“As the sun peeks up over the tops of the trees, I finish the last of my coffee and get dressed in my ‘barn attire.’ My schedule (and the ducks’) isn’t dictated by the time on the clock on the kitchen wall, but entirely on the sun. They want to be let out at sunup, whether that comes at 5:30 a.m. or 8:00 a.m….It’s cold outside, so I’ve heated up some water in the teakettle and have a special treat for the ducks to go with their breakfast. They’re getting a pan of oats, cracked corn, dried cranberries and mealworms, moistened with warm water.” Duck Eggs Daily by Lisa Steele
I know it’s spring when, every April, a pair of wood ducks appear in our backyard. They like to swim in our two small ponds and they nest somewhere in the miniature forest of beech, maple, and hemlock behind our house that gets a bit swampy in the spring.
Our ducks haven’t shown up yet, but I’m expecting them any day now.
We never see any ducklings, though, and we worry because this is also the territory of a neighborhood fox, as well as hawks and owls. By midsummer our visiting ducks have disappeared – maybe they’re busy tending their nest – and I always miss them once they’ve gone.
So I was delighted when my favorite gardening and sustainable living publisher, St. Lynn’s Press, sent me a review copy of Duck Eggs Daily: Raising Happy, Healthy Ducks…Naturally by Lisa Steele. (Lisa is also the author of Fresh Eggs Daily.)
My husband and I have been learning (very) small-scale vegetable gardening, and I’ve been thinking about branching out into eggs. I’d read in one of my gardening books that ducks are great for pest control and fertilizer, and they’re easier to raise than chickens.
In Duck Eggs Daily, Maine hobby farmer Lisa Steele proves this is so, and I found her enthusiasm and love for ducks (and flocks of all kinds) to be contagious and inspiring.
An expert in small-flock poultry keeping, Lisa has been a long-time owner of chickens, too. She says that ducks are more cold hardy, heat tolerant, and disease resistant than chickens – so I’m thinking ducks might be the way for a beginner like me to get started. They have a longer and more productive laying life too, and duck eggs are especially rich in protein.
Duck Eggs Daily is a beautifully designed little how-to reference book that also reads like a daybook or nature journal, particularly the day-in-a-life-with-ducks chapter. Lisa’s eleven ducks clearly bring her a great deal of joy, and these duck tending activities are lovingly rendered:
- hatching ducklings in an incubator
- collecting eggs at sunrise
- making ducks happy with special treats (such as watermelon, dandelion greens, fresh peas, leftover squash and pumpkins from the garden, and delicious mealworms)
- giving ducks swim time in the kiddie pool
- watching typical duck antics like walking in a row, mud dabbling, tail wagging, and happy quacks.
Each duck topic covered is packed with useful details:
- the characteristics and advantages of various duck breeds
- hatching, brooding and raising ducks
- one complete day in a life with ducks, from sunrise to sunset
- duck behavior and duck treats
- duck houses and duck pools
- duck health
- cooking with duck eggs, with tempting recipes like crème brûlée, lemony egg rice soup, herbed deviled eggs, and homemade pasta.
Lisa says that now is the perfect time to invest in a pair or trio of ducks, because many ducks adopted as pets are abandoned after Easter. She encourages interested readers to adopt two or three from one of the duck rescue organizations listed in the book’s appendix.
After reading Duck Eggs Daily, I concluded that currently we don’t have a lifestyle conducive to raising ducks and doing it well. However, we’re looking forward to ducks in our future when the time is right. It’s a daily commitment, and we’d need to find someone to take over when we travel. I have a hard time picturing myself filling water tubs twice a day, especially during freezing, snowy western New York winters. And, in theory, I like the romance of getting up with the sun to let the ducks out and give them breakfast, but rising early isn’t my favorite thing to do. I’d have to make a commitment to make that happen on cold, dark winter mornings. Still, I like the discipline this entails. I think it would be a great way to start to my day and get me at my writing desk earlier.
But those ducks, they sure are cute, so maybe it will happen sooner rather than later. I’ve never tasted a duck egg, and wouldn’t it be fun to make homemade mint chip ice cream with fresh duck eggs?
I’ve had a small herb garden as long as I can remember, and I’ve always loved flowers, having grown up in a floral shop. Over the past year or two, since we began our vegetable garden and I discovered St. Lynn’s Press, I’ve assembled a great little library that’s still growing.
Slow Flowers, by Debra Prinzing
The 50 Mile Bouquet, by Debra Prinzing
Windowsill Art, by Nancy Ross Hugo
The Herb Lover’s Spa Book, by Sue Goetz
The Cancer Survivor’s Garden Companion, by Jenny Peterson
Yards, by Billy Goodnick