Quick Guide: Raising Ducks

You should know based on my farm website that we raise chickens and ducks on our small farm. We have two geese, but they’re more like pets so I can’t really say we “raise geese,” but goose needs are basically the same as ducks so you can probably take my advice on their account as well.

I’m writing this post because we got another batch of ducklings last weekend and want to brag about them while they’re still cute.

Duckling of 2021

Disclaimer: I don’t hatch my own ducks. I have tried and failed a couple of times, so I need to get better at using the small incubator we have. These ducks we bought from a local feed store, because I keep getting requests for duck eggs and just can’t keep up when most of the flock stops laying in winter. Pekins lay through the winter, so while I’m not a fan of white ducks, that’s what I got this year.

Ducklings are ADORABLE. And the sound they make is exactly the same sound you hear when you squeeze a rubber duckie. THAT SOUND IS REAL. And it’s second only to the sound of their little webbed feet slapping across the kitchen floor.

Rule number one: do not think that just because you’ve had chickens before means you can handle having ducks. Ducks are ten times as messy as chickens/chicks. We have to clean the ducklings’ box out every day when they are tiny, and every other day the bigger they get (when they end up in the basement pen we have set up, between being babies and teenagers.)

Rule Two: Unless you plan on spending every waking moment with that duck, DO NOT just get one duck. They need friends to socialize with. Chickens are not good duck friends, but they can get along well enough if that’s all you have.

Rule Three: Ducks, at every stage of life (this goes for geese too) NEED a water bowl. Those red and white plastic water jug things may work for chicks, but ducklings have to submerge their bill/face into the water to properly clear their nostrils for breathing, several times a day. They really do need a bowl. They will also swim in or bathe in this bowl, which is also necessary for getting their oil gland working properly for when they have feathers. If you can’t handle this mess, don’t get waterfowl.

These work great and are cheap

Those are my biggest concerns with most people. I raise ducks for eggs and meat, but we treat our birds very well and keep them clean and well-fed. Ducks have slightly different nutritional needs than chickens, so I like to give them a duck feed while they are young to help make sure they get the right nutrients. Once they are grown, they have no problem sharing the chicken food, and they do a great job hunting for bugs around the yard to supplement what I feed them.

Ducklings WILL poop on your sofa, just FYI. Also Nik is in love with ducks

Some crazy people even have a pet house duck that they put diapers and a leash on and treat like a dog. I’m not at that point yet… saving that for my crazy old lady years. But it can be done! Anyway, don’t get ducks if you can’t handle a mess or don’t have enough space for them. They are excellent at helping keep your yard insect-free (especially from Japanese Beetles!) and are all around a real joy to have. The slap of duckling feet running across my kitchen floor is literally my favorite sound in the whole world. And duck butts are adorable, no matter what age they are!

You can find all kinds of guides and books online about how to raise ducks. I wanted to give this short PSA since Easter is coming up and I’d rather not have to rescue more ducks that people dump after not realizing the care involved in raising them.

I also wanted to show off my ducks…

This was me with my very first duck ever back in 2017

Giant Squash 2020!

I just had to make a quick post about this. I am SO bummed that all the fairs were cancelled this year because LOOK WHAT I GREW!

I think Boston Marrow winter squash are just the coolest. I have NEVER grown one this big before though. 42.4 lbs of pure enormous food! I can’t wait to cut her open and see how many seeds I have. This, and the 6 other squash I have already, are from ONE little plant!

The smaller one was 28 lbs

I am super proud of this! I had to do vine borers surgery on the vine last week to save it, because those little bastards really love this squash. But I am gonna make pie and soup all winter now! Woohoo!

Do you think I should take any with me to market?

Learning and Changing

I don’t know if you know this, but my husband is about 1/8th Menomonee (Ojibway tribe) and I know of some Osage ancestry on my father’s side of the family tree. Between these facts and the journey that I’ve been on bringing me closer to Mother Earth and the plants that live on her, I have been trying to learn as much as I can about Native American culture and ways of life. I know that white sage and sweetgrass are sacred herbs, meant to be burned in thanks to the earth and to help one’s own spirit.

Much as I wish I could always only give my plant medicine as gifts, I must feed my family and pay my bills in the modern world. That is why I sell my herbal medicines and incense. I want to help people as well, but I still have mouths to feed in my home and that has to come first for now. However, after reading (or at least beginning to read) the book Braiding Sweetgrass, I now know that I should not be selling my sweetgrass braids. I was very careful before to whom I did sell the braids, but now I will barter or gift only, as the plant is not meant to be exchanged for money.

Moving forward, I have decided that I will no longer SELL my sweetgrass braids, but I will still make them for my own use. If you or a Native American friend are in need of a braid, please contact me and we may be able to work out a gift or barter exchange based on your need.

On a similar note, I also experimented with growing native tobacco this year (Nicotiana rustica) and I may be able to share small amounts with those in need.

Masterful Mullein!

Mullein in flower

Mullein is a common herb in North America, though just like dandelion and plantain it is not native to this land. You have probably seen it in a ditch on the road side, or growing near your favorite walking path, or by the fence at the baseball field. It’s soft, fuzzy leaves have been snuggled by children and used as an alternative to toilet paper for many a year. It is a biennial herb, which means there is a thick rosette of heavy leaves the first year, followed by a huge, tall stalk with flowers the second year. The seeds spread off this stalk and the cycle begins again. You can pronounce it “Mullen” or “Mully-in,” or however you like!

Mullein is one of my favorite herbs because Nik has mild COPD, which causes him to cough a lot in the morning and often times in the evening as he is laying down. Mullein is a perfect remedy for that dry, scratchy cough you can’t seem to get rid of with just a few sips of water.

Mullein can be made into a tincture, which is the easiest way to take it and what we generally turn to at our house. You can also make it into a tea, though you may wish to consider pouring the tea through a coffee filter before you consume it, in case any of the tiny hairs off the leaves have strayed into your cup. Mullein can also be smoked for its benefits (seems counter intuitive, but it actually works!) which is why I add it to Nik’s smoking blends and to several of my home health incense blends. The yellow flowers of mullein are infused into an oil and are a great remedy for ear aches, and help clear up an ear infection if you catch it in the early stages.

The roots of mullein are also helpful in healing muscle and tendon injuries. This whole plant is an amazing piece of work!

I have plenty of this herb available and make medicine with it regularly, so fee free to ask if you need any help working with it.

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