Friday, December 21, 2007

Quack, Quack

This spring, we bought a batch of mixed breed day old ducklings. Mostly just for fun for ClaireAnna. She already raises two breeds of ducks ( White Calls and Mandarins) , but they are flying ducks and must be kept in an enclosure. We wanted some ducks that could just wander the barnyard and be cute! We also got a gosling. We raised them in a horse stall till they were mostly feathered out and fed them only by hand so they would be friendly. Once they were old enough, we started letting them out during the day and putting them back in the stall at night. Here they are as juveniles, enjoying a swim, a stroll and a bucket of grain and not caring at all that they are being stalked by Thunder.
Ted ( with help from us girls) built the ducks a large pen, part of which runs under the barn shed. Now they are let out to wander the barnyard all day, and put into the pen at night with the llama for protection. Unfortunately, we lost our goose to predators one night when he was left out of the pen. Now, we are more careful to make sure EVERYONE gets locked up before dark. Here they all are in the pen.
We ended up with two Mallards, 1 white Pekin, 1 black Cayuga, three Cresteds and a pair of Anconas. ClaireAnna showed most of her ducks at the county fair and won Grand Champion with that big black Cayuga in the middle of the picture. The ducks are just funny as can be. They charge out of their pen in the morning in search of the freshest grubs and crickets. Then they wander into the barn and take a nap in the hay. They find every mud puddle to waddle in and take long walks out into the pasture. But as soon as they hear us come down to the barn for evening chores, they will start quacking away and head back to their pen. We let them eat their fill ( 50% layer pellets, 50% cracked corn) , then lock them up with Chimi, their guard llama for the night. Below is the Ancona hen, "Piper", with the gray creasted, "Don King", in the background.

Some time this summer, our ducks started laying eggs. We ended up with 3 males and 7 females. Eventually, we were getting 5 eggs a day from the 7 females and they continued like that up until just a week ago. Most of the ducks lay white eggs, but our mallard hens lay the cutest light green eggs. After some research, I learned that ducks can be as prolific egg layers as chickens and their eggs are quite edible and delicious. We eat them regularly. Just look at that beautiful basket full of duck eggs! I've advertised the eggs for sale in our homeschool group newsletter and have two families who've ordered a dozen a week. Now, as soon as the days get a little longer and the ducks start laying again, I'll be able to fill those orders!

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