Diaries of a Duck Farmer: Why ducks?

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We recently adopted ten hen ducks from a beloved local farm in Austin that will be closing its doors in June. While ducklings are adorable & I have raised several, I prefer to adopt adult ducks from folks who can no longer take care of them. Knowing my flock would be expanding by more than half I invested and designed my own duck mansion (coop) with a fenced yard, complete with three working gates. Adam was my free labor of course. Total ducks: 21. 6 drakes and 15 hens.

This recent achievement sprung a lot of questions from others that I have been asked in the past. Mainly, why ducks?

  1. Eggs. Why this response brings up a gruesome gag reflex and the crinkling of noses I will never quite understand. Duck eggs, if anything, are no more “gross” then chicken eggs and people seem to have no problem with the idea of eating those. Aside from that, duck eggs are excellent for baking because of their slightly higher good fat content. They also add alkaline to the body whereas chicken eggs do not. Alkaline is said to help fight cancer. Either way, I have ducks, they produce eggs, so why not? What I don’t use I sell to a few who support and love duck eggs just as much as me.

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    Our new hens

  2. Pest control. Unlike chickens who scratch around and do damage to flower beds, ducks are a gardener’s best friend. Ducks are less intrusive to the landscape around them. They love bugs and weeds, some breeds more than others. If you’ve never seen a duck catch a grasshopper and then run around like a football player trying to make a touchdown, you need that kind of laughter in your life. Often times I will pull weeds from the garden and straight into the duck pen they go but with the duck mansion expansion I will have a specific gate for the ducks to go into the garden.18698397_757489291090386_6026797605638649353_n
  3. Herding, aka “Collie enrichment” Jane my rough collie has natural herding instincts and has always been around ducks. Herding dogs were bred for farm work, mainly to herd sheep, cattle, goats and you guessed it, ducks. Jane loves being “in charge” of our ducks and it is nice to give her purpose on the farm. Jane is AKC Herding Instinct Certified and I hope to get her Herding Tested in the fall (the next level). Our ducks help me bring out those natural instincts & I love to watch her work with them.

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    Jane herding on the farm

  4. Entertainment. My co-worker Chris Mitchell often tells me, “You can’t be sad with ducks around.” and I have adopted this as my mantra. The way they waddle, fly, get into trouble, argue with one another, splash around and make a mess, raise ducklings- everything about the duck is entertaining. As a University of Oregon graduate and native Oregonian I have been screaming “Go ducks!” since I was a little girl. It only seems natural that I continue to have these entertaining & helpful animals with me on the ranch.

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    Tamarind Tree photography captured this photo of our ducks

With recent nationwide recalls on store bought eggs (I don’t care how free range “organic” they say they are), I have become even more passionate about my precious ducks and what they provide for my family and friends. It is amazing to me how people can look at a farm fresh egg and pick out all the imperfections that don’t have anything to do with the taste. The majority of consumers are so used to their mass produced uniformity, that one little “off” thing can make them turn their nose away. Not to mention a store bought egg can be anywhere from 45 to 90 days old. Now that is something to turn your nose up to!

Stay tuned for more on ducks- including duck egg recipes!

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This is Uno, the only duck we have that was born at the ranch. Uno is a Cayuga/Crested Colored cross and can fly like his mother Maybell.

 

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