Coming Soon – Autumn Ducklings!
You might think I’m a bit crazy for hatching ducklings (or chicks) in the fall. Why would anyone think of incubating eggs at this time of year? You can read more about my reasons for Hatching Chicks in Autumn, if you like. The short answer? I would like to raise one more batch of meat ducks for the freezer this year and I’d also like a few duck hens to start laying eggs in the spring.
The Cycle of Life in My Coop
I keep most of my chickens and ducks for one or two laying cycles. I process them for stewing when they go into their first or second molt. It costs too much to keep older birds that only lay a couple of eggs a week but still eat the same amount of feed. So the ducks that hatched last fall and started laying eggs in the spring will, most likely, go into a molt next spring or early summer. I want to have several replacements for them so I don’t run out of duck eggs. You see, I’m sort of addicted to duck eggs for my home-baked goodies!
Why Duck Eggs?
If you’ve never baked with duck eggs in place of chicken eggs, you don’t know what you’re missing! They have more protein and fat than chicken eggs and baked goods made with them come out so moist, fluffy and delicious. There I go, making myself hungry for something yummy…please excuse me while I go bake something. 🙂
Putting Ducks in the Freezer
I have found that raising Pekin ducks for meat is a great way to be a little bit more self sufficient. I used to order Cornish X chicks from a hatchery for our meat birds. They grow quickly and have a lot more meat on them than heritage chickens. However, I don’t like depending on hatcheries for the chicks. I wanted to hatch my own meat birds and I’ve found that Pekin ducklings grow fast and provide about the same amount of meat as the Cornish X chicks, in about the same amount of time.
I like knowing that my birds have been handled as humanely as possible from hatch to processing. Hatching and raising them myself saves cash and provides the highest qualitly meat for our family meals. Some of these ducks will be kept whole for roasting, while others are cut up for boneless, skinless breasts and pressure canned meat. The older ducks are great for grinding into sausage.
I don’t want to count my ducklings before they hatch, but a dozen birds for our freezer and a half dozen for eggs next year, sounds just about right. I have 11 eggs saved so far and over the next few days I should have enough to start my new hatch.
Do you hatch in the autumn? Have you found more pros, or cons, for fall hatching? Do you raise your own birds for meat, or only for laying?