This year, I'm offering only Barred Rock and Ameracauna chickens as I have Delaware hens but no Delaware rooster. Plus I'll offer Coturnix quail, Bourbon Red turkey and peafowl. I unfortunately have only a lonely female guinea and two hen ducks, so I don't have the variety of some things I've offered in the past. But, having an incubator means I can expand my own flock, and I'm doing that this year! I purchased some Delaware eggs online and had them shipped so I can have a rooster and select the best hens for the future. The first batch had a rough trip in the mail with many broken eggs and I'm nervous about a less-than great hatch rate for the rest, but we were able to have the seller claim a damaged shipment with the post office and ship me replacement eggs, so I'm very hopeful that I'll have Delaware chicks hatch next month I've also spoken to a farm stand customer- I knew she got Ancona ducks last year, so I was hoping I could get some fertile eggs. That is not only in the works, but she has a few Welsh Harlequins now as well so I'm tentatively getting eggs of both kinds to raise, and it works for her because I can hatch enough so she can also expand her flock, a win-win!
It's wonderful to get to know other folks who may not farm, but are involved with livestock or poultry, because it often leads to connections like this. While we've had lots of luck sourcing even hard-to-find heritage breeds online, sometimes things are easier if you know a guy or gal. We got our Katahdin ram last fall because through casual talk, our livestock hauler (who also works at our meat processor) knew we were looking for a new ram, and passed along our number when he talked to some other folks looking to sell but hoping to avoid running their Kahtadin ram lamb through a livestock auction. Another win-win!
Yesterday, I saw on social media an acquaintance was selling chicks, duck or chicken hatching eggs, and taking orders for ducklings. She's bought poultry from me in the past, and I've eaten at the local establishment where she works many times. While I wasn't interested in the chickens, I was interested in purebred Khaki Campbell duck eggs. This would mean going from ZERO breeding ducks (only two crossbred hens, no drake for even crossbred babies) to THREE purebred varieties. Too much? Perhaps, but I still have room in the incubator and I have three pens to isolate chickens for purebred hatching. Running one kind of duck and one kind of chicken together is fine, they cannot crossbreed, so I'm being ambitious but perhaps not biting off more than I can chew. Plus, I love ducklings!! And once again, I was able to make another win-win transaction. I was able to pick up eggs that she didn't have room for, and we worked out a trade that felt fair to both. She loves her birds too, and wanted the naked neck chicks I had hatched ( a product of "Muppet Chicken" the rooster and Delaware hens) and was unfortunately also was down to a lone guinea. I had already decided that when I lost or sold my guinea, I was done with them. They are an African bird, not a heritage breed, which is what calls to me the most. They are loud, not terribly bright, and sometimes seem to forget where their coop is, sleeping outside unknown to me when I latch in birds for the night, making them easy prey for prowling predators. While there is high demand for them, I had terrible luck hatching them last year, and just don't love them enough to start a new flock from scratch. One thing I've come to learn is that sometimes, it's OK to know when to abandon a project you don't love, and pursue something you do. I like ducks, especially purebred heritage breed ducks, more than guineas, so it was wonderful to send my guinea girl to a loving home to befriend another member of her own species. This woman already has guinea keets ordered to get back to a breeding flock as well. She hatches and sells a few birds, and it was nice to be able to help her out with an adult female for her future flock.
I'm excited to be hatching new ducks, and hopeful they will become a more productive part of the farm family than ever. The ducks have always brought smiles to farm stand visitors, I love them, and even crossbred ducklings are in high demand each spring. And I am hopeful that hard-to-find heritage breed ducklings will be even easier to market in future years, and will be interested to see if there is a market for duck eggs after hatching season is done. Chicken eggs are always one of our biggest sellers, so I'm willing to take a chance!