Friday, April 25, 2014

::cayuga ducks::

Mallard friend that flew away

I have to say that I love my green ducks and I get lots of questions about them. 

Snow ducks

Let me give you a little background first -
Last spring Lily was looking for a poultry project for 4H.  We really wanted to show Silkie Chickens but we didn't have any luck finding any that where the right ones for us.  We really like to pick what breeds we show off the Livestock Conservatory website.  It doesn't always work for us perfectly but we often get some pretty good ideas there (LIKE BABYDOLL SHEEP!!!!).  We read through every breed of chicken and couldn't find the right fit, so we started reading the duck breeds.

Less than a week old

Why did you pick this breed?
The Cayuga Duck really stuck out as the right fit for us.  They are naturally unable to fly so we didn't have to build new pens to hold them or worry about our 4H project leaving.  They are beautiful to look at - which never hurts.  They are listed as having one of my new keywords - "hardy".  What does hardy mean to me?  Hardy means that if the winter turns into a rough one the ducks will survive.  Hardy means that they can roll, they can forage, they can take stress.  Basically - they can take the Funny Farm.  Cayuga's are a breed that is known for being good egg layers. 

Wait - you eat duck eggs? 
Yes we do.  Cayuga ducks lay dark grey eggs early in spring that turn lighter and lighter till in late fall they are almost white in color.  They are slightly larger than a chicken egg.  I think they taste exactly the same.  Josh says they are stronger in flavor than chicken eggs.  I use them in anything I am cooking, especially baking.   Farm lore is that ducks eggs are better for baking with then chicken eggs.  I am not sure that is true but I do follow that rule.  The female duck lays one light grey egg a day.  Like chickens they often stop laying when the days become short unless they are kept in a lighted environment that fools them into thinking the days are not getting shorter.  Duck eggs are often dirtier than chicken eggs because ducks don't lay in a nest box, they lay on the ground in a nest they dig.  My girls nests are about 18 inches across.  She lays eggs every day right now, the only problem is that because she has so much space to waddle around in she picks a new nest each day and I can hardly ever find them in time to use them.  Plus my Labrador thinks they are delicious so she usually eats the eggs before I find them.    So far our female has not been sitting on her eggs to hatch them but Lily and I both hope that someday she does.  Because we have two male ducks there is a good chance that these eggs are fertile, but the mama or a incubator has to very carefully incubate them for them to grow into ducklings. 

How did you find a breeder?
I looked high and low.  I found a few large places that would ship the ducklings but I really wanted to buy local.  I felt like I would get higher quality stock from a local person.  I found a lady located in Indiana that was a good fit for us, Heavenly Springs Farm.  She breeds many different poultry and goat breeds and even a few sheep.  I highly recommend her.  Look her up on Facebook.   Her prices are very reasonable. 

How can you tell the genders apart?
We ended up with two males and one female.  You can a tell a male from a female because the male has a curl at the end of its tail, is slightly bigger, slightly louder, and is a darker green.  Males do not have any external genitalia, so you can't just flip them over and tell what they are.  I know that their are people who can tell day old duckling genders part but that is a skill I don't want to learn. 

What do you feed the ducks?
During the winter I give them chicken feed, just some feed in a bucket.  I let them eat all the want.  Now my ducks are fat little piggies so maybe I over feed them in the winter.  Since the snow has melted I haven't fed them a thing.   They free range all they want.  If they are in the barn when I feed I throw them a handful or two of what ever feed I have at that moment.  They eat anything - chicken food, dog food, crackers, left overs, bugs, grass.  I haven't ever thrown them something and had them walk away from it.  Last year when they where going to fair I kept them in a pen and fed them poultry feed, but this year they just get to live out being ducks, so they graze the farm.  I will be putting a new fence around my garden this year to keep them out of it but I really don't want to lock them up, they love free ranging.

Are they noisy?
Not really.  Sheep are the loudest, then goats, Donkey is the loudest but rarely makes noise, roosters call so loud your ear about ruptures - this kind of duck just mutters.  The males quacks and the female just whispers.  If you had a bunch of females they would be very quiet, but even with a male or two they are not loud.

Teenager ducks

What about water?  What about a place to swim? 
Ducks like to swim, they don't have to swim.  In the winter I keep a six inch tall heated dog water bowl filled with water for them.  They need to dip their beak to drink, so they need deeper water than a dog could lap or a chicken could peck but not much deeper.  They will swim very often if the chance presents itself.  In the spring we have some ponds that form in our horse pasture and the ducks swim in it several times a day.  As it dries up I will buy them a new kiddie pool and fill that for them to swim in - we have another more permanent shallow pond, more of a wetland area, that we are trying to teach the ducks about.  I make the kids catch them and take them to that pond on the other side of the property, but after about an hour or so the ducks are back at the house. 

Could you have a back yard duck like you have backyard chickens?
FOR SURE!!!  This breed would be really good in a small homestead or even a back yard.  The more you handle them as babies the tamer they are.  A yard that was fenced well enough to hold in a small breed dog would be secure for a Cayuga duck. 


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