So you think you want ducks…

It was about 5 years ago when I said to my husband, “I think I want ducks!” As we lived in a 2 bedroom condo at the time and only had experience raising the typical cat, dog and a rabbit, I think he thought I was nuts.  In hindsight, he was right! I had no idea that a few short years later we’d be raising a happy flock of ducks (and a goose) in our backyard!

Here are 5 things we’ve learned along the way…

Ducks love water and that means mud

You know the saying “like a duck to water”? It’s true! Ducks love water and that means lots of mud!  Ducks need water for a healthy life – for cleaning, for eating and for splashing, of course!  It sounds simple but providing fresh water year round in certain climates can be a challenge!

Our ducks just love splashing around in their pools!

Ducks have unique nutritional needs

Just like chickens have their own needs, waterfowl do as well.  One misconception is that ducks can simply eat what chickens eat.  This is simply not true.  Ducks, like other waterfowl, have unique needs such as higher levels of niacin (vitamin B3) to keep their legs strong and healthy. 

Ducks love company

Ducks are very social animals that thrive in the company of other ducks.  In the wild, ducks live as part of a flock and need friends to keep them company.  Ideally, you’d want to start with at least 5 ducks in your flock and be mindful of your duck to drake (male duck) ratio.  Over mating can be a real problem so an ideal ratio is 1 drake to 4-5 ducks.  Or you can skip the drakes altogether and just have a flock of females if you aren’t interested in breeding.

The flock out in the yard during an adventure.

Duck eggs are delicious

Hands down, duck eggs taste way better than chicken eggs! Duck eggs have a rich and creamy taste unlike any chicken egg I’ve ever tasted.  Duck eggs are excellent for baking due to their higher fat content which makes cakes and other baked goods fluffier.  Due to their thicker shell, duck eggs store longer than chicken eggs.  But trust me, they won’t be around long enough to go bad!

Fresh eggs are one of life’s simple joys!

Ducks make for easy prey

If you aren’t careful ducks can become easy targets for predators.  Whether in a wooded or urban environment there is no shortage of animals that would love to eat your ducks – hawks, raccoons, fox, bobcats, neighborhood dogs, skunks, weasels, snakes… the list is long!  Providing a safe and secure day-time and night-time enclosure is a must!

Kerensa
Kerensa

Always the one to care for animals, Kerensa has been overjoyed to take on the challenge of learning about and raising our flock of ducks! Not afraid to get her hands dirty, it isn’t unusual to find her elbows deep in straw and mud to make sure that the ducks are taken care of.

2020 Maple Syrup Season: Pre-Season Summary

Good things come to those that scale up; isn’t that the saying?

The 2020 maple syrup season will be our third year of tapping our trees for their sweet sap and boiling it down to make pure maple syrup. The whole thing started off with simply tapping our trees and we were going to give the sap to our friend to boil, but as I’m sure you can tell, that isn’t the way that things happened!

The 2018 maple season started with us buying 3 metal buckets and taps to use, but quickly escalated into purchasing tubing and plastic taps which allowed us to have a total tap count for that season of 25. We built a DIY wood-fired evaporator, based loosely around the inspiration from Eric over at GardenFork, and made our first 3 gallons of syrup. Looking back on that first year it is clear that we had no idea what we were doing and how hooked we could get on the process!

Our trusty old file cabinet evaporator in action

Fast forward through 2019, where we added a complex tubing system and had a total of almost 100 taps, we come into this season where I feel we now actually know what we are doing (mostly) and the goal is to now not only make syrup for the fun of it, but also to sell some as a part of our homesteading journey. Much like any business, “you have to spend money to make money”, and this endeavor is no different! Major upgrades were needed to speed up the process and improve the quality of the product, the greatest of which was a new evaporator.

That little DIY evaporator that we build in 2018 out of a discarded file cabinet did its job much better than we could have expected, but we were only able to boil at an average of 3 gallons per hour and when you collect potentially over 250 gallons in a week the time needed to boil all the sap was not available. In future posts I’ll talk about the reverse osmosis system that we use to help reduce the sap volume, but even with that we needed a bigger evaporator that would help us to move up in the maple world! Luckily we have a few great local buy and sell Facebook groups and one day in October just happened to notice an evaporator for sale in the next town over. A few emails and a phone call later, we had the 2’x7′ evaporator that we will use for the foreseeable future!

In addition to the new evaporator, we’ve added a second vacuum pump and collection tank to service the rear of the property better than last year. This allowed us to split some very long tubing runs into shorter ones, but also spread a bit more so we are now running about 160 taps in total! The expansion requires more logistical equipment like pumps and hoses to move the sap around.

There is nearly a mile of 3/16″ tubing strung throughout our property transporting sap to the tanks.

After all of the changes that we have planned and implemented for this season, we are hopeful for good weather that allows the trees to produce sap for many weeks and that all of our gear works just as well as it should! We are quickly moving into the thick of maple syrup season so we hope that you’ll come along on this ride with us!

Jonathan
Jonathan

If there is a way to automate, streamline, or perhaps even over-complicate a simple system, this is your guy! Jonathan is thrilled to share his first-hand experiences and knowledge from our homesteading experience.