09/18/2006: "Welcome to Quacker University!"
And I don't mean UO!
Nate and I are convinced that ducks are the ideal poultry for the Pacific Northwest. They love the rain, mud puddles, slugs and snails. They lay huge, delicious eggs. They (mostly) lay at night, so there are fresh, clean eggs in the nest. They have more sense than chickens, love to be part of a herd, and are very predator aware. And they're cute!
This particular duckie is named Middlin, for the middle amount of black on her face. She is a type of duck called an "Ancona". According to the America Livestock Breeds Conservatory 2000 survey, there are only 128 breeding Anconas in North America, and only one flock of 50 or more. (http://www.albc-usa.org/waterfowl/ancona.htm). We have three females and treasure them dearly!
Our good friend and mentor, Carol Deppe, gave us three Ancona females, three Khaki Campbell females and two Campbell drakes. The Anconas lay a large egg, and have an even, friendly temperment. They are also a suitable size for meat. The Campbells are extremely productive egg layers, averaging about 300 eggs per year. That's more than most chickens!
Ducks are excellent herd animals. We herd them all over the 4 acres of pasture. They have taken to penning themselves up at night and will waddle from one end of the field all the way to the barn and wait patiently for us to bring food and water. Over the summer, Nate and I raked a large pile of wet hay into their pen. We thought they would enjoy playing on it and digging bugs out. When we returned in the evening to put them to bed, we found one of the drakes outside of the pen, frantically trying to get back in. Apparently he had flown off the haystack, and upon finding himself alone (the females are too heavy to fly much), had elected to stay as close to his herd as possible. He was so relieved when we opened the gate to their pen and allowed him to rejoin his flock.
I love to go sit down by the ducks and listen to their soft qwacks and grunts. One little Campbell female named Ethyl continually grunts as she forages for food. It's a pleasure to watch them swim in any water available and delight in muddy muck. And it's a real treat to think of how much they love having slug duty!