Sunday, June 7, 2015

Meyer Lemon Pound Cake

One of the lovely things about pound cake is that the options for creative improvisation are limited only by your creativity. The first time I made pound cake with duck eggs I kept it simple and added a little vanilla for flavor. This time around I used my fancy cake pan and Meyer Lemons to create a delightful treat.

Once again I used the traditional recipe of one pound of eggs, one pound of sugar, one pound of butter, and one pound of flour. This time, along with the teaspoon of baking powder, I added two tablespoons of lemon juice and the zest of two Meyers Lemons to the batter. Once the cakes were cooled I glazed them with a simple mixture of the remaining lemon juice and confectioners sugar. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Clean-ish Duck Water

Q: How do you keep duck water clean?

A: Don't have ducks!

If you like clean water your best bet is to avoid keeping ducks. Seriously! When I just had chickens I'd fill up their water bucket and I could ignore it for days, not that I would, fresh water is a good thing, but their water didn't get dirty.

If you have ducks any accessible water will be dirty. The duck talent for dirtying water is something they hatch with. There are ways, however, to prolong the amount of time water is drinkable or swim-able. First, it's important to note that ducks need water. They need water they can dip their whole head into so that they can keep their eyes and nostrils clean. While bath water is optional, though I can't imagine having ducks and not enjoying watching them splash and preen, a deep container of drinking water is not.

Water for ducklings:
When you have ducklings, use a plastic deli container or yogurt container. Think Tall! The taller your water the less likely your ducklings will be to try and take a bath. You want a container with a lid. Cut a semi-circle out of the lid and then your duck can dip into the container, but can't splash around in the water. Or use a plastic milk jug and cut a duck head size hole in the side. The idea is to replace the container with a taller one as your ducks grow so you are making the access point easy for them to reach, but not so low that they are tempted to try and take a swim.

Putting a baking rack or hardware cloth over a pan and putting the water container on top of that, so drips are contained, may help some. I chose to have a small removable plastic bin where I put the food and water. It was filled with shavings to absorb the excess water. 

Ducklings love to swim, but until they have well oiled feathers, instead of fluffy down, you need to supervise them at all times when they have access to a bath, and dry them off afterward so they don't get chilled. 

After a bath it's time for cuddles! 

Water for adults:  

When it comes to adult ducks there are  a few things that will help keep your water clean-ish. 
I use a bucket for drinking water,
here you see they dirty it before it's done filling.

Try to have different water for swimming and for drinking.
Have adequate drainage or absorbent bedding.
Limit access to dirt, which will quickly become mud. 

Having said that, remember, ducks LOVE mud! Digging into the mud with their bills is a happy enrichment activity, allowing them to forage for roots and bugs. I purposely leave a section of dirt where I can run the hose and allow the ducks time to do what ducks do.

In an idea duck set up, which I don't have, a bucket of water would be available for drinking that was set on wire or in a well drained area. I've found that keeping the water a short waddle away from the food dish encourages the ducks to get more food down before they go for a drink. Ducks do need water to wash down their food, they don't have teeth, so everything goes down in big pieces and dry food can cause them to choke. But, if you keep the water at least 10 feet from the food the water will have less food sludge in the bottom in the long run. That means less food waste and cleaner water. However, it does not mean that your water will be clear. You will still need to give your ducks clean water at least once a day.

If you keep your food and drinking water in an area away from your swimming water then you will avoid food sludge ending up in the swimming water. This doesn't mean your swimming water will stay clean, ducks poop in their swimming water, so this water will also need to be changed on a very regular basis, to be determined by how large your pool is and how many ducks you have.

Obviously ducks also drink their swimming water. The idea of having drinking water and swimming water is more a differentiation between water that is kept nearer their food and water that is kept far away from the food.

If ducks can get to mud near their water they will add mud to the water, creating mud and poop sludge in your swimming water, or mud and food sludge in your drinking water. That's the reality of my life and it's not the end of the world. A scrub brush from the Dollar Store and the hose quickly render a dirty tub of water clean once again, if only temporarily.

