Ducks, cont’d

Last time I talked about ducks and duck eggs, but mostly duck eggs.  This time I’m expanding on the keeping of ducks.

I first got ducks 2 years ago, in the summer of 2010.  I answered an online classified that was giving away ducklings for free.  I know what you’re thinking but I had carefully considered adding ducks to the farm, free or not, I didn’t jump at the chance for free animals.  First I considered if they would fit our farm and whether I wanted the added work.  I learned that much over the years 😉 even with extra nudgings from other people.

What I have now are not the same ducks I started with, though they are the same breed.  They are Rouens and I have been very pleased with the breed.  They are a good size for butchering and they lay large blue/green or white eggs regularly.

I raised them separately but once they were the same size as my chickens, I mixed the two of them.  They had been able to see each other through the fence, if this was a factor or not, the mixing was uneventful.


Feeding and watering

The chickens and ducks are fed the same thing (a simple grain mix) and do eat side by side.  They all have access to the outdoors and can come and go as they please.  The waterer is an automatic set-up but because ducks are so messy with water, I need to dump the pan and refresh often.  Not a big deal, because I have running water in the barn.  The waterer needs to be large enough to allow the ducks to completely submerge their beaks to wash any feed from their nostrils.  The clabbered milk (seen in photo above) is eaten only by the chickens, the ducks won’t touch it, which is just as well as they would dirty it up very quickly.

Pond

As for a pond for the ducks, I bought a small kiddy pool for them.  Rouens don’t need water to breed (some do) but ducks do need water to get into and splash.  This one is a little small but it’s easy to dump it and refresh it.  As soon as I fill the pool with fresh water they are in there almost immediately!  You may be able to tell in the picture that it is sunken in the ground slightly.  This is to make it easier for the ducks to get in and out of.

Nesting box

Ducks can’t lay in chicken nesting boxes because they are too high for them.  They need a box on the floor that is dark and easy to access, otherwise you will find them laying their eggs outside and most likely in places you won’t know about.  A box 1’x 1′ is a good size.  I put a ‘roof’ on mine to make it dark and private.  The chickens happen to lay in the same box but the ducks don’t seem to have a problem with sharing.  The blanket hanging (also seen in the other picture above) is to shield the light from the chickens’ nesting boxes and to allow more privacy.

I have been keeping chickens for years.  Adding ducks has been very easy.  They’re needs are not far from a chickens yet they add some diversity and interest to the farm and table.

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday Blog Hop hosted by GNOWFGLINS, Culinary Bliss, and A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa.

Ducks and duck eggs.

Pretty blue and white rouen duck eggs.

I have chickens that lay eggs. We’ve been eating and selling our eggs for many years now. But let me tell you about another egg that is overlooked, and underrated. The duck egg. Yes, you can eat duck eggs (I often get asked that) and they are not just for baking, though they do well in baked goods because they retain moisture better than chicken eggs. They are delicious and nutritious on their own. They have the same nutritional value as chicken eggs but because they are larger, they have more of the good things. Duck eggs are high in vitamin B12, and vitamin A, an excellent source of protein, riboflavin, iron and phosphorus, they provide us with thiamine, niacin, folate, zinc and calcium.

Scrambled duck eggs for breakfast

The flavour is richer and creamer than a chicken egg. Though you may not notice this, depending on how you cook them. To me they are richer tasting when scrambled as opposed to being cooked sunny side up. The yolks are larger and the shells thicker. Sometimes I have a problem with my chickens eating their eggs, but as far as I’m aware, I have not lost a single duck egg to them eating it because the shells are far too hard for them to crack.

I was on the fence a long time about raising ducks. Honestly I couldn’t see the purpose. I didn’t think they would offer anything I couldn’t get from a chicken. But when I finally went ahead and got some, I can say I’m glad I did because I really appreciate and value their presence on the farm. I have Rouen ducks which are considered a dual-purpose breed (egg and meat). They look similar to mallards and the males are non-aggressive. The Rouens don’t require water for mating (some breeds do) so if you have just a small pond or pool like we do, it is sufficient for them. As meat or as eggs, they provide interesting variety at the table. In the farm yard, they are a source of entertainment. If you’ve ever seen a duck in water, you know what I mean. I house them with my chickens and they do not require anything special apart from a nesting box on the floor, as they don’t roost and can’t jump up to the chickens’ nesting boxes.

