The Old Time Farm Magazine: Rye Bread Recipe, Kelp as Fertilizer and a Manure Pit

Read articles from old farm magazines that give advice on manure pits for the farm, a rye bread recipe and kelp as fertilizer.

| January/February 1978

Reprinted from THE COUNTRY GENTLEMAN, © 1915, The Curtis Publishing Company 

Wild Ducks on the Farm

Why not grow wild birds on the farm, both for pleasure and for profit? Prof. J. C. Halpin, of the Wisconsin Experiment Station, has demonstrated that the wild mallard is readily domesticated and may easily be raised by farmers who have small ponds or streams. Professor Halpin started about five years ago with a single pair. Although he sold many last year, he now has a flock of more than 200. The bird propagates so rapidly — from thirty to forty eggs a season — and shows the inherent ability to shift for itself at so early an age that the plan has evidences of being a good commercial proposition.

Naturally the first question asked is how these birds may be kept in captivity. The original stock was bagged by hunters. When turned over to Professor Halpin he clipped one wing of each bird to the first joint. The following spring the thirty-odd eggs laid were divided between the incubator and the mother. The little ones became so domesticated from handling after hatching that they were even greater pets than the domesticated ducks on the farm. Their rapid increase in numbers has not changed this condition.

It is a sight worth seeing to behold these 200 mallards start on their exercise flights about four o'clock in the morning and just before sundown, sometimes in groups, then in an unbroken straight line. At times during the day they may take a spin, but when the weather is hot they prefer to lie in some shady place and quack family gossip. Sometimes they will go miles away or alight in pastures long distances from the yards that have been fenced off for them. A word to the farm dog with whom they have been raised and he is after them. As if they understood the message they arise and circle to the yards.

Occasionally one or more pairs of these mallards may leave, but this happens too seldom to be considered of importance. On the leg of each duck, a few weeks after hatching, is placed a registration seal. This gives an opportunity to keep an exact record of each bird as to laying and breeding qualities.

Not unlike guineas, these domesticated mallards retain many of the instincts peculiar to their wild nature. When mother and baby ducks are out in the field, let a strange object approach and with one quack the little brown birds hide in the grass close to the earth. Moreover, these wild ducks are habitual imitators. Let one mallard start limping and in ten minutes, unless there is something to attract attention elsewhere, a majority will be limping. A strange noise, the appearance of the dog, and all will again be walking naturally.

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