Disclaimer: I’ve never done this before and have yet to see if it rings true. Here’s how the story goes!
As you may be aware, we bought 20 ducks a few weeks ago with some friends. We intend to butcher most of them this weekend, but my man and I (ok, mostly I) took it into our heads to keep a few hens (+1 drake) for egg production. So we’d have a start when we (Lord willing) purchased land.
Butchering weekend is creeping up on us, and last night I suddenly realized that we didn’t know which hens were currently laying. Which ones were young? Which ones would produce for us this spring? Which ones were past their prime? We were told the birds a year old and upward.
T’would be sad to butcher the good layers and end up with old, feeble, low-producing hens!
I suddenly realized we needed to discern between current layers and past layers, which birds would be butchered and which would become part of our new flock. Or gaggle. Whatever you call a herd of ducks!
After doing some quick research the night before, I set myself to the task at morning’s light. Arming myself in carhartt gear. Slipping a tube of blue paint into the pocket of my overalls. Grabbing the bird’s food and water. Starting the trek downhill.
Their quacking from within the house was an answer to my turkey call. They wanted out!
And I wanted to keep our share. All of them! But I know it wouldn’t be wise. Feeding animals for the sake of feeding animals isn’t what we’re about. It’s about enjoying them, yes. But also about food. And making sure its worthwhile financially.
So folks, here’s what my research told me to do. Here’s what I did.
HOW TO TELL IF A DUCK IS LAYING
Pelvic bones. It’s all in the distance between pelvic bones.
In order to feel them, you’ve gotta catch the duck. I highly recommend doing this at a time when all your birds are contained to a small-ish area! And have a space where you can remove the “checked ones” from the rest of the flock.
At first I examined 3-4, until I understood what I was feeling for and the average space between pelvic bones. Those birds were returned to the flock. Then, I got serious about the task.
Catch the bird and hold it’s back to your chest. That’s right, with your hand around it’s breast! Because I had to take photos, I knelt in the snow so I could better control the duck!
The first time I searched, I found the bird’s breast bone, halfway down it’s belly.
Has to be lower.
As I felt lower, I had a moment of doubt. It was only soft. Soft and smushy.
Still soft, downy and gooshy.
Right above where the duck passes its…y’know…dropping and such, I found them. Two points facing inward on either side.
Ah, there! The pelvic bones! Don’t push too hard or you may have a…hem…dirty surprise!
According to my research, if a duck is currently laying (or still in laying mode/has the ability), you should be able to fit several (3-4) fingers between those bones.
Now don’t literally try to fit fingers between the bones, or like I said, you may receive a nasty, greenish-brown surprise. Rather, the pelvic bones should be far enough apart that you could fit 3-5 fingers between them.
As I worked my way through the gals and their pelvises, they varied in distance. Some where no more than a finger apart. Others were three. Some, four.
Note: we are in the dead of winter here. They’ve laid 1? 2? eggs since we got them? I really hope this test proves true for us!
Some of the ducks were smaller than others, for which I accounted.
Know what? I’m positive I felt an egg inside one of the gals, just about ready to make it’s entrance! If only we get them settled in their new environment and stop chasing them around, etc!
Hens that were currently laying (according the test) received some “new color.” Yep. From my art supplies! On the head. A blue streak.
Bird by bird, I felt them all (expect the drakes and fluffy-headed ones which we didn’t want to keep). Turns out 6 or 7 of the hens were currently laying.
Poor creatures. Their little hearts beat 101 mph as I hugged them close! I sincerely hoped I wouldn’t be the cause of a heart attack!
And then finally, they were done! There are now 7-8 birds sporting blue streaks on their heads!
Note: if anyone out there has used this test and found it to be an accurate way to test a duck’s productivity, please drop a comment! I’d love to hear any tips or experiences!
How I wish I could keep them all. But I know. I can’t!
On butchering day, we’ll choose 3-4 from among the marked birds, based on size and appearance.
And sadly enough, only one Buff Orpington made the cut! I had hoped to keep most of the buffs, primarily because white isn’t a good survival color. Depending where you live, it can be the difference between life or death for a flock!
However, I’m not complaining. No-sir-ee! We’ll take whatever we have and ride with it!
I’m tickled we have opportunity to keep a few! I’ll introduce you to them soon as we finalize who the lucky ones are.
Yep. I’m going to name them. Any ideas?!!!