Notes From a First Time Front Yard Farmer: Ducks, Ducks, and More Ducks

I have been asking myself, “Is there such a thing as having too many ducks?”  Probably.  Come May I will learn if I have hit my limit.  Last Friday, I was able to preorder 10 Saxony ducks, and because of shipping requirements, 5 random rare breed ducks.  The 5 ducks could be more Saxony, Magpie, Silver Appleyard, or Crested.

Magpie ducks known for being excellent layers.  They are active foragers, happily consuming bugs, slugs, snails, and any other pesky insect.
Magpie ducks known for being excellent layers. They are active foragers, happily consuming bugs, slugs, snails, and any other pesky insect.
Known for having a calm temperament.  Appleyard's are good egg layers and meat birds.  They are active foragers.
Known for having a calm temperament. Appleyard’s are good egg layers and meat birds. They are active foragers.
Crested ducks are known for their poof.  It has been selected for over the centuries, but the mutation that causes the crest can be accompanied by a lethal allele combination, making purebred breedings risky. Crested ducks are reasonably good layers, but are mostly kept as pets and/or or ornamentation.
Crested ducks are known for their poof. It has been selected for over the centuries, but the mutation that causes the crest can be accompanied by a lethal allele combination, making purebred breedings risky.
Crested ducks are reasonably good layers, but are mostly kept as pets and/or or ornamentation.

I’ve been looking around my house and asking myself where am I going to brood 15 ducklings and 6 goslings.  I’m pretty sure I have enough potential brooders – a couple old rabbit cages, the totes I’ve used before for chicks and ducklings, and an old pack and play I’m thinking could be modified.  They all aren’t going to fit in the living room, so I think I’ll have to take over the kid’s playroom.  They won’t mind, and it’ll help get the birds socialized to us.

According to “Storey’s Illustrated Guide to Poultry Breeds,” the Saxony duck was originally developed in Germany in the first half of the 12th Century, and were fairly common until World War II.  Like many things, only a few of the ducks survived the war.  A breeder, Albert Franz, began his breeding program again in Germany afterwards.  In 1984 David Holderread, a leading waterfowl expert in the U.S., imported a few Saxony ducks to his Oregon farm and helped build support for the breed in America.

Saxony hen and drake.  The drakes are known as particularly good meat birds.
Saxony hen and drake. The drakes are known as particularly good meat birds.

Saxony ducks are considered a good all-purpose breed.  They are excellent layers, will brood and raise their own young, are good meat birds, active foragers, and able to adapt to different environments.

With a name like Saxony I can’t help but imagine a tale out of a Bernard Cornwall book.  The ducks lining up in a shield wall, shields overlapping, ready to hold the line and fight off the Viking dogs.

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