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Khaki Campbell ducklings

Khaki Campbell ducklings

We have Khaki Campbell ducks for their egg laying abilities. Our original ones were great and laid year round apart from a few weeks off in late December/early January. Unfortunately they are not very good at hatching eggs or rearing ducklings, so after a while I needed to get some more. Our friend gave us some but I don’t think they are very good Khaki Campbells as they don’t lay nearly as well and some of them have some white on them. They do seem to be marginally better mothers though and each year at least one manages to sneak off and hatch out some eggs. 

A week ago Timothy reported that one of the ducks had eight ducklings so I ventured forth to catch them. I called the ducks into the pen and was very impressed that the mother duck managed to bring 5 of her 8 ducklings with her. I caught those 5 and put them in a separate duckling rearing pen. I then found and caught the other 3 and added them to the pen. Finally, I caught the mother duck and put her in with them since she seemed a reasonably devoted mother. The next day one of the ducklings was dead and another one looked none too good. This has become a daily occurrence until we only have 2 ducklings left. Two of the ducklings had definitely been attacked by something (probably a stoat or ferret) but the rest had no marks on them – just limp little bodies in the grass.

Next time – no matter how devoted the mother – the duckling will be coming inside where I can keep a close eye on them!

Duck and ducklings

Duck and ducklings

ducks1

We have a small flock of Khaki Campbell ducks for egg production rather than meat production. We have learnt from experience that Khaki Campbell ducks are lousy mothers so in the past we have tried hatching eggs in a borrowed incubator (very successful) and under a broody bantam (not as successful). However hatching the eggs is just the start. In the past we have lost duckling to ferrets (or stoats) and even to pukekoes! And, if you manage to raise them to full size, invariably most of them are drakes. I no longer have bantams and my Rhode Island Reds don’t seem to go broody so I’ve been on the look out for a reasonably-priced incubator – to no avail. No ducklings this year, I thought.

However one of my ducks surprised me by sneaking away and managing to hatch 6 ducklings. She proudly led them down to the pond and that is when I discovered them. I knew from experience that, if I left them with her, they would gradually disappear until there were none so I decided we needed to catch them. Easier said than done! In the end we sent Timothy into the pond on his boogie board to try and herd the ducklings (their mother had left them to it) into the mouth of the pond. Eventually we caught them all. The next day we found one dead but the rest grew and thrived although one turned out to be a wild duckling rather than a Khaki Campbell. And, of course, all but one of the Khaki Campbells was a drake. The one duck was put into the existing flock and that left 4 ducks for me to harvest.

I don’t enjoy killing animals but, if I want to eat meat then I feel I should be prepared to do what is necessary to procure it. It is very easy to just buy pre-packaged meat in the supermarket but it also means that you don’t need to confront the reality of what has to happen for us be meat-eaters. I chose a day for the deed and steeled myself (and my knife) to the task in hand. In the past I have found duck-plucking to be very time consuming so I decided to see if the Internet had any useful tips to speed things up (or perhaps I was putting the task off?). I found a very useful site with videos of the process and picked up a few tips that I hoped would help.

Once the ducks were quickly and humanely dispatched I settled down to the plucking. I hadn’t got far into my first duck when I realised that it was full of pin feathers. These are feathers that haven’t fully developed yet and are much harder to pull out. I remembered that the video mentioned ‘breasting’ as a good technique to use if there were lots of pin feathers so I headed inside to watch that video.

In the end I didn’t bother to pluck the ducks but instead, cut off the breast meat and the legs. I won’t be able to do roast duck but thought I would use the breasts to make Duck in a Spicy Orange Sauce from Gillie Basan’s Vietnamese Food and Cooking for my husband’s birthday and keep the legs for adding to casserolet in the winter.

duck-meat

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