Monday, January 5, 2009

Duck eggs

Every morning here is like an Easter egg hunt. The ducks are just hysterical in the way they lay their eggs everywhere. There are a few regular places that I find eggs as I walk in the chicken house. There are always two in the fancy built-to-specific-plan duck nest boxes. There are a few behind one of the big bins that holds chicken feed. And there may be one or two in the dust under a set of chicken nest boxes. Beyond that, they can be anywhere.

The ducks do the majority of their laying before 8 a.m. each day. Right now I'm bringing in about two dozen eggs a day as birds tend to lay less when the days are shorter. This morning half a dozen eggs looked as if they had been randomly slung across the mud in the chicken yard. I am so grateful for the rain but the ducks have such a good time playing in shallow puddles that I think they don't stop to get out of them before laying their eggs. Fortunately the eggs have a waxy, waterproof coating on them when they are laid so are usually fine once they've been washed. On occasion I find an egg that looks like it spent more than a brief time in the mud so that goes over the fence where the dogs happily retrieve it. I recall a farmer mentioning that eating raw eggs will kill a dog. When questioned further, he admitted that nutritionally the eggs are fine but that he grew up on a farm where they had to shoot a dog that got into the habit of eating eggs.... Since our dogs cannot get to most of the eggs, I am not afraid that I am teaching them to raid the hen house - they just know I fling an egg to them now & again.

The duck eggs have much thicker shells than chicken eggs. Just this week I managed to bounce a duck egg off of the back of a cow as I was throwing it to Regina, one of the Anatolian shepherds. It hit the ground, rolled half way down the hill & when Regina caught up with it she still had to chew it open to eat it.

Right now we have an abundance of duck eggs as Saturday Market is over for the winter. I cook quite a few for the dogs but have decided to start cooking & freezing the extras for our pigs. We should have the first two in a week or so & then the next three by mid-February. I am funny about all of our animals' diets & love to give them a healthy variety. I know that commercial feed is specially formulated & that is not a debate I want to get into but I would hate to have to eat the same beige stuff out of the same bag every day of my life so try to treat the animals as I would like to be fed. We also find the ways animals approach different foods to be so entertaining! During pumpkin season, the sheep, goats or cows will begin by eating a hole in the side of a pumpkin & chewing away at the seeds & thickest part of the flesh. As the flesh gets stripped away, they will move onto another pumpkin. The chickens will come behind & work on that opened pumpkin until all that is left is the outer skin, now thin as a sheet of cardboard. Once the pumpkins are gone, the goats will come back & begin to eat away at those thin sheets. They are not eating so much out of hunger's sake as much as for variety. Of course, any food is also a lot more attractive if another animal is nearby & showing an interest in it.

One of the more comical food experiences we have had was when there were several coconuts in the scraps from the Hyatt. They were buried in the lettuces & other goodies so we didn't initially notice them. As the scrap pile dwindled, the coconuts were left on the ground. The chickens pulled off some of the hairy outer husk parts & rolled the coconuts around a good bit but finally lost interest. I split a coconut & drained the water inside over their chicken feed. They loved that! I put the broken pieces back on the ground & the chickens picked at them for a while but didn't make much headway so lost interest. I finally took a hammer & whacked all of the meat from the shell. I didn't want to choke the poor birds on big hunks so fed them to the sheep & goats who thought they were getting candy. Everyone had a treat of sorts & I was amused in the pasture for at least half an hour. Which certainly gives you insight into where a day goes around here!

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