My ducks are pets. I love to watch them do duck things, like play in the mud and splash in their swimming pool. Ducks don't care if their water is sparkling clean, but your ducks need fresh clean water on a regular basis to stay healthy and properly care for their feathers.

Visit my Dobby The Duck Pinterest Board for more ideas. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Safe For All Living Creatures....

You will find this sign on the gate entering my backyard:

It's a little mossy, like most things in the Pacific Northwest in the spring time. It reads that "This area is safe for children, pets, and all living creatures." My regular old urban backyard doesn't look like most people's yards. The grass that once grew has been replaced with straw and shavings. The playhouse and swing set have been repurposed into shelter for chickens and ducks. And while bugs and mice may be at risk due to the poultry inhabitants, it is a pesticide-free area and most living creatures will find it to be a safe space.

You can get your own sign from Mountain Rose Herbs for $8.50 plus shipping. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

How Do You Like Your Eggs?

Now that the ducks and chickens are all laying, eggs are a bigger part of our diet.

Click on the fried egg picture to go YouTube to hear my friend Ryan Montbleau's song about EGGS.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Duck Egg Pound Cake

Duck eggs can be used in any recipe that calls for chicken eggs, but,
because duck eggs are bigger and richer, it will affect the results. 
Usually that means the recipe will be even more awesome than usual. 

When I wanted to make a pound cake with duck eggs, I decided to go the traditional route of weighing the ingredients. You start with your eggs, weigh them, then add equal amounts, by weight, of flour, sugar, and butter. The blog I followed also suggested a teaspoon of baking powder and I used a dash of Vanilla Extract as well. You can find a detailed description of the recipe Here

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Duck Egg Difference

The top egg is a duck egg, the bottom egg is a chicken egg.

Fresh Eggs Daily has a great post about duck eggs, you can find that HERE.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

We Have Duck Eggs!

Today I lifted up the top of the duck house to do some cleaning and found this!

We only have two female ducks, and the smallest of the eggs is rather dirty, so I'm guessing these were either laid by one of the girls over a few days, or both girls, but the small egg was the first one laid and it has been there for a day or two. 

My duck house is not great when it comes to cleaning or duck egg gathering. The top part that comes off is an entire piece of plywood. It's wet and it's heavy, even though it is covered with a tarp. I don't lift it up every day, and looking in from the front it's hard to see into the nesting area I made to one side. 

The smallest one is more the size of a chicken egg. 
Poultry often lay a smaller "practice egg" when they are just getting started. 
It's likely that's the case here. 

And now I face the classic duck egg dilemma, they don't fit in a standard egg carton.  

Now I have to decide what to bake first! 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Dandelion Greens

While many people in the country are buried in snow and suffering through extremely cold weather, spring has arrived early over here in the Pacific Northwest. The ducks and chickens have eaten every green thing they can find in the yard and so I have started collecting greens for them. There is a nine acre park across the street from us. Fortunately, most of it has been left forested and it is not treated with pesticides, and herbicides are only used around the perimeter fencing. Knowing this, I feel comfortable collecting dandelion greens from the park. The ducks and chickens love it when I come through the gate with a grocery bag full of greens for their enjoyment.

The park also has a lovely patch of violets.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Fiona Zecora

This is Fiona Zecora, she's a Barred Plymouth Rock. She arrived at our house as a chick from My Pet Chicken as a little black chick with a spot of yellow on her head and the cutest yellow tummy. Fiona was our friendliest chick, happy to sit on my hand or my shoulder when she was little. Now she rules the yard. Living up to her American farmyard heritage, happy to forage and a reliable layer of lovely brown eggs. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Egg Hunting Reaches New Hights

As I mentioned in my previous post, Merida is keeping me on the hunt for eggs this year. I've also mentioned that I provide places that the chickens can get to that the ducks can't, in case the ducks get annoying. (Sometimes the ducks to seem a bit like marauding toddlers.) Well, Merida seems intent on keeping her eggs away from the ducks. When I purchase more straw I purposefully left Merida's nest in place and stacked some straw next to it, vertically.

