Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

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O that irony of duck momma’s..  This spring we came into the year with 4 proven hens, 2 2020 hens and one big old chocolate drake.. Their job this year was to be fly eaters and garden helpers..  Now on a normal year I try for a min of one clutch per hen.. and they average at least 12 ducklings per clutch..  and I normally run 4 duck hens.. so give or take 50 babies..

I took a good hard look at my freezers, my pantry, my lambs and pork from last year and the fact that I have ordered half a beef for late fall from down the road plus the chicken I have raised this year and went..  let have a no duckling year..

Now I have done this once before.. its not hard. the hens lay eggs, we collect the eggs, they lay for a crazy long time, we get a LOT of duck eggs and at least one hen will find some spot to sit a nest and show up with a clutch.. but typically its a smaller clutch maybe 4 to 6 as she had to find a spot that was very much NOT ideally to lay and sit on..

This year has been a shake my head, so first off.. we have two to four duck eggs coming in like clockwork.. this SHOULD mean that we are getting most of the eggs.. right?? RIGHT?

So this spring one of the duck went MIA and that only means two things.. a) fox got it, as there was no blood or body, like there would be if coon or b) she snuck off and is sitting and will show back up with babies in tow.

And sure enough.. 14 babies .. hiya..  I gave them away.. its a no duckling year, I didn’t have the baby feed in, I did not want to run baby duck pens, it was NOT the plan.. so I put them up on facebook.. take them and they are yours..  they were going for 10 dollars a duckling locally is sold so as I expected, they were picked up the very same day..

and I gave the hens the talk.. look, this year just be ducks.. happy happy ducks, no momma requirement needed..  and we doubled down on not letting them out to early, collecting the eggs..

Then as I expected one of the hens had a half hatch of 6 healthy and I went ok.. whatever.. grow them out, 4 big drakes and 2 hens.. lovely birds.. then I had a slow down on eggs, but all the hens were eating and drinking and being head counted..  then one went MIA for a single day, and showed up with 14 babies (how? my best guess is that they were nest sharing) because within 72 hours the second hen showed up with another 14..  yes you read that right.. 28 ducklings..

and so we went hunting and found the next nest and dang if they were not almost ready to hatch.. the thing is that we were still collecting duck eggs, so some of the hens at least where still laying while sitting and that is just not done.. its really not.. I still do not get it..  but they are sneaky things..

13 more ducklings joined the duck flock.. 32 plus 13.. 45.. right on target for a full production year.. till yesterday.. I heard them, that high pitched, I am lost, I am lost, I am lost..  and there was my oldest biggest momma duck.. proudly, o so proudly showing her clutch of 16.. yes 16! healthy new babies..  Largest hatch we have ever had on the farm..

45 plus 16.. 61.. sigh.. lol.. Fall is the worst time to sell duckings, their worth drops 50% or more.. because it cost more to raise them in the fall then in spring an summer.. true.. but these fluffy butts are thriving and growing rapidly.

I had figured I would have all my butcher done by X.. but now I have to plan in duck butchering.. so that changes a few things..  Now to do a full hunt to try and make sure there are no more nests hidden..

How is it possable that on my NO DUCKLING year that I have more babies then the years I plan for them.. and how did they pull of the magic trick of still laying eggs?

I will not be short on duck for 2021/22 that’s for sure..  Did you have some surprise? hatchings, chicks, ducklings or ?

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15 Responses to Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

  1. Silver says:

    Your post made me laugh, what sneaky mommy ducks XD

  2. valbjerke says:

    We haven’t had ducks for years, but we do have mallards return to our big pond every year. They always hatch out a batch, raise them and carry on. This year they hatched out their usual batch and a second, very late batch. This makes me wonder if we’re in for a very long fall and mild winter? Birds are pretty smart.

