, your ducklings will love mealworms every bit as much as your chickens do.

Ducklings drink a lot of water but don’t be tempted to give your ducklings an open pan of water. They’ll just make a mess with it. The little quart-sized waterers you use for chicks are probably going to be too small. I like to use a gallon size waterer for more than a couple ducklings.

I don’t recommend keeping ducklings and chicks together because ducklings are incredibly messy. They love to play in their water, so their brooder tends to be wet, which will lead to chilled chicks. Your ducklings will also grow a lot faster than your chicks, and you wouldn’t want them to trample the chicks.

Although ducks love water, you should wait until they’re older to let them take a swim. It’s best to wait until they are five or six weeks old before you let them play in a shallow pan of water. Ducks hatched in an incubator don’t have the oil on their feathers that a mother duck would provide.

I find that ducklings do best if I keep them in the brooder for a couple of extra weeks after they are fully feathered. They just seem to be more fragile than chicks. Once they are moved outside, be sure to provide protection from predators, especially at night.

Raising ducklings really isn’t complicated, but it can be addictive. The little cuties can worm their way into your heart pretty quick. If you’re not entirely sold on chickens, why not give ducks a try instead?


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