It is now four weeks into the new term at Stony Kreek Farm Medical School session. The class of 2017 has arrived and is actively attending class. The class of 2016 doctors are teaching them and preparing them to assist in the growing animal menagerie at the farm
We recently purchased another eight ducks of different breeds to add to our flock on the farm. Among those are Fawn Runner Ducks, Cayugas,and Mallards.
The first breed we introduced in 2017 is the Cayuga. This is the first breed bred in the continental United States and dates back 180-plus years. The duck originated in the Cayuga Lake region of New York state. Breeders produced stock from crossing a Black Wild Duck with Mallards. The first recorded date of the duck is 1848.
The breed was officially recognized by the American Poultry Association in 1874. It is a classified as a medium-sized duck and is known for its meat and egg laying. It is less aggressive and loud than the more famed Pekin, but has a much desired appearance. The males will weigh up to 8 pounds and the females 7 pounds. The males inherited the green head from the mallard with a black bill, dark brown eyes, black feathers, and black legs. The females have a black bill and feathers with dark brown eyes and green laced feathers. They are good free rangers and lay between 150 and 200 eggs per year. They have a large breast and are excellent in taste, according to Wikipedia. We were so taken with the appearance of the Cayugas we purchased four of them. Thus far, we have seen two drakes and two hens.
The second breed purchased is the Fawn Runner duck. This unusual bird walks upright and looks almost human in its walking. They are best known for their laying. Some sources say they lay between 200 to 300 eggs per year. The eggs are blue-green in color.
The males can reach up to 30 inches in height and the females 20 inches. Their upright posture is the result of a pelvic girdle that forces them to stand upright. The breed originated in the East Indies and is brown and white in appearance. They have also been called Indian Runner Ducks from their islands of origin. They are excellent foragers and are great for free-ranging on a farm, which is what we propose to have them do.
They were used in the breeding of the Khaki Campbell and passed on their egg-laying ability to that breed. It looks like we have a drake and a hen.
The third breed of duck we purchased was the oldest and best known of all wild ducks, the Mallard. It is indigenous to the United States and is found as far south as Mexico. It is one of the most social of all species and tends to congregate in flocks. It takes the males up to 14 months to fully mature. It is a very social bird and likes to talk amongst themselves quite a bit.
We were fortunate to adopt two hens as they are now getting their adult plumage. The Mallard, as with other breeds, is flexible in its choice of foods. It eats a variety of insects and plants. It also consumes a great deal of worms and roots of plants.
Mallards choose a mate in the fall between September and October. They will stay together through the mating season in early spring when the female is laying. As with other ducks, Mallards will lay between eight and 13 eggs before sitting.
Females can become testy along with the males during the brooding season. They can be aggressive toward other ducks and other animals. When domesticated, Mallards are monogamous and stay with one mate throughout their lifetime. The Mallard did not begin as a domesticated duck, and its laying may be less than the other domestic breeds with counts being as low as 60 eggs annually.
Medical School has been in session for a month now, and the older doctors are taking an active interest in their new pupils, watching them carefully to see no malpractice occurs in class session. We hope to have our new students practicing medicine by the early Fall. It is encouraging to have the new ducks eating out of your hand and taming down to where they can be handled better than ducks a year older. As in the comic strip Peanuts, “THE DOCTOR IS IN!!”
Tom Hemme and his wife, Diana, work to raise crops and animals on Hemme Farm in Missouri. Born and raised in Nashville, Tenn., Tom taught agricultural history and Native American heritage for many years. Follow Tom on his website, Shagadillies.com. Read all of Tom’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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