Ducks Have a Place on the Sustainable Homestead
Why would ducks have a place on the sustainable homestead?
In previous eras ducks were an important part oif most established farms. They might not be the first animal brought to the farm but they were on the guest list. Many modern day wanna-be homesteaders might wonder what value a duck could be. After all, chickens produce eggs and meat...right?
Yes. That is correct, but ducks can provide both of those things as well as another valuable service. Multi-surface pest control.
Ducks Are Great Organic Pest Control
Chickens walk around a lot, scratching and pecking. They might chase an occasional fly but rarely will they catch it. Soon they are back to crickets, snakes,mice, and grubs. Ducks on the other hand enjoy the hunt. They will eat many things that are ultimately pests on the farm, including:
- Mosquito larvae
- Weeds (and tender garden plants, too.)
Cooking with Duck Eggs
Duck eggs are slightly higher in protein and somewhat higher in fat than chicken eggs. They are marginally higher in all other nutrients, as well as calories.
The duck eggs actually perform better in baked goods. The foods are richer, more tender, and flavorful. This is possibly due to the increased fat but no one is really sure. The down side of duck eggs is that many people find them to have a strong flavor. If you decide to keep ducks and want to use the eggs for something you may prefer to use them in your cakes and rolls and leave the chicken eggs for fried eggs and omelets.
You can probably expect about five eggs a week from each female you have.
Domestic duck are an excellent meat as well. In fact, since they are pretty much self sufficient they do not need much food keeping the cost of the meat down considerably as long as they have free access to pasture and wooded areas.
Butchering duck is a little trickier than butchering chickens. They have more glands and since the feathers are waterproof it is hard to do the scalding step required to remove the feathers. Some suggest suggest adding a few drops of liquid dish soap to the water to help the process.
There are a couple of excellent blogs that track the processes. The images are graphic so if butchering bathers you don't click.
- Howling Duck Ranch this is on chickens but it is enough similar and the pictures are great.
- Redneck Programmer
- Homesteading Neophyte
It is important to conserve heritage breeds. They are diverse and stronger than animals that have had the unique characteristics of their breed bred right out of them. Consider the following:Cayuga
- Aylesbury-,meat, England, pre-1800
- Saxony- all purpose, Germany, 1930
- Silver Appleyard-egg,England, 1940
- Welsh Harlequin- all purpose, Wales, 1968
- Cayuga- all purpose, New York, 1800
- Campbell- meat, England, 1800s
Heritage breeds are usually healthier, easier to keep, and the biggest benefit is the fact that you will be helping to preserve a breed.
Ducks are easier to keep than chickens. The do a lot of foraging.They don't need a pond or creek but will be happy with one. If you don't have either you may want to set up a hard sided kiddie pool to allow them to play in the water.
If your yard or pasture is secure from predators you can let the ducks have the run of it. If not you will need a secure area for them to run in, and a house to provide shelter during bad weather and at night. These plans for a duck house and run are a great help.
Ducks need waterfowl feed that is formulated specifically for them. Your local feed store should carry it or be able to order it for you. Do not by medicated feed, especially if you plan on eating the eggs or meat. Try to keep everything as natural and organic as possible.
Give them plenty of fresh water and you should be set.
Ducks are a beautiful and practical addition to your small farm. Another natural way to deal with mosquitoes and other pests and providing a little meat or eggs at the same time.