Here Duckie Duckie

This may sound harsh but we’ve got to be honest.  Personality gets you far on our spread.

Case in point- we have two cats.  The younger one is obnoxious.  She gets into your lap and then starts biting you.  Not cute little nibbles, big fierce wildcat bites.

Molly: When you come into our home and mention what a pretty cat she is I will ask you if you want to take her home…. I’m not joking! 😕 .  

Then there’s the chickens.   The meat chickens do not have winning personalities.  They are an not endearing breed.  They were bread to eat, sleep and grow muscle.   They don’t clean themselves, they climb over each other in a mad scramble to get at their food and do stupid things like get stuck upside down.

Mike:  No joke!  I’ve come out to see the feet sticking up of a dead chicken who had climbed head first into a cinder block.  

As much as we thought it would be difficult to kill them,  it wasn’t.  A big part of it has to do with their personality or lack of one.

The blind chicken hasn’t been productive in years.  She may not lay eggs anymore but she has endeared herself with us and we’re even going so far as to drive her to a retirement home 1,000 miles away this winter.  (Might want to take some notes there meat chickens!)

This past spring with duck confit on the brain we (Mike) decided to raise ducks.

Mike: Those darn cooking podcasts.  They start going on about how delicious this and that is and the next thing you know I’m raising ducks.

After we did some reading up on raising ducks Mike purchased 6 Peking ducks from the local feed store.

Our Pekin ducks about 5 days old

Our Pekin ducks about 5 days old

The ducks are all about the personality.  They work as a unit (a flock) and go most places together.  When they get freaked out they will run off with a mob mentality running over anything or any chicken that might get in their way looking back as if to say, ‘We’re so sorry but something scared us and we must run!’.

When one of them sees something they all check it out together.  One day I watched all six of them cock their heads sideways towards the sky so they could spy the humming bird above them.  Even Pistol who doesn’t enjoy most of our pets (although she won’t admit it, she’s a real farm girl at heart) loves the ducks.  One day while hanging laundry she watched in horror as a male duck mounted a female.  She screamed at the drake trying to get him off, ‘DUCK RAPE, DUCK RAPE!’  I’m tellin’ ya, she loves those ducks.

Ducks-n-Chickens

When the ducks were four weeks old we took them out of the brooder and put them in the large pen with a batch of meat chickens.  Everyone got along well.  We got them a baby pool, filled it with water and waited with anticipation for them to start swimming.

Mike:  They refused to go in the pool.  I read somewhere that if there wasn’t a mother duck present you might need to teach them about water.

Molly: Maybe tossing them into the baby pool wasn’t one of your better ideas.

Mike:  I tried to get them in gently.  I even set up a ramp next to the pond so they could easily get in but they just refused.

Duck pool but no ducks in pool

Duck pool but no ducks in pool

Molly:  Well finally one day I heard some splashing and sure enough the ducks were in the baby pool.  It was  the  highlight of the whole week!

The duck spa

The duck spa-the mud bath is the lower pool.

After the meat chickens had been butchered we opened the yards up and let the layer chickens run around with the ducks.  Before, the ducks had been one notch above the meat chickens socially.  Not so with the layer chickens.  These ladies were hard core. One of the Orphintons would chase the ducks in circles.  I think it was entertainment for her.  After a week or so they all figured out the pecking order and things calmed down.  Summer closed and we started thinking about when we should butcher the ducks.

I don't know what this was all about!

I don't know what this was all about!

Mike:  Originally the plan was to butcher all of them at the end of the season but after we got to know them I decided that I wanted to hold on to a few.

Molly:  Yeah, we had all become attached to them.  We did have a few too many male ducks though.  Having too many males to females can be stressful on the flock.

Mike:  We decided to butcher just two.  The problem was figuring out who were the males and who were the females!

Male ducks don’t quack- they sort of squawk.  They don’t have fully developed vocal cords.  Females make the typical  ‘quack, quack’.

Mike: Go figure- the females are the loud ones.

Molly: Careful buster.

Butchering day came and we pulled the one we knew for sure was a male- big time mounter, he was!  After that things got complicated.  It’s hard to tell the difference between a ‘real’ quack and a freaked out “oh my god you caught me and picked me up” quasi quack.  We thought one was a male and then a few minutes later it started quacking like a female.  (smart guy!) We wanted to keep one male in the flock so we could raise ducklings in the spring.  After about 30 minutes of catching and inspecting them we were (pretty) assured that we had one male to keep and one to butcher.  We butchered one of the females and were done.

Molly:  I’m not a huge fan of duck so I was lukewarm about the whole raising ducks for food idea.

Mike:  I love to eat duck-few things are better!

Molly: Mike is not cold-hearted but he doesn’t mind the job of killing for food.  I have yet to do the deed.  I can scald, pluck and gut them but that’s my limit.  The ducks were a bit more of a dilemma.

Mike: I had become attached to these guys and gals.  The day after we processed the two ducks I was in the yard and I swear the remaining four ducks were looking at me funny.  Now they just run away from me.  They had never run away like that.  I think they knew what happened.

Molly:  So you going to do it again?

Mike:  Hey,  personality only goes so far.  Don’t you remember that amazing duck prosciutto I made last week?!

Molly:  Just checking!

We have a  giveaway going on!  The winner will receive 1 dozen chocolate chip cookies shipped to your doorstep.  Leslie has been so gracious to give away not 1 dozen but 2 dozen cookies!  So we will have 2 winners!  To enter go here!

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