Creative Sustenance

Culinary and other adventures in foraging, gardening, urban farming and more, in Wisconsin and the Midwest.

We've got ducks!

An interesting thing happened on the way to dinner the other night. What began as a simple plan to enjoy a duck dinner has instead become our first foray into the world of urban farming with animals. 

Our friend, chef Christine Mittnacht, told me some weeks ago that she was going to be butchering several of her ducks. I asked her if I could get one from her, but that she could just give me the live animal and I would take care of the killing and cleaning myself in order to save a few dollars. As a hunter I have of course cleaned a great many critters, and dealing with one duck is quick work.

Not this time...

Cheyenne petitions the warden for the duck's stay of execution.

I made the stupid but predictable mistake of letting my daughters see and hold the duck when I came home with it. Suddenly he had three allies (Kim had immediately joined the two girls in his defense) who were adamant in their protests and pleas to spare his life. It didn't help that the duck also had a little water in one eye as Cheyenne was holding him. Jesse blurted out, "Daddy, look! He's crying!" 

Jesse made urgent promises to be a responsible duck owner.

I really hadn't expected such a passionate response from them. These were, after all, my daughters who used to hunt with me when they were little. They knew what meat acquisition was all about. But I did find their attachment to and defense of the duck rather endearing, and I thought it would be cool if they did want to take on the responsibility of caring for him. So I relented and had them make all of the promises that parents make their kids promise when they beg for a new pet. 

An old machine parts barrel serves as a hutch.

I threw a couple pictures of the girls holding the duck up on facebook, got justifiably laughed at for my lack of spine, subsequently acquired two additional hens from Christine (who messaged me with what I felt was an extra long "hahahahahaaaaaaa") and spent the next two days building a run in the backyard for the trio to live in.

In their new home.

We had planned on getting chickens and/or ducks at some point anyway. It was on the agenda. It just came a little earlier and in a manner slightly askew from the original plan. The ladies have named their fowl: Cheyenne's is the drake, she calls him Cornelius; Jesse calls her brown and white hen Chloe; and after some consternation Kim has settled on Lucky for her black hen. Christine said they are a mixed breed, "barnyard mutts...part pekin, part khaki campbell." Barnyard mutts, I like that.

First egg, I think from Lucky. 4/10/12

Yesterday we received our first egg. A very exciting discovery it was. I still have a bit of work to do on the run and coop (like installing a door), and the ducks are still a bit skittish in their new surroundings. But I'm having fun with them and so is everyone else. Their muted quacking and clucking is almost meditative, their conversations with one another are lively and physically expressive, with a good deal of head bobbing and mutual beak rubbing, and their excitement each time a full pail of clean water is set in the run is entertaining, to say the least.

Cheyenne saying good morning to the trio.

David's tip for the day: Unless you're ready and willing to become a "duck farmer" don't let your daughters hold, pet or name any duck you have intended for the table.

As I was finishing this blog entry this morning we got another egg, this time from Jesse's girl Chloe. 


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