The ducklings resided in plastic bins in our laundry room for the first couple of weeks. During the day, we brought them out to play inside in a big kiddie pool, and gave them brief walks outside. Over a few weekends, we built them a duck house, with lots of help from the whole family.
During summer of 2014, we took the plunge and added ducks to our suburban homestead. The foremost reason for adding ducks to our menagerie was for duck eggs, since one of our children is allergic to chicken eggs, but can eat duck eggs with no problem. We found a source to purchase duck eggs for our daughter, but with the high cost of the eggs and gas to pick them up, they were practically golden eggs. When our egg source ran dry for several months, we decided to create our own source. In our nine month journey since then, we have had ups and downs, but over all, I have really grown to enjoy having the funny ducks around.
We began our flock with four four-week-old muscovy ducklings. We attempted to get a flock of three females and one male by choosing the largest, heaviest of the ducklings and then the three smallest, lightest. On our drive home each family member volunteered name options for our little flock. Our teen came up with the winning combination: she suggested a play on the game “duck, duck, goose”. The duckling we thought was male would be named “Goose”. The three we guessed were female would be named duck in various languages: Oli (Korean), Anatra (Italian), Mimi (from a children’s cartoon, but our 3-year-old insisted it was Chinese for duck).
Once the ducks settled into their outdoor home, we began taking them on “duck walks” everyday. Most of the day they spent in their house and pen area, but each afternoon we bring them out into the backyard to forage and explore with supervision. They entertain us with their waddling, bug hunting and tail waggling. As they have grown accustomed to the routine, they anticipate our letting them out, and then calling them back to return to the pen.
Once they grew up a bit, we realized we had just the opposite genders of what we wanted… Three males and one female. That wasn’t working out so well for the female once the males hit duck puberty. They pestered her all day long. Luckily for her, she learned to fly first and spent most of her time perched on top of the duck house, out of harms way.
At this point, I had a dilemma and a difficult decision to make. We could not keep three males and one female. It did not meet our goal of egg production, nor would it be kind to the poor female. Since these were homestead animals, I decided to cull two males. I asked a friend familiar with this process to help me. The duck meat was very delicious, although my children struggled to eat the meat of the birds they had raised. I do think it brought us all much closer to our food supply though, and in the end, if we were in a position to consistently only eat meat we supplied for ourselves, we would be much more reliant on eggs, and cull and eat meat much less frequently.
At this point we had one female, Mimi, and one male, Goose, no egg production, and the desire for a bigger flock of females.
To be continued…