Chapter 6 – eggs

It wasn’t until I brought my first young poultry to my little homestead the next spring of 2008 that things started to change forever. I started out with 10 chicks and few ducklings. I was terrified to get them, after reading all about poultry predators and housing needs. But I did it anyhow, figuring it’d figure it out. I was abandoning more of my vegan notions and embracing eating from my farm, sustanence and deliciousness. I had been craving eggs, but only wanted to eat them if they came from happy, healthy birds that would stroll about during the day and go into their coop at night for safety.

I purchased these first chicks from a craigslist ad. The “farm and garden” section on this site had so far been providing nearly everything I needed for my little farm; goat breeding services, goat sales, hay purchases and deliveries- so why not some chicks as well? However, craigslist is anonymous, and I knew I had to be careful especially when going to a strangers address. I’m so glad I brought a friend with me to pick up my babies, as the address was located way out in the boonies and the guy was a total creep.

Auracana chickens, known for laying eggs with very pretty easter egg colored shells, were hard to come by locally, but he had that breed of chicks for sale, as well as hundreds of other baby birds in his 4 car garage. The cement floor was covered in chicken poop, and in his stocking feet, he showed us his giant brooder bins made out of washing machine boxes with suspended heat lamps. Each bin was full of baby birds, it seemed there must have been thousands of little beings in there. The Aracauna chicks were ridiculously adorable with their trademark little ear muff tufts already obvious, even as tiny babies. When I peeked in the next box, I saw various breeds of ducklings, I made a spontaneous decision to get a couple of them. The Khaki Campbells looked like little platypuses, milk-chocolate colored fuzz balls with brown bills. I also chose one Ancona duckling, her tiny yellow webbed feet were marbled with black spots, and the creepy guy explained her feather pattern would be similar. I didn’t know much about ducks, but had heard they were hardy and laid eggs like chickens.

My friend asked to use his restroom before we made the 2 hour drive back to my place. The strange man led me to a screen door off the back of the garage, pointing out some of his breeding chicken flock in the backyard. I looked out, but kept my wits sharp. My friend came back from the restroom with a horrified look on her face. She mouthed “let’s get OUT of here!” The man tried to hug us goodbye as I gave him cash for the 3 ducklings and 10 chicks which we quickly placed in my cat carrier as we got the heck out of there. She told me that it was a disgusting, horrifying mess and she saw some rather inappropriate objects in the bathroom!

Late in the summer, my babies became egg layers. The very first egg I found was a duck egg. It was from my Ancona duck, and it had a baby blue shell, which I was not expecting. Not only was this duck, who I’d christened Milky Way, beautiful with her white and black painted pony feathers, but she laid blue eggs! She had exited one of the cat carriers I had set up as a floor level nest box as I entered the poultry pen. The egg was still warm, and it was huge.

Now, after raising my adorable ducklings up to adulthood, I might have had an extreme bias, but that first duck egg changed my life. I could NOT believe how delicious it was! Rich….almost creamy, substantial and silky. Nothing like a chicken egg, whatsoever. After being involved in natural foods world for so many years, I could not believe I had never heard of duck eggs before! I did some prospective numbers and decided 30 female ducks would be a good place to start. I booked female ducklings from a hatchery to arrive in October, and they would begin laying eggs the following spring of 2009. That fall I worked on my plans to begin my little duck egg business, estimating feed costs and other expenses based on what I had been learning with my first ducks. I researched what egg products were out there, and decided on a price to sell them at. I contacted the state I was going to be selling my eggs in to follow the regulations, and designed a simple label for my egg carton. Then, I brought a couple sample eggs to the buyers at a few co-ops and restaurants, to gauge their interest and show them the quality of my product, letting them know the price and that I’d have eggs for sale in the spring. I was getting ready to start a duck egg revolution!

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