So we have settled on a duck to raise this year. We are going with the Welsh Harlequin, an offshoot of the Khaki Campbell. I think it is much prettier than the Khaki Campbells, though. Like them, Welsh Harlequin’s are excellent layers, laying anywhere from 260 to 300 eggs a year. They are also calm, friendly, sweet, easily managed ducks. And they are dual-purpose, so make a good meat duck. They don’t get very big, the hens are around 5 pounds at maturity and the drakes a little bigger. The hens will also sit on a nest and hatch out ducklings if we decide we want to do that next year.
I’ve narrowed it down to two hatcheries and have to decide which one to order from. There is Murray McMurray, which has an excellent reputation. But if I want to order just 4 ducklings, I have to pay an extra $45 for shipping and handling so they include insulation and a hot pack to keep the small number of ducklings warm. And they only offer straight run, so there is no guarantee that I’d even get any females. Though chances are technically 50/50, anyone who has raised a litter or hatching of anything knows that sometimes they are all or mostly one sex or the other for one litter or hatching and then the next might be the opposite. It might not be 50/50 for the hatch I order and since I want mostly females, ordering just 4 is really taking a chance.
The difference in price for 4 ducklings with the extra shipping or 10 ducklings with free shipping is $2. If I have to pay that much money I’d rather get the extra ducklings with the higher chance of getting females and butcher the extras. And I’ve gotten permission to do that. The ducks would be ready to butcher at 10 weeks old or so.
The other hatchery I can order from is called Metzer Farms. They specialize in waterfowl and game birds. They have the Welsh Harlequins available sexed. Again, I’d still need to order 10 birds or I’d have to pay extra for the shipping, not as much extra but still up there, but if I did order the smaller amount of birds, I’d at least be assured of getting what I want. Then when they got larger, I could either sell the extra hens because people definitely want the hens or butcher. If I go that route, I am thinking about getting 8 hens and 2 drakes. Then I could keep 4 hens and 1 drake and sell the other five as a flock or butcher them.
I don’t know much about Metzer Farms, it isn’t talked up quite like Murray McMurray, but it seems to have gotten good feedback on the forums I’ve looked at. They also have a little starter gel paste they can enclose with their ducklings that is a little extra insurance on keeping them hydrated while in shipping. Probably not strictly necessary, but a nice option. I will have to do some more review searching to see what people think of them before deciding. I will spend some time on that tomorrow.
I did find an example of what I want for a duck house.
We’d add ventilation windows though on either end. They would be covered over with 1/2″ by 1/2″ hardware cloth. This thing will be tighter than Fort Knox. I am not playing the “Raccoons Ate My Ducks Game” this year. Ducks are raccoon magnets enough as it is without giving the darn critters an inch to reach through.
We’ve been looking at the youtube videos on how to make a small feather plucker that attaches to the end of a drill. Way cheaper than the barrel style pluckers to make and still quite a bit faster than doing it by hand. Though we’d buy the actual plucker fingers off Amazon or something as opposed to the rubber bungies as some of the rubber bungies leave black marks on the bird from the research I’ve done.
As for feed, I will be going with organic Scratch and Peck chick starter with a vitamin supplement made for ducks with Niacin that goes in the ducks’ drinking water so they don’t get angel wing or any of the other things caused by Niacin deficiency. We will likely move on to the Scratch and Peck grower feed after that. But I may make my own duck feed. I found a recipe for it. All ingredients are organic.
2 pounds wheat
1 pound barley
1 pound oats
2 pounds corn
3 pounds chickpeas
2 pounds field peas
12 ounces sunflower seeds
2 ounces oyster shell grit
You then process it a little at a time in a food processor to break it down so it is easier for the ducks to eat. You also would need the vitamin supplement in the water still. It makes about 12 pounds of feed. The only thing I would have difficulty sourcing a large amount of is the organic chickpeas. They are quite expensive. I did eventually find them at http://www.nuts.com in bulk less than elsehwere, but still pretty expensive. I wonder if I could substitute a different type of lentil? Or maybe grow and dry garbanzo beans this summer. Everything else but the sunflower seeds are readily available from Scratch and Peck. I can get the sunflower seeds at the other feed store, though. I have it for my rabbits’ fodder anyway.
Hmm…I wonder if I mix up all that and sprout it as fodder if they would eat it? I’ll have to research that, too. It would sure cut costs, especially on the chickpeas.