Last weekend we celebrated a lovely Easter with Phil’s parents, sister, and nephew. A couple days before that, we’d colored Easter eggs — simply, using crayons and simple dye. This week I have to sneak a hard-boiled egg if I want one, as the kids believe their artwork should live in perpetuity, rotting in the fridge rather than desecrated by being cracked.
We also went to a reading and reception for children’s author Mo Willems, who was funny and engaging. If you have kids and don’t have Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, well, you need it. Even if you don’t have kids, you need it. The reception, which was small, included an Indianapolis outfit called Silly Safaris that brings animals to parties and events. Tommy, Sylvia, and I are now all contemplating getting a rabbit to replace the cat we lost at Christmas. But that’s a story for another day.
In other exciting pet and egg news, we are now duck-ready, thanks to my brother-in-law Steve who made the trip from Michigan to visit and build us a duck coop. He made his own plans for the coop based on a simple drawing in the definitive backyard duck book, Storey’s Guide to Raising Ducks. That book has been my bible lately. Steve, a carpenter by trade and a fabulous dad and uncle, also let Max build the coop with him; I think Max will be asking for jigsaw for Christmas.
The coop has a front door that can lift all the way up, or can be suspended to provide shade. On the side are nesting boxes that the ducks can go into to lay in privacy, and the boxes have a door that lifts so we can access the eggs without crawling into their coop. I can’t stop staring out the dining room window at it, I love it so much.
Next week we have four new friends being delivered: Two Khaki Campells, a lightweight breed known for its friendliness and prolific egg laying, and two Blue Swedish, a middleweight breed known for its sociability, albeit more moderate layers. In all, if the ducks are happy and well fed and protected from predators, the Khaki Campbells will each lay 250 to 340 eggs a year, and the Blue Swedish will each lay 100 to 150 eggs per year. That, my friends, is a lot of eggs. If all works out next year, our Easter eggs will come from the backyard and not the grocery store.
Several people have asked us why we decided on ducks when chickens are so much more prevalent these days. And I do admit I’ve been dreaming of chickens ever since visiting Phil’s aunt and uncle and their little flock many years ago. Here’s why we decided on ducks:
- Ducks kept popping up in gardening books I was reading and were touted by seasoned gardeners as being the ultimate garden helpers. The two that ultimately convinced me were Four-Season Harvest and The Resilient Gardener. Ducks provide fertilization (if you know what I mean), are better foragers than chickens, and organically remove a lot of the nasties that get on garden plants. I’d prefer a duck joyfully eating insects off the plants to my squeamishly picking them off.
- Ducks lay quicker and longer than chickens. I understand that after about year three, the chicken egg production stops. Phil and I, when talking about chickens, had decided that we would then just let them live out their dotage in our backyard after they stopped producing, but with ducks, we learned that they won’t have so many freeloading years.
- Tommy has a chicken egg intolerance, and there’s a possibility that he can eat duck eggs without projectile vomiting. We don’t know this, as we haven’t been brave enough to test it, but some people who can’t tolerate chicken eggs can deal with duck eggs. So we’ll see.
- Ducks are funny and friendly. Our neighbors had a duck follow them home from the local canal and live at their house all summer. Peeps was friendly, took walks with the kids, hung out with our dog, and provided a lot of entertainment. When he flew the coop at the end of the summer, there were some sad kids who were aching to hang out with more ducks.
Of course, as I’ve said before, this is all book knowledge at this point. But I’ll provide regular duck updates as our little friends make their home here. We are one very excited family these days.