KW Homestead

Pasture Raised Poultry from Our Family to Yours

Tag: ducks (page 1 of 4)

Homestead Hounds: Herding Birds & Hunting Mice

Our two dogs, Bolt and Coona, make a really great mouse hunting team. Bolt, the quicker of the two, has lightning fast reflexes and can snatch a mouse straight out of the air. Coona, who is the hound, usually flushes mice out to Bolt by rushing in between feed bins and spooking them out in his direction. It’s fantastic to watch their cooperation!

While Coona is the second-in-command mouse hunter, she is the leader when it comes to duck and chicken herding. We recently noticed that her legacy as a hound/shepherd mix, makes her an excellent and very focused duck and chicken caretaker. Because our birds are pasture raised and free ranging, they are often ending up in places where they shouldn’t be! One of these places is the backyard. The backyard fencing is cattle paneling, which means that birds can easily slip in and out of the yard. Until recently, Jason or I would herd the ducks out of the yard ourselves before letting the dogs outside, but ultimately some would sneak right back in. It took us only a few days of watching Coona interact with these daring ducks to realize how gentle she could be when herding them back through the fence towards the woods. Bolt, on the other hand, has always needed a bit more coaxing in order to be gentle  with the birds. He just gets so excited!

Coona impresses us every day with how much she loves her job. She will quietly and  contentedly lay near the back fence waiting for a chick to pop through and then slowly, and with complete focus, usher the chick back through to his side of the fence. Bolt is often watching this… He usually keeps a check on himself so that he doesn’t chase the birds too intensely or grab one with his mouth. It’s amazing to watch Coona be so delicate with ducks and chickens. She interacts with them very lovingly, with great tenderness, and with great concern for the rules. We would love to be able to say that we taught her to be such a great herding dog, but it’s just not true. It’s in her blood!

Considering the great working team that Bolt and Coona are, it’s no wonder that they have a fantastic time outside together securing the homestead and caring for the animals!

 

Pekin Ducks on Pasture

What a lovely sight… Seeing our birds out on pasture and enjoying life. It doesn’t get any better than that!

 

 

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Pekin & Runner Ducklings Join the Homestead

The first batch of these cute duck babes arrived here this week! They spent the first few days inside (since the outside temperatures dropped to 20 with lots of wind) and they’ve been growing steadily!

The Pekin breed is the breed we raise for meat, and we decided on a few Runner ducks as well, a hilarious breed that stands super tall and looks like they might just fall over at all times! There’s not much cuter than a baby duck!

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Happy Ducks Come Home

This video is a brief look at the beginning of our ducks’ nighttime routine here on the homestead. After we call “duck, duck, duck!” they come running back to their nighttime space to wait for their evening meal. We just added fresh bedding (consisting of leaves) before this video was filmed, and since ducks are hunters at heart, you can see them searching through the bedding in case any bugs are hiding.

Check out the video below!

 

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Beware the Label “Free Range”

Everyone knows that poultry labeled as free range is better than poultry that isn’t, right?

Sadly, you might have to think again!

According to the USDA website, which controls and manages food safety and food labeling, all that is required of producers who raise meat labeled as “free range” or “free roaming” is that they must “demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.”

So what does this really mean? It means that producers can raise their birds with less than 1 square foot of space each, they can raise them on a concrete floor, under fluorescent lighting, living on layers of their own poop, as long as they have “access to the outside.” Access to the outside can mean a small door that leads to a parking lot, a fenced in concrete slab, or a lovely pasture. You can see the problem here…

Free range or organic doesn’t actually say anything about how humanely the birds are raised, or whether or not they actually ever go outside and enjoy the sunshine, grass, and bugs.

Industrial chicken porch

This is a “porch” in a commercial poultry operation that counts as “access to the outside.” Image from cornucopia.com.

Your best bet as a consumer is to buy locally, and get to know your farmer so you can really be sure of how your meat and eggs are raised!

So what does the life of a truly free range duck look like here at KW Homestead? Check out the video below to see how they live…

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Chatting with Ducks

It’s the middle of winter here, and even though it’s not very cold right now, we’re still dreaming of spring!

This video is a brief look at the enthusiasm our free range & pasture raised ducks show when they think it’s dinner time. When Jason says “duck, duck, duck,” they know good things are coming their way!

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Pekin Ducks: Pasture Raised and Having Fun!

We started raising animals for our family, and have since expanded to be able to offer meats to your family, too! But you can be confident that we still raise our animals the same way we did in the beginning; with our family and the highest health and nutrition standards in mind. When you eat one of our Pekin ducks, you should know that your product is the best of each batch! We eat our duck, chicken, turkey, and eggs right along side you, and we keep the funny looking (pin feathers or a funny packaging job) for ourselves. We feed ourselves and our most beloved family the meat we raise, and name you part of our farm family! Thanks for supporting our poultry-raising endeavors… We’ll be proud to offer you meat for many years to come!

This video shows you how we raise our Pekin ducks. Raised the right way, on pasture and in the free air (with a couple guard geese as allies!).

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Video Tour: Checking In On the Chicks, Turkeys, Ducks, and Piglets!

We have a lot of exciting things happening here at the homestead, with babies being born and gardens growing!

