OUR DUCK JOURNEY
We come from Californian originally. You know, the place where you can get pretty much anything fresh during all months of the year. Well, this included duck eggs.
While I eat loads of chicken eggs, I can also buy chicken eggs for less than the hassle of raising chickens. Ducks are a bit different for me and I've cared for chickens. They weren't my chicken as much as they were more communal chickens I was tasked to care for. And simply, I didn't enjoy it.
Plus ducks are adorable and keep themselves very clean. Their housing, well thats another story. Cute or not they come, as any livestock does, with some challenges. But if you give them what they need just as in anything you are caring for, they are at ease.
We planned to get ducks for meat and eggs. After getting them though, within 3 days or so, Adam was talking about overwintering them. So, we'll see what happens in the fall. We will either have ducks with us in winter or the great butchering of 2020.
THE DUCKS ARRIVE
We went back and forth for months. Do we get them, do we wait? In the end we decided to wait a year in order to settle a bit more during our first full year on the farm. And I knew nothing about raising ducks.
And then May hit and I got a strong overwhelming urge to have ducks in my life. This is different from how I typically operate. I like to set intentions and then fulfill those intentions with baby steps and lots of breaks. But this day was different, as some are, and I knew the feed store (2 miles down the road) had ducks. Because I called the day before, that's how I knew.
Adam was working on a something farm related when I told him I was going to go to the feed store just to check them out and I was most likely going to return with ducks and everything I needed to raise them. And so began the journey of our Quack Pack.
I returned home with 5 ducks: 2 Pekings and 3 Khaki Campbells. I left one type at the store called Rouens. When I did finally do some research I read that Pekings are good for meat and as layers and the KC were great layers. I wasn't home for half a day when Adam mentioned going back and getting the third breed for the variety. And I'm so happy he did. We have a pack of seven.
THE BIG REVEAL
So unless you are buying from a hatchery directly it is very difficult to determine the gender of ducks. I have looked up the information on how to tell. These indications include: the curl of the back tail feathers, the quacks having a distinct sound, the color difference between females and drakes ( yeah, I didn't know either) and so I'm waiting for these things to show themselves.
CARING FOR DUCKS
Research told me ducks do not need a pond but absolutely need a water source and I couldn't agree more. I went down and purchased a couple kitty pools. I used one for the brood chamber in our house (until 3.5 weeks old) and one as a pool in their tractor. Once outside I use both as pools for the ducks. They stick together fairly closely so it doesn't appear they need much room yet. Google says that each adult ducks needs approx. 3 sq.ft. of room. We'll see what happens when they start laying.
They seems to love a variety of food, including greens and fruit. Some of their favorite things include... having their lettuce, kale or dandelions thrown into the pool. Or eating the juice mash (that comes from a juicing machine). I put it into a container and fill it with water. They go wild for it. They also love being sprayed with water. The come running when they see the hose on, then they bask in the sprinkle of the water. It's one of the cutest things I ever witnessed. I do this several times a day, especially when it's hot outside.
We built them a duck tractor, because my man is incredible and can whip up a frame for a building in an afternoon. I secured the wire and did some painting; then up it went. We move the tractor every two days to give the ducks plenty of grass to eat and fertilize. We plan to move them around the farm as the season goes on. So far, we have not had any issue with predators despite open areas of ventilation on the tractor. All area are covered by chicken wire. Pictures are below. The castor idea came from a dude on YouTube. I'll go back and find his video to be able to reference it. It was very helpful.
Ducks grow very fast. In just four weeks they look like grown ass ducks. At five weeks they are getting their final feathers in and putting on weight. There is no color difference yet. The Pekings are significantly larger than the Rouens or Khaki Campbells.
I put them into the water the day after bringing them home. It just made sense they would enjoy it and know what to do, as waterfowl. Research suggested letting them in the water for a minimal time in the beginning, so they don't get too tired. Being in the water is also how they clean themselves. Our ducks have not gone more than 48 hours without a bath since they arrived here. It only seems logical we would allow them to do what they do in nature. They love the water so damn much. They use it for everything: safety, digestion, hygiene and more. Here they are during their second time in the water bath after I brought them home. They are very comfortable.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about our duck journey. I'll be sure to update as we go.