My Grandfather had ducks, my Uncles hunted ducks; basically, I had a love for water foul at a pretty young age (not the cutest kid, I know… also, very mischievous [notice I am standing in water on a colder day]). Bad Sam!!!
Growing up, I thought most food came solely in a box or a can. The only plants in our house were of the succulent variety (cacti and aloe vera– still a bit obsessed with these), some kind of water plant for the beta fish, and that fake ivy on top of the kitchen cabinets. We also had a revolving door of pets. My Mother worked a lot growing up, and I spent most of my time with my Grandparents. I was too little to remember Grandpa’s farm, but I do remember he was an avid gardener. I would only eat tomatoes from his garden and could never figure out why the store ones never tasted the same. The same rings true for his cantaloupe and other melons that he grew.
Fast forward a few decades; we have only begun in the last few years to try out our “green thumb.” To fully appreciate and find satisfaction in something that you have grown yourself. And to taste something you cannot purchase in a standard grocery store. Like home made items, home grown items are special, unique, and should be cherished. My brother-in-law gave me a duck egg to eat a few years ago. He raised both chickens and ducks (he prefers chickens over ducks as they are less messy, but more evil, in my opinion). I never got over the taste. Impeccable. The egg-iest egg I have ever tasted. And the reason we are rearing ducklings.
After my taste test, I started to research, and research, and research. Here’s what I have found:
Ducks are becoming increasingly more popular.
Duck eggs are more rich in certain vitamins and nutrients over chicken eggs.
Those allergic to chicken eggs can usually stomach duck eggs.
The shell of a duck egg is thicker and therefore has a longer shelf life and is less prone to cracking.
The French use duck eggs in their baking as it makes for a more fluffy, more creamy, and more rich final product.
Ducks, depending on your state, are categorized as pets instead of agricultural animals at some stores and you only need to purchase a pair instead of 6. (You must always have a pair.)
I eventually started looking around prior to Easter to see which breeds I could find. I wanted a duck that wasn’t as large as a Pekin, but not small enough to fly. My dream duck was an Indian Runner as they are adorable and look like bowling pins, but we couldn’t find them at a rural lifestyle retail store. The breeds we found were Pekin, Rouen, and Khaki Campbell. We settled on Khaki Campbell ducks as they are prolific egg layers and are the next best thing to an Indian Runner as that’s where part of their breeding originates. They were also only $1 a piece at the local Tractor Supply. So we purchased four (to increase our odds of getting at least one hen). We named them Tully, Quackers, Beaker, and the Notorious P.I.P.
When we got them, we were told they were around 5 days to a week old. They were larger than the other ducklings that were there, which is why I think they were so cheap. And they weren’t your standard Easter duck. They were still so cute and very skiddish. We purchased an oversized storage bin for them and clipped a heat lamp to it for them to sleep in the garage. We changed their bedding every two days. And we let them outside on warm days. Now they are almost 8 – 9 weeks old and they have changed drastically. Since they are older and nights are warmer, they no longer require a heat lamp and we let them outside in this pen during the day with 4 gallons of fresh water and 2 cups of starter feed. Depending on how messy and hungry they are, we replace this once when we get home from work and let them play before night fall when we put them back in the garage. Any fresh scraps I get from preparing dinner, I usually throw their way. And sometimes some frozen peas, slugs, and anything else we find (but no bread).
They are still too young to tell if they are drakes or hens. In due time. My husband isn’t adventurous enough to try to sex them (so many jokes whirring). Based on quack alone, we know we have at least one of each. I’m a minimalist duck parent. They can do their little duck thing and I can try to get them to like me. It may never happen as they are very skiddish. We are working on getting them a little oasis. I purchased a large chicken house, but it never came with a roof. I was reimbursed and was able to keep the base, but I still have to find the time to build a roof. We are putting these little guys where an old and unforgiving pool used to be. I’ll post on the project as it develops.
We know we have a few more months before we start getting eggs, and once the starter feed is gone, we will hopefully know which birds are male and female to give them a more adequate diet to help with egg laying. Since we are a small family, I don’t plan on selling any eggs. Ideally, I’d like two females. Or just one male and one female. That will give us more than enough eggs.
Here’s some more fun facts about Khaki Campbells:
Water to play in is not a necessity, in fact, your chances of fertilized eggs nearly deplete without a pond.
The hens are not broody as other species of ducks which is helpful in the event we miss pick up day.
Females can lay around 320 eggs a year.
IF we decide to use any for meat, they apparently taste very delicious.
I have read they are kid friendly, but I don’t foresee my daughter ever getting that close to these scaredy, skiddish ducks.
Update: these ducks have acted like pigs and consumed all of their initial starter feed. They are now on the egg layer pellets. Which, is perfect timing based on the guy’s information at the feed store. Starter feed can make birds too fat and their bones brittle… 😦