Monday, February 28, 2011

A Big Ol' Duck Egg

Well the Bickerson's are making a regular attempt at procreation again.  After almost a year with no duck eggs, Mrs. Bickerson, aka Yacky Doodle, has laid eggs for 11 days straight.  I don't know what she's doing or why she wasn't laying anymore, but all I can think is, omelet!  An even sweeter thought is that if we want to make more ducklings we can try incubating some of them.  I thought our chance to do that was long gone.

The Bickerson's were an afterthought to hen raising.  After purchasing four Golden Commet pullets and a little black Bantam, who we later found out was a Golden Seabright, we decided that while the chicks were under two weeks old it was a good idea to add ducklings if we wanted them.  My husband said he'd stop by the feed store after work to see if they had any left from the spring shipments.  He came home with a brown paper bag that he was gently cradling in his hands.  A faint, "bew bew" could be heard coming from inside it.  My little boys and I sat down while he folded down the top of the bag for us to see what was inside, a surprise to the boys.  I immediately picked up the fuzzy yellow duckling almost driven to tears by the puffy sweetness of its soft little body.  My sister had raised a little yellow duckling when I was a child and I had completely forgotten how adorable they are.  The other was a little Mallard, black and yellow and as fuzzy as a dandelion seed head.  Apparently, we had a mixed pair because they had been the last two remaining ducklings at the feed store and no more would be shipped for the season.  We were all very happy to give those two neglected babies a home. 

We named our little ducks, Yacky Doodle and Daffy after our two favorite cartoon duck characters.  Daffy was the Mallard of course.  In a hurry, we learned everything about duck raising as we could before the time would come to move them from the brooder to the hen house we were building.  It was easy to work out the dimensions for the hen house and run, by making it according to the size recommendations for 8 to 10 birds, but what we hadn't counted on was the fact that ducklings grow an ounce a day.  They were quickly surpassing the chicks in size and taking up all of the space in the brooder.  It became an ever increasing problem to find a larger container for them as the ducks grew.  We wanted to raise them with the hens, so did not want to separate them while they were young. 

Every morning we would run warm water in the bathtub for Daffy and Yacky and let them swim to their hearts content, zipping from end to end like mini motor boats.  Carefully, we'd wrap them in towels and get them as dry and warm against our bodies as we could, imitating what we thought a mother duck would do, then we would take them back to the brooder to warm completely under the brooder lamp.  We realized that to keep them happy, we would need to make a pond for them and the task of building a farmyard for our poultry grew more difficult.

After a long summer of waddling and bathing, quacking and pecking around the farmyard, we moved our ducklings who were now full grown and named Mr. and Mrs. Bickerson because of their ceaseless squabbling, into the potting shed that's attached to the rear of our home and is more like a screened-in porch.  There wasn't as much room in the hen run as we thought there would be and the ducks made a horrible mess by trying to bathe in the drinking water.  They spent the winter in the potting shed on a fluffy bed of pine shavings and were moved into a new home we built for them in the spring.

I would love to raise more and have a large, safe yard for ducks to roam at will, but as loud as Mrs. Bickerson is, think Afflac commercial, we have hesitated to let the eggs incubate.  But now that she's laying again and spring is just around the corner, I have to decide what to do with that big ol' duck egg she's giving us every day.  Do I carefully tend the eggs and let them grow into those soft little puff balls with the stubby featherless wings, or do I save them to make one of my favorite breakfast dishes, yellow squash, sausage, and cream cheese omelets.  I could have one every day, it only takes one duck egg...gonna have to think about this one.

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