Today there wasn't an egg in the nest.

So I looked a little higher.

Well, I had to reach up and feel with my hand, I can't see up that high. 
And then I held my camera up in the air so you could see, too. 
Merida laid her egg way up on top of the straw. I'm just glad it didn't roll off! 
We're only getting one to two eggs a day right now as it is. 
Every egg is a treasure.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Aggressive Drakes or Drake Shaming?

Long before I had ducks of my own I'd heard tales of how horrible drakes were. Nasty comments about how drakes were rapists, how they aggressively tried to mate with people's poor helpless chickens, and how they would try and drown female ducks.

As the length of days increases and the temperatures rise, mating behaviors are on the rise in my little backyard flock. And, while I'm fairly new to duck keeping, my observations are at odds with conventional wisdom or popular opinion. Now it may be that my large heritage  breed ducks are less aggressive than some other breeds, I hold that open as a possibility, but I think there are other factors that need to be considered. 

After reading about how horrible drakes were I thought about the source. It seemed that most of the people weighing in on online forums and fb pages were women. I wondered how comfortable they were with their own sexuality or if they had had negative human experiences that colored their perceptions of duck interactions. Were these same women slut shaming other women? Were these same women generally negative about men? Maybe, maybe not, I have no way of knowing, but the thought did cross my mind.

Having watched my female ducks splash and posture in the pond to attract the attention of the drakes, my conclusion is that the females are willing participants. My drakes only attempt to mate in the water, which isn't true for all ducks, that means the females in my flock are choosing to get into the water with the males. The can usually get out of the water if they've had enough. Moments later you'll find them contentedly preening their feathers.

It seems to me that people are anthropomorphizing ducks. Ducks aren't humans, ducks interact very differently than humans do. Their mating rituals may make you uncomfortable, but they are just ducks being ducks. The drakes aren't trying to drown the females, really, they aren't. 

But what about those drakes harassing chickens?
I recently read an article that stated how a drake can kill a chicken by attempting to mate. This person's solution was to drink whiskey. However, I have a more proactive solution. If your drake is bothering your chickens it's time to separate your ducks from your chickens. My flock hasn't had issue with this, however, I do provide my chickens with perches. My ducks can't fly and don't perch. By giving my chickens a variety of places that are out of duck reach, I give them the opportunity to escape if they need to.

Our domestic poultry rely on us to provide for their needs. If we have drakes then it's up to us to provide them with an adequate number of female ducks. It's up to us to provide them with adequate space and activity. Foraging, swimming, and post swim preening provide drakes with something to do other than pursuing females. Adequate space also gives the females a better opportunity to evade advances if they aren't interested. Too many drakes and over crowding can also be an issue in wild ducks, as mentioned Here

Another concern is keeping ducks of different sizes together. And again, it is our responsibility as poultry keepers to protect smaller ducks from the advances of large drakes. Talking online about how that big nasty drake hurt your cute little call duck doesn't tell me your drake is the problem. You are creating the problem situation, which, at the very least, makes you responsible for the problem, not the drake.

If we have a particularly aggressive drake then it's up to us to assess how best to proceed. That may mean getting rid of that particular drake or taking measure to "light neuter" his by keeping him in a totally dark box 14-18 hours a day, as suggested in Storey's Guide to Raising Ducks. The solution to the problem may vary, but it definitely requires an assessment of the duck habitat and inhabitants.

Hopefully people who raise ducks will start looking at duck behavior as just that, duck behavior, and stop villainizing drakes. It's up to us to provide ducks with an optimal environment and suitable flock so that their natural instincts and behaviors can be expressed.

