Farmyards are fully diverse and integrated communities. They are societies in which different species of animals play differing, varying, and interesting roles. The animals of Stony Kreek Farm are no different.
One such instance is that of our resident "doctors." Yes, our ducks are the physicians of the barnyard. They walk around consulting with one another, quacking to themselves and at the other animals. Ducks are very social creatures and are known for their intelligence.
We own a total of three ducks: two Pekin hens and one Khaki Campbell drake, or male duck. The Pekin duck originally came from China. It is a member of the Mallard family. The Pekin is best known for its meat and docile temperament. It lays up to 200 eggs per year. When you buy a duck in the grocery store, it is most likely a butchered Pekin.
The Khaki Campbell is a hybrid of several breeds. They originated in Great Britain over 100 years ago. A woman named Adel Campbell crossed Mallards, Rouens, and Indian Runner ducks to produce the breed that is named for her. They are docile in temperament and are known for their laying ability. The Khaki Campbell is known to lay up to 300 eggs a year.
The day begins early at Stony Kreek Farm. Fritz, the Appenzeller Spitzhaben rooster, awakens everyone and everything at 5am. Soon thereafter, you can hear a very loud quack! (Meet Fritz in an earlier post.)
Our two Pekins are called "Peekaboo" and "Skipper." The Khaki Campbell is affectionately known as "Little Buddy." We named the two for the characters on "Gilligan's Island." Peekaboo was named because she slants her head to one side as if to say "Peekaboo, I see you!"
The doctors walk around the yard and visit all the animals. Once in front of a group or coop, they circle one another and quack at each other. They will often flap their wings at a situation or at the other barnyard creatures. We call this part of the day, the "consult."
The most fun part of the day is the feeding of all animals. We feed each group separately. The "doctors" was watch with interest as the other animals finish their food and then make "follow-up" visits to collect their "fees." Yes, they collect food from the leftovers from the other animals.
"Quuuuaaack, quack, quack," breaks the silence as the end of the day approaches.
Often, I will yell, "Doctors!" They start quacking to themselves and start making their way to their enclosure.
Ducks are the prescription for a good time and alternative for those of us allergic to chicken eggs. If one is allergic to chicken eggs, that person should not be allergic to duck eggs — I have enjoyed French toast for the first time in my life.
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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