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.


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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  1. Anthony Cipolone
    Posted November 10, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Permalink


    • Posted November 11, 2011 at 8:53 am | Permalink

      Thanks for the tip Anthony.  I noticed the drake feather but didn’t realize it was such a good indicator.  When you hatched your ducks did you use an incubator or did the hens do it the old fashioned way?  Ours don’t seem broody at all.  They just drop the eggs wherever, even more so than the chickens.  
       When you do get to butchering the ducks you’ve got to try making duck breast prosciutto.  Easy to make and out of control delicious.  I’m going to post instructions soon.

  2. Posted November 10, 2011 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    I have a coworker who used to work in the apartment industry. There was a resident at one of their properties who would lure the ducks in from the pond with bread crumbs then turn them into his gourmet meals.  Poor things. 

    I can see how personality can be a big factor (and I understand a little more now you say the chickens are droll). I hear cows aren’t that cute either.

    • Posted November 11, 2011 at 8:47 am | Permalink

      I really wanted to raise a pig this year but I got outvoted.  No one wanted to kill Wilbur.  (myself included)

      • Posted November 11, 2011 at 9:15 am | Permalink

        Mike’s leaving out the time he proposed raising a cow in our front yard!  I have to give him credit- the first year we did a cow share he went and helped butcher it (shudder).

  3. Posted November 11, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    I have a friend who helped her Grandpa raise cows on his ranch. She always said she didn’t mind eating beef, but would never eat an animal that she was friends with first. It must make it tough.

    • Posted November 14, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      The ducks are really the first we’ve had a quandary over.  It’s very strange-I thought I would be unable to eat the chickens we raised for meat but had no issue.  If anything I get grossed out by eating industrial raised meat the more and more I research it.
      This spring we looked into raising pigs for meat.  I’m ready to give up my bacon after reading about pigs.

      • Posted November 15, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

        I only eat Kosher meat, so bacon isn’t an issue for me. I have done a lot of research into the slaughtering process most industrial facilities use and it is cruel and painful for the animals. Outside of the religious implications, Kosher slaughtering is much more animal friendly, so I don’t think the cows mind as much.

        Here is why:

  4. Posted November 12, 2011 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    Duck breast prosciutto…. sounds wonderful. 

    Sure we can’t get y’all to move to a lower elevation (and longer growing season)?  There’s a dire need of a good  CSA ’round here.   🙂

    • Posted November 14, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

      The prosciutto is amazing!  Mike is doing a how-to on it next week.

  5. Posted November 12, 2011 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    We love our ducks.  We just lost our only female to a predator from the wild kingdom that surrounds us.  We tell the males and females apart by their curly cues on their tail feathers.  Males have them females don’t. And of course, the females are louder – imagine.

    • Posted November 13, 2011 at 7:32 am | Permalink

      I’m sorry to hear about your female 🙁 .  I had forgotten the tail feathers was a way to tell.  We had one duck where the feathers kind of curled (one feather).  The other males it was very pronounced like Daffy Ducks!

  6. Posted November 14, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    I laughed at the meat chickens descriptions and I swooned over the ducks. Hubby & I lived pretty much on UNM campus the first 3+ years of our marriage and every night we could I dragged him to the duck pond in order to feed and watch the ducks. They do have distinct personalities. I understand the circle of life, but still… cute and waddle-y is endearing. Duck prosciutto sounds good tho!

    • Posted November 14, 2011 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

      My first experience with ducks are from the UNM duck pond!  When I was 14  I would ditch school (no children, I never ditched school), take the bus down to the University and hang out at the duck pond to feed the ducks!

  7. Posted December 2, 2011 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    Can’t make friends with your food!  I’m a lover of Peking duck.  YUM!

  8. Kris
    Posted April 16, 2012 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    I laughed out loud when I read about your ducks. We raised pekin ducks last year and their personalities were just as you describe. We are doing it again this year, with 10 pekins, 10 rouen and 10 muscovy. I can’t wait!

    • Posted April 18, 2012 at 7:15 am | Permalink

      We were just at the feed store and they had a variety of ducks.  I had to resist!  Instead I came home and tossed a few fertile duck eggs under my broody chicken… 😕

      • Kris
        Posted April 22, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

        Good luck, Molly! That sounds like fun for sure. I know the irrisistable urge when in the feed store…we not only got chickens and ducks, but my husband talked me into a few geese. It’s going to be fun!   BTW I just love your site!

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  1. By Duck Prosciutto - on November 29, 2011 at 6:12 am

    […] two duck breasts.  In my case that involved buying ducklings in the spring and raising them all summer.  You might want to just go to the store.  It’s […]

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