  3. I am loving this post! We added Muscovies to the farm this year with the hopes that they will brood and set babies for us. This makes me feel very hopeful that they will be good producers for us. Plus, it totally made me laugh – great story. Thank you for sharing it.
    We have never had any surprise anything born at our place. I would love to have a surprise baby(ies) of some sort at some point. Maybe not 61 surprises though…hehehe.

    • Morning WillowCreek, I love my Muscovies so much, they arrived on the farm before chickens and rabbits.. they were the very first thing I bought.. and we have had them ever since. Adding new males normally but the odd time I have add in a new hen as well.. I have always been very pleased with them, I hope you will as well.. Glad you enjoyed the laugh..

  4. Mother Nature always finds a way 🙂

  5. WolfSong says:

    Muscovies are such sneaky Mamas!
    We had a couple hens go missing and do the same, come back with a waddling line of fluff butts.
    Of course, that was *after* I had bought someone else’s 19 babies that she didn’t want to raise.
    The very next day, out comes one of our year old hens from a spot we’d checked several dozen times, with 8 bebes.
    *sigh*
    Yeah, I’m glad we’re having such a nice Fall in Manitoba because I’m sure I’ll be butchering right into December!
    lol

    • Afternoon Wolfsong, They really are.. lol but they are also good tempered, easy to raise and amazingly good eating.. still its always a sigh, how many are you bringing home this time. I lol at the at a spot we had checked sever dozen times, I get that, I really do.. and I will be there with you on the late fall/early winter butchering..

  6. Galadriel says:

    Do you mind describing (in general terms) how you kill and prepare ducks for the freezer? I’ve got two drakes, a young un and an old un, who are going to go off to freezer camp very soon but I’ve only ever killed chickens. Do you hang them? Do you pluck? The immensity of the internet mainly gives me advice from duck hunters, and I will not be shooting these ducks, so am not totally sure if I should just ignore all that and process them like I would chickens (decapitation; no hanging, yes plucking).

    • Hi Galadriel, you have two choices with the ducks, the basic kill is the very same as the chickens, just make sure you have a very sharp hatcht.. Geese really do need a small ax and a well set up kill spot, you ideally want to have a stump with the properly spaced nails that are slightly bent in towards each other, so you lift the duck or chicken forward and down, one set of hands on the legs, one set on the head neck and you lift them up so their neck fits in the nail slot and then you slowly pull them downward gently till the head catches.. so cheeks are resting on the smooth side of the nails, and then you want to have a smooth straight neck with just a bit of tension and then one single clean chop and the head is gone.. At that point you can hang them to drain the blood or you can collect the blood for yourself if brave, I have a lovely recipe for duck blood soup, it is good.. or save it for your garden/compost (we pay very good money for blood meal).. now once the bird is bleed out.. you can go one of three ways, dunk (hot water) and pluck, or you can dry pluck everything but the wings, they will take needle nose plyers .. or skin them.. I like to skin the big older birds, as I like to breast them out for steaks or stew meat for big drake breasts, and then I take neck, back, legs and thigh and tend to roast, pull meat and use in different dishes.. but for younger smaller birds, I will go to the effort of plucking as they go so well with skin on and do not tend to be as fatty as the older birds are..

    • Hope that is helpful.. if you have other questions feel free to ask?

      When I skin them out, I do not take the wings, I cut them off, it makes everything so much easier, not a big deal to do them for two but for 40 its a real time saver..

      • Galadriel says:

        Thank you very much. I am just waiting for the weather to cool down a little bit more before I do these two boys; we only have six ducks at present, three of which are drakes–too many! So hopefully the young one will be tender and the old one will be at least edible. I will try what you suggest, cutting the old one into pieces and not bother with the wings.

      • I am sure that the young one will be just fine, but do age and brine the older one in the fridge at least 48 hours, it can be done after freezing.. it will make a massive difference to the tenderness when you do cook him.. Its a much safer way then the old, hang them and age them.. we are still aging them but in a controlled temp (fridge) .. good luck

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