If you are also on the fence about getting ducks, you have to make your decision based on what is right for your family and your farm. They have been a wonderful addition to ours!

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday blog hop hosted by GNOWFGLINS, Culinary Bliss and A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa.

And Fight Back Friday at Foodrenegade.

Do you eat duck?

Even if you don’t raise your own like we do, or maybe you hunt wild ones, they are a delicious alternative to chicken.  Variety is the spice of life, right?  There’s no white meat on ducks, it is all dark meat and there’s not a lot of it.  The Rouen ducks we raised dressed out at about 4 1/2 lbs which sounds big for a chicken but a duck that size feeds only 2-4 people. I stuffed it with an apple dressing and roasted it.  But it doesn’t have to end there.  I cooked up the bones to make broth for soup later.  Ducks, being waterfowl are greasier than chickens so when making broth, there’s going to be a lot of fat.  I’m all for leaving fat in most dishes for flavour and vitamins but this is a little too much.

After the broth is strained, and reserving any meat leftover, I put it in the fridge until the fat has solidified then I spoon most of it off.   I don’t throw it away, though!  Duck fat is great for frying potatoes.  Go ahead and use the broth for a good vegetable soup base.  Here’s a delicious, hearty duck soup recipe, perfect for a cold, snowy day.

Duck Soup

clear gel stock remaining from the duck, fat skimmed off
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
Juice of 1/2 small lemon
2 Tbsp. fermented soy sauce
1 quart of diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped raw turnip or rutabaga
3 medium sized potatoes, cubed
1/2 medium sized onion, chopped
3 small, OR two large bay leaves
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
1/3 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup pearl or pot barley or lentils
Reserved duck meat

Simmer slowly, for 4 or 5 hours.  Remove the bay leaves before serving.
I know the vanilla extract is an odd ingredient to find in a soup recipe but it really adds an element to the soup, it just takes it up a notch.

So, do you eat duck?

 

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday blog hop, hosted by GNOWFGLINS, Sustainable Eats, Culinary Bliss and A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa.

Incubating eggs

So I put 2 dozen eggs in the incubator last Friday. If you want a better look at my homemade incubator go here. I’ve successfully hatched eggs out of it but I find it very tricky to get the temp and humidity stable. Honestly, I don’t have a lot of confidence this time. I’d be surprised if any of them hatch, but I’m hoping. 😀

I ordered day-old chicks and turkey poults that are coming at the end of April so I was trying to time the hatch with their arrival so I can put them all together. That’s why I’m incubating now. If I had a broody hen, I’d rather let nature do it. Once a hen goes broody, I may get her setting too.

I took this picture this morning. The ducks and chickens are so happy to be outside!

Ducklings and chick

Rouen ducks

They’ve all grown up! As you can see in the picture of the ducks, I have 1 female and 4 males, just like I suspected. One or two of the drakes will make it to the freezer.

Mamma on the left, baby on the right

The one little chick my hen hatched is almost as big as his mamma! Ya, I’m pretty sure he’s a rooster. Oh well, I’m willing to give it another try next year. I’ll tag this hen so I can use her again, now that she knows what she’s doing. She started out rocky but came through a strong mother hen.  

All these birds are living together right now in the chicken coop. It’s not heated so I’ll be doing some juggling around and putting them in the barn with the other hens where it’s heated for the winter.  

Ducklings!

Guess what we got! 😀 I saw an ad on and online classified for these free ducks. A little coaxing from my son, I made a phone call and we drove to get them. Not that I wasn’t already thinking about getting ducks but a little nudge from someone else helped me take the next step. I usually do some reading about an new animal before it comes to the farm but this time I didn’t, not until I brought them home that is. I consulted Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery. I’m not too worried about how we’ll do, they sound a lot like keeping chickens with a few differences.

The place I got them from wasn’t sure what kind of ducks they are. She keeps Indian Runners, Blue Swedish and Rouen. It seems pretty clear to me they are Indian Runner and Rouen cross! Wouldn’t you say? I don’t know how to tell male from female at this stage. Does anyone else? They are suppose to be 2 weeks old.  Hopefully there is a female amoungst the five because I’d like to get some eggs so I can grow my flock.  They are very shy but I hope they will start to feel safe and know this is home. 🙂