Continued front page 2765, Part 23
Pond - Housing, etc.
A branch of poultry culture that may with advantage be taken up by those who combine fruit-growing with fowl and egg production is the keeping of ducks to suppry the local demand at a time when there is- not an abundance of hen produce on the market.
Ducks of the right breed, if properly managed, generally lay and breed well during the earlier months of the year, and their eggs command a good price either for incubation or edible use, or they can be incubated on the premises and the produce sold when hatched, or when fed up and fatted. There is always a good demand for fatted ducklings during the spring months.
Those who follow the pursuit of vegetable culture, and who have an available plot of grass land, may with advantage keep a few ducks, as no difficulty will be experienced in disposing of plump young ducklings to local customers, as they form tempting delicacies served up with early garden produce, and especially so with green peas. But, apart from the readiness with which fatted ducklings sell in the spring months, there is a demand for them in all seasons.
To get ducklings out very early in the year necessitates the operation of an incubator, but such an appliance can be used later in the season for the incubation of hens' eggs, whilst any broody hens available on the premises can be given batches of ducks' eggs to hatch, when the ducklings can be taken away from them and reared in coops without natural or artificial heat, whilst the sitters can be put back into the breeding-pens, when they will soon be in lay again, and will produce good hatchable eggs after their month's rest. This procedure is one that may be followed with advantage both to the broody hens and their owners, as the birds breed and lay better after their rest on the sitting nest, and they produce batches of ducklings that, even if sold as soon as hatched out, account for a higher profit than would the egg laid, were the hens checked of their broodiness and got into lay again. It is natural for sitting varieties of poultry to take periodical rests, and, therefore, they should be allowed to sit for a few weeks at least when they begin to cluck; but rather than let them sit on dummy eggs, and earn nothing towards their cost of keep, they should, as pointed out above, be given batches of ducks' eggs to incubate. Considering the conditions under which the general stock is kept on the land, it will be impossible to keep and breed ducks on a large scale, but it will be quite possible to keep with advantage a few stock birds either in the orchard or on a piece of grass land where gardening is carried on.
Aylesbury ducks. A few stock birds of this breed may be kept in an orchard or on a piece of grass land if water cannot be provided
It is generally supposed, however, that to breed and lay well ducks require a lake or stream to swim upon, but success can be achieved without these if the right class of stock is chosen. As the produce of the stock birds is, in the form of fatted ducklings, to be sold locally, it does not necessitate the keeping of stock birds of the largest size, such as the Aylesbury's represent, neither are such stock birds desirable under the conditions available. Big stock ducks, to breed well, must be provided with a good stretch of water on which to disport themselves, and when this is not available, the stock chosen for breeding purposes should be on the small rather than on the large side. A good breed with which to stock the land is that known as the Khaki-campbell. This breed is very prolific, individual birds having been known to produce as many as 200 eggs in the year. It is also a passable table breed, as, with good management, it can be grown to scale five pounds at twelve weeks old. If one desires to keep ducks solely for the production of eggs, then the Indian Runner should be chosen. They are great foragers on good land, and breed well without bathing water, although, like all ducks, they appreciate a good-sized bath with which to keep their plumage clean.
If duck keeping is taken up in conjunction with other stock, separate provision should be made for the birds, as ducks do not thrive when allowed to run with fowls. If the birds are to be kept on orchard land, a plot should be fenced in for them. This plot need not be an extensive one, as a piece of grass land fifteen or twenty yards square will suffice for the running together of what is known as a double breeding-pen. For the large varieties, this consists of two drakes and five ducks, and for the. small varieties, two males and seven or eight females.
The run should be in a sheltered part of the orchard, so that the birds may be protected from cold winds during the winter months. The birds, too, must have ample shade, as they fail to thrive when exposed to the heat of the summer sun. In the case of a plot of grass land being devoted to the keeping of stock ducks, the birds should be provided with artificial shelter, such as tall-growing subjects planted round the outside of the fencing enclosing the plot would afford. As already indicated, if the right breed of ducks is chosen the birds will breed and lay well without swimming water, but it must be borne in mind that ducks must be kept clean, otherwise loss will result.
Should the farmer's sole aim be to procure eggs for edible purposes, he cannot do better than stock his farm with Indian
To keep ducks clean and healthy, all that is necessary in the way of water is a good-sized bath. Such a bath can be made by sinking into the earth a good-sized tub, one, say, a foot deep and four or five feet in diameter. Any barrel-maker will supply such a tub, and this should be well tarred on the outside before being sunk into the ground. When sunk, the top edge of the tub should stand almost level with the ground surface. But rather than sink the tub into the ground, a better plan is to form a bank on one side of it by means of grass turves, so that the ducks can easily get to the water.
The houses and fencing for ducks, like those used for other fowls in the orchard, should be portable, as it is advisable that land on which water-fowls have been running should be periodically rested. A .house six feet long, four feet wide, and three feet high will comfortably accommodate seven of the larger or ten of the smaller breed of ducks. The structure should be provided with a floor and inside accommodation for three nests, which should be at one end, whilst the front of the structure should have at least a third of its upper part uncovered, save by stout wire netting, as plenty of ventilation is essential to the well-being of ducks. If the boarded part of the front is so hinged as to form a door and to lift upwards, a ready means of cleaning out the structure will be afforded.
A good time to turn down stock ducks is in November, and if the Khaki-campbells are chosen, with the object of breeding ducklings for the local trade, six or seven ducks may be mated to two drakes, but should the object in view be the sole production of eggs for edible use, and the Indian Runners are selected, then eight or nine females may be mated to two males, as this variety is the more active of the two. In mating up Indian Runners the birds should be put together in February, as the very early breeding of this variety is not desirable.
If the eggs are set in March, the ducklings will have ample time to develop and lay before the following November, and if they are well looked after, they will contribute to the egg basket throughout the winter and spring months. By having a proper classification of ages, it is possible to have eggs all the year round.
Breeding ducks enjoy quietude, and, therefore, they should be kept apart from other fowls, otherwise they will fail to produce fertile eggs. Of course, if one does not desire to produce anything beyond eggs for table use, there is no need to run a drake with the ducks, as they will lay just as well without his company, but where it is possible to dispose of eggs for incubation, there is no reason why the extra price obtainable for fertile eggs should not be obtained.
Khaki-Campbell ducks. Individual birds of this breed have been known to produce as many as 200 eggs in a year
That the keeping of ducks is a profitable pursuit to follow, where orchard or other grass land is available, there is no doubt, but this branch of poultry farming should be worked on a small scale where space is limited. To stock a limited area of grass land or an orchard with big flocks of ducks would result in financial loss sooner or later, owing to the fact that the ground would become tainted and so lead to disease.