WARNING. This post covers my first experience with culling. Faithful readers of my blog know that I have a high regard for my animals and this decision was not one I took lightly. I respectfully remind my readers that I run a farm – not an animal rescue or petting zoo – and culling is an aspect of my job responsibilities.
I raise hens and ducks for eggs. Eggs are my year-round income base and I have a wonderful group of clients that has enjoyed my first year in business. When I purchased ducklings last year it was with the knowledge that I would likely get a drake (male duck). Of my 6 ducklings I had 2 males, and we very much enjoyed watching them grow and keep an eye on all the girls (my hens and ducks live together) for the past 12 months.
In January we purchased 6 ducks from a friend that downsizing her flock – that group included 1 drake.
With the arrival of spring my yearling drakes got much more aggressive in their amorous attentions to the females – so much so that the females were in danger of being harmed. The new drake was also aggressive.
I first broached the idea of culling with my roommate last December. We discussed pros, cons, reasons why I believed culling was the right business choice, even method. She grew up on this land and has difficult memories from her childhood related to hen harvesting. I’m incredibly proud of her for talking this through with me, allowing me to make the ultimate decision, and being part of the process.
This morning I captured the three drakes before I opened the coops to let the hens and ducks out for the day. My roommate and I finished our breakfast, assembled our tools, and got to work. I dispatched the first duck, she took the second, and I handled the third. I freely confess that I shed tears over my first drake. I have never taken the life of any animal and this was the hardest farm task I’ve undertaken to date. All the work, talk, consulting with other farming friends – in less than a minute the birds were humanely killed and hung to drain. My roommate handled the cleaning – I’m the house cook and she has more experience with that part of the process. The job was done near our fire pit so safe disposition of feathers, etc. was simple. From start to finish the job took just over 2 hours.
The elder duck will be enjoyed by our 4 dogs for any days – they love broth on their kibble and the meat will be a tasty treat. The yearlings will be roasted for dinner and feed my roommate and I for several days.
Was it fun? No.
Was the experience valuable? Yes.
Would I do it again? Yes.
How are the remaining ducks? Happily splashing in the water, napping in the sun, and thankful they don’t have to fend off unwanted attentions.