On the Duck Front

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.

Welsh Harlequin male

Welsh Harlequins

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.

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.

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8 thoughts on “On the Duck Front

  1. Great post! I like the duck house, with ventilation added, of course. Nice breed, too.

  2. valbjerke says:

    We’ve always purchased our ducks and geese from Metzner – they stand behind their product, answer any and all questions – and despite the distance they have to fly them to get them here, the birds have always arrived healthy. I like the fact that they will sex them – we had our Sebastopols sexed and paired.
    Here’s our recipe for feeding –
    Wild game bird (26%) for 3 weeks
    Turkey Grower (22 %) to 10 weeks
    After that they will maintain on 16-18 %
    We do 50/50 ground barley and wheat, add a quarter of that volume in field peas. Add some oyster shell.
    We always top dress with some whole grains because they like it.
    Fodder? They don’t really eat grass – they’ll muck with the seeds though.
    LOTS of water to process the food. You don’t have to add field peas, but you do have to add something to bring the protein up. Wheat and barley only comes to about 12%. We sometimes bump ours up with soya meal. 😊

    • LuckyRobin says:

      One of the local feed mills has organic barley, organic wheat, and organic field peas, so I think I will try that once they get off the other feed. Thanks for the info. Metzer is only 2 states away from us so I’m not terribly worried about how long they will spend in transit.

  3. StacieAnn says:

    We have 3 khaki hens, and you are right. From the pics you shared, the Welsh Harlequins are prettier!! Dad was given a dozen duck eggs to incubate, but he wasn’t sure they were handled properly before hand, because only 3 hatched. We crossed our fingers for a while that a drake was among them, but alas, only hens. He’s been communicating with another duck-egg-man, but his last arrangement with the man was a bust. The man had to rush off on an emergency and left the duck eggs locked up in his home (an inconvenient 2 hour round trip for dad).

    Just a little heads-up/warning…ducklings are the messiest creatures on the face of this earth. We ended up, after a week of cleaning their brooder box daily, brooding them in the chicken coop, with hay and an open bottom cage. Pulling out the spent hay daily was a lot easier. We gave them their own home, once they were old enough, complete with a little pool, but now that they have joined the free-rangers, they retire with the chickens in the coop. Their choice! The rest of the free-range chickens have made the duck hut a popular rest stop and saloon! 😉

    You might run an ad in Craigslist to see if you have any local luck, that way you can skip the hefty shipping costs. If you are set up to incubate/brood, you can get eggs and hatch your own ducklings.

    I always enjoy reading your blog and nearly parallel adventures. Take care!

    • LuckyRobin says:

      Oh, I’ve raised ducks twice before so I know exactly how messy they can be. Downright filthy little creatures. We did just find out that a new farm store opened and they have Welsh Harlequins, so I will likely get them there.

      Thanks. I enjoy reading your blog, too.

  4. Patricia says:

    We are in Ferndale. We just got our acreage (finally). Our next venture is rabbits, but I would like a couple of ducks or so to eat up all my slugs (with the meat and eggs as bonus). Have you called the Ferndale grainery? I don’t know what they have available, but it might be worth checking if you haven’t already. I thought I read that raw legumes can bother duck’s tummies? Does the recipe call for processed chickpeas or raw?

    • LuckyRobin says:

      I did some further research after reading what you said, and yes, the raw chickpeas or garbanzo beans are hard on them. I’m not sure why they are in that recipe then. Oh, well. No, I haven’t called the Ferndale Grainery. I didn’t even remember they had one until you said that, and then I vaguely remember seeing it, I think, by the train tracks.

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