I knew they would be cute... but they are MUCH cuter than I thought they would be. Watching them waddle around the brooder is just the cutest thing ever. We ordered 7 Welsh Harlequins from Metzer Farms. Their customer service was great, and even though I had to wait until 12:30 (when our small post office opened) to pick the little guys up, they were super healthy! I can't believe they were only 3 days old and on their feet and as active as they were.
I found that using the girls' retired snack cups was perfect for their water.
Really helps cut down on the splashing and although they try to fit inside, it isn't exactly doable! This was the first water dish I put together:
Apparently the opening was cut too big! :) This little girl was the first one to discover she could fit inside, and she seems to be pretty smart. She is also the only female we can recognize because she doesn't have as much brown as the others.
This is the one little guy that I got.
He has quite the personality already. He seems to not mind my camera lens, or posing for the camera. Twice I watched him step in a pile of duck poo, and he worked very feverishly to get it off the bottom of his wide webbed foot. Cutest thing ever. He would take a step, and realize something was just not right. I'm glad to know ducks don't prefer to have poo squished to the bottom of their foot. :)
I have wanted chickens for a few years, but couldnt quite get the husband a 100% on board. I needed him to build me a coop so having him on board was crucial to the whole thing happening. Since we have changed the way we are eating, we have been going through a LOT more eggs. One day I just happened to wonder if duck eggs were a healthier option, or if keeping ducks as opposed to chickens had any benefits. Google led me to a couple of different blogs that put chickens and ducks side by side and compared them.
This post over at Tryant Farms was the first one I stumbled on.
This post was so very comical to read.
and this post over at HGTV gardens was also very persuasive.
So, I was pretty much convinced that ducks were 100% for me after only spending about an hour researching them. I still want a few chickens (don't tell my husband yet) but for now I am going to really enjoy my ducks.
The one major downside to ducks is that they do make a really big mess of their pen. I spent quite a bit of time researching how to keep it as clean as possible with minimal to no effort. I'm going to try and incorporate the deep litter method and this is why I want a few chickens. So I can let them into the duck house to do the turning over for me... but in the meantime I may have to rake it a little every week or so.
Point in the ducks favor that helped persuade my loving husband:
- Ducks love dandelions. Dandelions are my husband's biggest pet peeve. He wages war on them every spring. He goes out with a bucket and a special forked tool to get them up at the roots. He pays the girls to go out with a plastic sack and pick them up.
- They sometimes eat yellow jackets. I've heard mixed views on this. Some they only do it once, until they learn their lesson. Others claim their ducks enjoy them... if they actually do catch one.
- Ducks don't need as fancy of an enclosure. Really just something 3 sided to keep them warm in the winter. They tolerate cold much better than chickens. Their waterproof down jacket and extra fat keep them pretty content. They don't roost, so it can be pretty basic.
- Duck eggs have twice the nutritional value as a chicken egg. They do typically contain a slightly higher cholesterol level, but if allowed to free range for most of their food that level is dropped from what I understand.
But, not needing to build a fancy coop was just what my husband needed to hear, and he gave me the okay to order some ducklings. They weren't scheduled to hatch for 3 weeks however... waiting was horrible. The following weekend I found an adorable little playhouse on craigslist and I was ready to go get it for the ducks! Then for some unknown reason that I can't explain, my husband decided we needed a much bigger tool shed/duck house. So, we priced material last Saturday and he drew up some plans. I'm not sure how I managed to get him in building mode, but I am not complaining. We've decided to put in a couple windows in the front portion and I will grow lettuce and spinach out there through the winter! I will probably need to supplement it with a little light, but that shouldn't be a problem. I hate buying lettuce from the store. We tend to get a month's worth of groceries when we do go, and despite my best efforts lettuce rarely keeps as long as I need it to.
I had a hard time deciding which ducks I wanted to keep. I was really torn, do I keep a mixed flock and get to pick from a mixture of ducks? Metzer had several available. But, then I fell in love with the Welsh Harlequin breed. They are considered a rare breed, and are on the critical list, meaning there just really isn't very many breeders breeding them. They are a very calm friendly smaller duck and are excellent layers. You can also tell the Drakes from the hens with a 90% accuracy at birth by the color of their beak. Here is what they look like when they start to get in their coloring.
Photo courtesy of Metzer Farms
I love that the females can vary so much in color pattern and markings, and I love their dark beaks. There is also such a thing as a silver phase Welsh Harlequin and a gold phase. The Gold phase are not as common from what I understand. I more than likely have all Silver phases. But it will be exciting to see these ladies molt and eventually get in their adult feathers. :)
I still have so much to learn! Do you have ducks? If so, what do you love best about them?