Today was a sweet yet sour day for me. Last night I made a spur of the moment decision to get rid of my ducks. It was a big decision but one I knew had to make. I had considered this reduction previously but for one reason or another the ducks still remained.
First off, I had to think of the overall value of the animals. I had to ask myself one very important question. Do they add enough nutritional value worth the time, care and feed costs that go into keeping them?
As it turns out, I am very intolerant to duck eggs (i.e., I get super sick). Not being able to cook with the eggs they would quickly fill my fridge. Due to little demand for duck eggs in our area we’d give them away to anyone who would take them. Many times we ended up feeding them back to the ducks, chickens or our dogs. As livestock they weren’t providing anything to my household.
Strictly looking at the ducks as pets, they were very fickle. They would run, quack and raise holy terror when a person would come close to them. At this juncture, they weren’t even personable enough to be coined as “pets”.
When it came to providing my ducks with their necessities it all boiled down to doing more work. How much work was I willing to put into keeping ducks?
Reflecting back to the winter you would have thought my answer was, “I’m willing to do an awful lot of work”. In the snowy months I was hauling 5 gallons of water to the coop each day. Much of that water ended up in an overflow tray as a result of the ducks sloshing their bills through it. Coop litter was constantly soggy from their drinking or from duck poo. Large amounts of pine shavings had to be added to keep the floor dry. Simply put, the ducks were messy and I was their maid.
In the summer months things improved. A kiddie pool provided them with adequate space to splash and play. The drawback? To keep the water clean it had to be changed every other day. The pool also had to be moved frequently to avoid dead spots in the lawn. Still, we battled with slick poo deposits left nightly in the coop.
Speaking of the coop, this was a very large concern of mine. Not only did it house ducks but also young turkeys and laying hens. Cleanliness is important to the overall health of the flock. Here came the ultimate decision making questions. Was the space large enough for all of my new chickens, turkeys and ducks if cold weather came early? Would the rest of my birds suffer as a result of their messy nature? The answer to these questions were easy. No, I would not have the room once all of the birds were full grown. Yes, space would be cramped, duck poo and water would again be all over the floors. In the end, the entire flock’s health and well being might suffer.
I may have enjoyed looking at the ducks through the window as I washed dishes. And maybe, from time to time, I’d laugh at a drake falling over after mating with one of the ladies. However, that enjoyment just wasn’t enough to justify keeping them.
With my decision made I had to figure out what to do with the ducks. Utilizing their meat would be the only way I could benefit from them as livestock. However, they could still be of benefit to someone else wanting duck eggs. This was their saving grace. They were good layers and my Swedish Blues were a desirable breed.
Now that I had a plan in mind I set out trying to find them a home. Fortunately, I hit the jackpot with my first offer. Not only would my birds have a nice home, the new owner got a steal of a deal and a free duckling! They would be spoiled and cherished. Such lucky ducks!
Sadly, as is the case with many drakes, they were not wanted. When it comes time to butcher they will be added to the freezer. It’s a reality here on the farm. Birds who can produce edible eggs are a far more valuable. Meat is secondary unless they are bred and fed for it.
I will miss my ducks but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. As my farm-life mentality matures so does my focus on reducing costs. The goal is to be sustainable and financially responsible. It’s a whole new way of looking at the animals we keep…each one must earn their place.