On The Farm: Ducklings Are Here

We love duck eggs…and you can’t make duck egg cheesecake without the star ingredient! Since spring is approaching, we decided to pick up a few ducklings so we can get a jump on raising layers.

We got ten – a nice, round number – knowing we could end up with 50%+ drakes (though just 1-3 would be ideal🤞). They were simply labeled as “assorted” breeds, and could potentially include Pekin, Indian Runner, Buff, Golden 300, Khaki Campbell, Fawn Swedish, Rouen, Mallard…it’s anyone’s guess because the farm store’s employees don’t seem to know, either (I’ve asked). I think I may see some Golden 300 and Pekin. Regardless, we consider a diverse gene pool an asset, and look forward to some surprises as they grow.

My kind of take-out!

We chose to purchase our ducklings from Tractor Supply Company. Why? Because they consistently have water and clean bedding for their chicks and ducklings, the birds appear comfortable (proper brooder temperatures) and active, and they keep their birds locked up in a welded wire cage to prevent handling by customers. The employee who handled the ducklings wore disposable gloves and was patient while I pointed to the ducklings I wanted (and he chased them down).

In contrast, another local farm store, Rural King, merely posts small signs asking customers not to handle the chicks and ducklings, but I have yet to see an employee enforce the policy…or, really, even be in the vicinity of the animals. I’ve seen children reaching into the brooders, which is a recipe for disaster. I’ve seen chicks and ducklings in the same brooder – a bad idea because ducks will make it very wet, quickly. I’ve also had to tell Rural King employees that the chicks had no water at all in their waterers (and the employee barely held back an eye roll while she humored me with a “oh, ok, I’ll let someone know”). I’m not at all impressed with the local Rural King’s handling of their chicks and ducklings, so I don’t buy them. Simple, right? Disagree with their practices = don’t buy.

Like crested ducks? The duck bin at Tractor Supply also had them. They’re cute with the jaunty poofs on the back of their heads, but we know it’s actually due to a genetic mutation that causes a skull deformity. This malformation can cause health problems like seizures (and obviously greater risk of brain injury). Breeding two crested ducks can also lead to high mortality rates in the offspring. For those reasons, we steered clear of the crested ducklings.

We initially wanted to buy hatching eggs from local breeders, but the nearest ones I could find were a 2.5 hour drive (one way) away. While I’m pleased as punch to have ducklings again, I prefer incubating eggs so that the hatchlings imprint on me…and I can ensure they’re fed properly (including supplemental niacinvery important for growing waterfowl) from day 1. Nonetheless, these babies had Poultry Nutri-Drench in their water once we got home, nutritional yeast on their feed, and, later, a splash of raw vinegar in their refilled water. A batch of locally-sourced non-GMO chick starter (with nutritional yeast mixed in) is working up fermenty goodness in a food grade bucket, too. Everyone enjoys probiotics here on the farm!

These little rascals run away when I approach their brooder, but bribery can work wonders…and I have patience. Just 6 months to duck eggs…

Any guesses as to their breeds? Let us know what you think in the comments!

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