UPDATE:  Having talked to some other duck owners, I do think that part of the reason my drakes are less sexually aggressive is that they are large breed ducks. I would be curious to hear about what breeds you have and how sexually aggressive they are, or aren't, in the comments below. Do you think what I've said makes sense or do you think I have a skewed view of the situation because of the particular ducks I have?

Monday, February 9, 2015

Every Day Egg Hunt

It seems the ducks have been going into the hen house, I can tell by the holes they leave in the straw. Perhaps that's the reason the chickens have decided not to use the nesting boxes, which are low to the ground. Maybe it's just because chickens are inclined to lay their eggs in a safe place and they have a different idea of what's a safe space than I do. Merida started laying first after the fall molt. She laid her eggs back behind the swinging bench at first. A few days later I spied her in a new location, building a nest.

Merida at work

After only a day, Fiona had joined Merida.
That grey thing is a piece of old egg carton added to the nest.

The new nest is on top of the dog crate, on top of the old worm bin.
I put straw bales up there to keep them clean and dry. We were almost out of straw when Merida build her nest. I have since gotten new straw but I put it to one side so that the nest was not disturbed. If you try and discourage chickens from hiding their eggs by destroying the nest they make they will move to a new location. That means you have to find the new location. The top of the dog crate is safe from the ducks and easy for me to collect from so I'm going to let them have their spot.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Rain Barrels

I have one rain barrel. That's really not enough to make a difference during the dry season, yes the Pacific Northwest does have a dry season! In the future I'd love to have a system for storing water but for now I have my one little rain barrel. Its overflow goes over to a little pond. Really little, only about 18 inches deep and maybe two feet across. Around the pond I planted a rain garden with water loving plants.

Here's a picture. Drizzle's a bit blurry, but you get the idea. The green hose goes to the pond. Normally the hose is connected at the middle for the over flow, but it had been freezing so I'd put it down at the bottom to drain the tank. Obviously it was no longer freezing when this picture was taken.

This is what the area looked like in the summer. 

Here's what it looks like now.

I looked at the pond one day when it wasn't raining and realized that the ducks had filled it with the dirt from around it.  A few inches of water was above the mud in the pond, and when it rains the whole area floods because the ground around the pond is lower. As spring arrives I have a feeling I'm going to have to clean out the pond and fence of the area if there is to be any hope of having a lovely shade garden around my pond again this year.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Duck Art

My daughter gave me a lovely little picture of a Silver Appleyard Duck for Christmas. 
She had to really work to find an artist who had pictures of the right breed. 

The artist, Claire McCann lives across the pond.
She has prints of several other heritage breeds.
Click HERE to visit her Etsy Store.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Cozy Duck

Not all the ducks in my life have feathers.
This is Quackers, a fuzzy friend given to me by a young friend of mine. 
Well, we share Quackers. I always bring him over when I visit. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Morning Routine

Ducks are creatures of habit. 
Every day when I let the ducks out for the day this is how it goes:

First it's bath time!

Then it's time to preen.
They take time to get their feathers nicely oiled and ready for the day. 

Finally, it's time to forage. 

My ducks rarely head straight for the food dish, they'd much rather find their own food.
This is one of the awesome advantages of heritage breeds. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

January in the Pacific Northwest

It was colder in some parts of the country today than it was on Mars! 
But not here!
The ducks enjoyed playing in the hose.

And while the ducks were distracted 
Fiona Zecora and Merida visited the duck house.

And Broody enjoyed a stroll around the yard.

Isn't this what every normal backyard looks like?
(Broody from the back. Rapunzel on the right.)

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Big Ducks in a Small Pond

My parents gave me (and the ducks!) a 50 gallon tub for my birthday present.

I had to lift them into it so they could get the peas. The ramp was too new and different, and they were very excited about the Peas! and Water! It was the first time since they were 10 weeks old that they could paddle about, not since they used to take baths in the tub inside the house.

Happy Ducks! 

And sometimes Headless Ducks! ;)