Tales of the Pregnant Farmer: My Ducks are Not in a Row!

Rebekah, one of our midwives, came last night and noticed there was an egg in the incubator that was starting to hatch. Leave it to a midwife to notice a birth! Ha! I was shocked at the piping. I have it marked on the calendar to stop turning the eggs in a week and then them to hatch a few days later. To say I had things mixed up would be an understatement.

Duck eggs take about 28 days to hatch. I put them in the incubator April 2nd and had marked them to hatch May 7th. Slightly off… Just slightly. To add to my confusion it was April 19th… so I thought when I looked at the calendar. Actually it was April 26th. I lost a whole week somewhere.

I swear I haven’t been drinking! I should seriously consider starting though, maybe that would straighten me out. Whew!

For now I will just blame it on being pregnant… again. We are going on four children in five years. I think it’s safe to say my mind hasn’t had a chance to recover. That’s the story that I’m going with at least.

Calendar dates and my loss of marbles aside the duck eggs are hatching! We are so excited! In fact the Little Boy was so excited he got up at 5:30 the next morning to sit on a stool by the incubator and eat his cheerios with the first duck that hatched!

I’m not sure the timing is good. I’d like to say its perfect timing because we are down to only two ducks in the yard now. We wintered five without a problem. Then lost one out of the blue. Henrietta was sitting on her nest in the barn, she must have left to eat and never returned and a day later one of our males was gone. Lucky is still sitting on her nest and I hope she doesn’t stray too far. I’d really like to see her and her ducklings make it. Our last male has been sticking pretty close, mostly because Lucky doesn’t go too far and the ducks always traveled together. I think it’s time to do some fox hunting before the new batch is allowed out.

 

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Vanilla Honey Crème Brulee

It seems like a long time ago I was anxiously waiting for fresh duck eggs for pastries and desserts. After that and before the fox I was able to gather eggs for the kitchen and some for hatching. I wasn’t sure if there would be a noticeable difference when using duck eggs verses chicken eggs. There is. I can see why some pastry chefs search out duck eggs. They add a subtle richness that isn’t there with chicken eggs.

I tried the eggs in different breads, challah and brioche both lent themselves quite nicely to the change. The recipe that exposed the richness of the change in egg was my Vanilla Honey Crème Brulee.

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Five Little Ducks

I thought the ducks were fun before, now it’s spring and they are even more entertaining. They are always keeping us guessing. To us they have a pen, they are to share with the goats. It worked well all winter long. Last fall I put chicken wire around the whole pen to keep them in. That worked well until Mike moved a panel so Hank could have access to the barn for winter. The chicken wire had to be removed from that panel and was never replaced. The ducks found their way out. It worked out fine actually. They had been in the goat pen long enough to know that that was home. They would go for a walk and be back again.

My concern with letting them wander about is that they would meet the same demise as any loose chicken, guinea keet, or turkey… Death by dog.

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A Little Ball of Fire and A Duck Egg

I don’t know what your two year old was doing at 6 in the morning, but mine was insisting that she go out and feed the “aminals”.

So out we went.

I really enjoy having the quiet early morning barn time to myself but I really want to continue to encourage the kids to work with the animals and like doing chores. I expect them to help around the farm, they start with easy chores- feeding the dogs, putting silverware on the table and such. They are encouraged to come with to collect eggs and be around when we feed the large animals. There is very little coaxing needed when it comes to the animals. It’s usually harder to keep them out of the pen than anything else.

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No Cheese, Just Quackers!

What a weekend on the farm! Our duck eggs that I had marked on the calendar to start hatching on Saturday, started Friday morning. It was quite exciting. We all happened to be home and huddled around the incubator peering into the little windows watching with great anticipation of the shell bursting open and our first duck falling out.

Through the night Lucky (the duck) pecked his way around the top of the shell. Mike noticed the cracks and some movement early Friday morning and from then on, “duckling watch” had begun. Everyone checking in any time we happened to walk by… so all the time. It wasn’t too long and the Little Boy was on the bench with his nose to the glass watching and the top of the shell popped off and a tiny duck head peeked out. There looked like a bit of a struggled for a few seconds to which our little guy, who was quite concerned exclaimed “Help him!” “We can’t buddy. He needs to get out of his shell by himself.” That was not the answer he was looking for but kept watching anyway. With a little more effort Lucky was out! Barely standing and very wobbly we had our first egg hatch.

Did you know ducklings can live for a couple days without food or water?! That’s how they can be shipped without provisions. I did not know this. It was after a text to a friend who know everything there is to know about poultry that I learned this. You are not supposed to remove the bird from the incubator until everyone that should hatch did. It is very important to keep it humid in there or the babies can get stuck in their shell. Lucky came out that evening regardless. Our house is so dry we needed to add water anyway. So one added water while the other grabbed the duck.

The next morning Tallulah broke out of her shell. Just as the day before, she was greeted with great anticipation and excitement… in fact we were all a little late for where we needed to be because of it. Three more emerged on Sunday morning while we were at church, for a total of three blue and two fawn Runner Ducks. I am holding out hope that at least one chocolate one will hatch; I was really hoping for that color, but we will see I guess.

There are six eggs left to go. One was chirping and moving so hopefully we will see that one soon. That would bring us to our fifty percent hatch rate, which is what I was hoping for. We will give the rest a couple more days and see what happens. If none of the chocolates hatch this year, maybe we will try again next year.

 

Lucky the duck!

UPDATE: A chocolate one hatched during the night! We have two fawn and two chocolate left to possibly hatch!

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