Today was a great day to be a duck again — warm-ish weather, the pond isn’t frozen over. So they’ve been enjoying splashing and swimming. But, this morning, I could only count five ducks in the pond. Checked around the yard, but I didn’t see the other duck. Then a ducky head popped up from underwater and … well, it looked like one duck was trying to drown another duck! Then something I read in a duck forum popped into my head — ducks mating can seem like the drake is trying to kill the female. Or it could look like the drake is trying to drown the female (which … IMO, seems a lot like “trying to kill”. So I’m not sure what exactly the person was trying to convey there!). Our ducks are about five months old and, evidently, have matured enough to start mating. Hopefully, we’ll be able to hatch some new ducks in the spring!
We butchered our broilers and ducks for the year. In a larger household, a whole bird is probably a perfectly reasonable amount of food. But, for us? It’s too much food. Half a bird is a lot more reasonable.
In looking at techniques for grilling and smoking poultry, we came across spatchcocking — basically splitting the whole bird along the spine so it lays flat. It looked like a much quicker way to butcher — and, if we didn’t want to have a whole bird in the end anyway it isn’t like the approach would be counterproductive.
So we’ve been butchering by detaching the crop, airway, and throat. Placing the bird so the backbone is up and the neck facing you, cut along the spine. It’s a little tricky to cut at the hip joint — you’ve got to find the right spot to snip, but the oyster is always included with the leg using this method — and be careful not to pierce intestines. You can leave the spine with one half or cut down the other side of the spine. Cut around the vent, then clear out all of the innards — one entire mass is removed. Either finish spatchcocking to store a whole bird or use shears to cut along the breastbone and have two halves. I’ve found this approach to be a lot quicker than the normal technique — and, since the carcass is open, removing the innards is very easy.
Looking up pekin ducks — they grow out really quickly. We decided to pick up the rest of the ducks at the TSC — quite a bit of driving, but we now have eleven more ducks. That’s a lot of ducks shaking their little tails and dancing! Maybe next week, we can get Anya’s little inflatable pool set up so she can swim with all of the ducks.
The thirteen eggs Astra incubated yielded one chick — a really cute one, and the first one born on our farm. But not the gaggle of broilers we were anticipating. So we decided to buy some more hatchlings for her to raise. The Tractor Supply had Rangers last week, but we didn’t manage to make it out there in time. So I called around to all of the TSC’s in the area trying to find some. No luck, but the next TSC to the south had a lot of birds they were trying to get rid of. Cornish x Rock’s at two for a buck. That’s a great deal, so we headed down. They also had pekin ducks for the same price … and we picked up two to try out raising ducks. I love those little bills!
Well, introducing the ducks to Astra didn’t go so well — they’re pretty active, and they either didn’t want to listen to her or didn’t understand chicken talk … but they wouldn’t go back into the nest when she called them. And now we’ve got ducks in the brooder and a bunch of chicks snuggling up with Astra.