I've mentioned this before, but I'm pretty new to raising ducks and quail and guinea hens and pigeons. Especially with the frigid temperatures we've had lately it has been pretty easy to just let William head outside every morning and evening to take care of the animals while I take care of kids and dinner and a hundred other things (right, fellow Mama's?). But early this morning William left with a delivery of duck eggs and will stay in the Salt Lake area for a few days to attend the Small Farm and Urban Conference put on by Utah State University. It should provide some great ideas as well as help and know-how and networking when it comes to starting up in the small-farm business in Utah. And that leaves us home with some 150 little critters to care for.
I'm sure I could have left the kids for a few minutes in the house while I ran out, but one of our dreams is to have this be a family business, something we do together. So first thing this morning we all bundled up, T took out the compost bucket, J carried the egg basket, I filled a bucket of water, and S carried the lid to the compost bucket. The lid didn't need to go out with us, but he's a very helpful 1 year old and needed a job. You know. We fed the right feed to the right birds, filled their water, gathered eggs, emptied the compost, and fed the dogs on the way back in. It doesn't sound like much here on "paper", but it sure felt like an accomplishment as we walked back in the house! It was fun enough, but William, if you're reading this, know that you are missed!
 
 
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As we perused craigslist we found a man who hatches out quail and tada! We are quail owners! We kept them indoors for the first night they were here and my boys decided that they are pretty fun to watch. If you've seen other chicks, these are just the same, but tiny! We bought one hundred of them and will plan on fifty of them being hens that will lay beautiful, spotted, miniature eggs. Quail eggs also have lots of health benefits- more on that later as they start to lay. For now we'll keep stocking up on bags and bags of feed and watching the little guys grow!

 
 

Most of us are most familiar with chicken eggs. Eating other bird's eggs may sound strange or at least uncommon, but here's the thing- there are multiple health benefits and it's fun to change things up a bit sometimes! The two things I've noticed the most about duck eggs is first, obviously their size. They are larger than your usual large or even extra large chicken eggs. We even tried to use old extra-large egg cartons and the lids won't close. The second thing, the yolks are huge! The yolk to white ratio is larger and I think that's one of the reasons you may have heard that duck eggs are often preferred for baking cakes and the like. Here is a post on the difference between duck eggs and chicken eggs from The Free Range Life, if you'd like to know more! 
 
 
This picture is just an example of the yellow fuzziness I have been hoping to add to our flock. It seems that winter is a hard time to ship ducklings. Not many hatcheries even offer baby fowl at this time of year, but we have been anxious to get our little flock growing! We found a hatchery in Pennsylvania who offers 1 day shipping and we went for it! As we anxiously awaited their arrival to the post office, it got later and later. We tried to track them down, I am certain they were sitting in a truck or storage facility and we would have willingly driven a fair distance to pick them up, but alas, my current trust in the USPS to keep up with their orders has fallen and our box of fuzzy yellow, chirping ducklings arrived icy cold and frozen. Three. Different. Times. We did get one box delivered on time and those sweet ducklings are growing like weeds! But we've decided to put off any more orders until warmer weather comes.
The ducklings we do have are Mascovy and will lay beautiful, large eggs for us in a few more months! Add them to our current flock of 18 and we should have plenty of duck eggs to go around! William gathers eggs each morning. My job is to make sure they are clean and packaged. There is a certain satisfaction to counting out 18 eggs each morning (sometimes less, but our 18 layers are incredibly consistent!).