Check out this brief video tour to see what’s happening:

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How To: Rendering Your Own Duck Fat

First of all, let me start by saying that cooking with duck fat is about the best choice you can make for your health and your taste buds. Duck fat is versatile and flavorful, it stores for long periods of time in your fridge, and a super long time in your freezer! Fantastically, it can be reused over and over (unlike butter or olive oil) and it has a high smoke point. What’s not to love?!

Duck fat has a rich, creaminess to it that rivals pork fat in “yum factor” and lends a subtle umami to any dish!

We recently rendered our own duck fat from our very own pasture-raised, non-GMO Pekin ducks. The process is simple (really) and since we also sell our unrendered duck fat, you too can make cooking with duck fat a reality!

All you need for rendering duck fat:

  • large pot
  • a few cups of water
  • long-handled, metal, slotted spoon
  • duck skin/fat pieces
  • time (a few hours)

We began with 6 pounds of leftover, trimmed skin pieces from our butchering/portioning process. We placed all of this in a large pot and added some water (a cup or two) to the pot to ensure that the fat and skin wouldn’t burn. Then we turned the pot on low.

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Once you get to this stage, you’re done with the hard part!

All you need to do now is keep an eye on your fat. Over time, you’ll see the fat start to cook out of the skin and the water will begin to evaporate (leaving just the delicious fat).

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In the last stage, the skin with shrink and brown up. This is a sign that your fat is almost ready. Be sure to keep an eye on your fat, especially at this stage, since your little skin-bits are closer to burning, as well.

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Once your skin bits are fully browned, your fat is ready! Remove your pot from the heat and let it cool for A LONG TIME. Keep in mind that fat is way hotter than water. Even though your fat will never reach its boiling point (this is intentional… Don’t let it smoke or boil!) it is going to be roughly TWICE AS HOT as boiling water. So be very safe when handling.

You can use a long-handled, slotted, metal spoon to scoop out your skin-bits, or cracklings. Let them drain over the pot before moving them to a place to dry and cool. Congratulations! As a by product of rendering your fat, you’ve creating the most delicious snack known to mankind: duck skin cracklings. Salt and consume with great decadence!

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In the meantime, continue to let your pot of fat cool. We let our fat cool off for many hours before pouring it into containers for storage. Always be safe!

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6 pounds of skin/fat pieces makes approximately 8 cups of rendered fat. We store ours in a huge container in the fridge and scoop out of it every time we fry eggs, sauté veggies, etc.

And sometimes, when no one else is looking, we sneak a small spoonful of just plain fat. We think of it as “duck fat ice cream.”

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Cayuga Ducks for Sale: Your Own Backyard Duck Eggs!

We currently have a small flock of Cayuga ducks for sale. About 15 ducks (females) and 3 drakes are available for your family!

The Cayuga duck is a heritage breed that has been recognized by the American Poultry Association since 1874. The breed is an American breed, originating in New York state. They are prized for their plumage… They have black feathers that are iridescent green, purple, and blue! Such beautiful birds!

They are a duck unlike other ducks. As they age (even during their first year) and they loose feathers and grow new ones, their feathers grow back white (like an aging human!). Often by the end of their life span, they are all white, with black beaks and feet. Males are a little larger than females, and they have a curly tail feather that females do not have. Males are also much quieter (sometimes voiceless), and the females are thought to be less noisy than other common breeds of ducks like the Pekin.

Cayuga ducks

A Cayuga drake (back) and duck (front). Photo courtesy of www.purelypoultry.com

Their eggs are black or gray, and the pigment generally fades as the laying season continues. By the end of the laying season and as the years go on, your Cayuga duck might be laying eggs that only look off-white in color.

With all this information, you may be wondering…

Why Should I Raise a Few Back Yard Ducks for My Family?

  • Duck eggs are more nutritious than chicken eggs.
  • Ducks are easy to keep in a fenced backyard. They can only fly a few feet high, unlike chickens. They are also super easy to herd from place to place, like sheep. They often think as a unit and like to hang out with other duck buddies.
  • They are great for gardens because they do not scratch up your ground or yard. They simply mat the grasses down as they walk around.
  • They are great for pest control. They love slugs, bugs, and even larger critters!
  • Males are not aggressive, like roosters. You can have a small breeding flock of ducks without worrying about a rooster attacking you or making tons of noise!

So, now you’re interested in having some ducks of your own. Fantastic! But now you might be wondering…

What Do I Need to Care for My Ducks?

  • A space to close them in at night to keep predators away. Preferably not a house, since they much prefer to be under the open sky with a small rain cover. The rain doesn’t bother a duck, of course!
  • Duck food! We sell the Non-GMO Feed that we use for our laying flock. Ask us about it!
  • Lots of water! Ducks not only drink a lot of water, but they also love to play in it. We recommend a nipple water system for drinking (so they don’t get it dirty) and a baby pool for playing in!
  • A place to lay eggs. Some cozy straw laid out in their enclosure should suffice. Ducks tend to lay in the early hours of the morning so you should find your eggs when you go to let them out each day!

Who wouldn’t want some family ducks, am I right?

If you’re interested in purchasing Cayuga ducks from our homestead, email us (ourochreway@gmail.com) or give us a call (336.419.0724)! Cayuga heritage ducks are $30/bird.

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