Farm Horizons, February 2008

That’s just ducky!

Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

A Howard Lake family is having fun with their feathered friends, which happen to be rare breeds of ducks and geese. The family is now hatching Australian Spotted ducks, Miniature Silver Appleyard ducks, and Pilgrim Geese. They are sold either as babies or adults.

The beginning of Quack Estates was quite accidental after finding 15 eggs from an unknown animal around their landscaping in 2004, according to Jennifer Gallus, home owner and duck breeder.

They decided to borrow a friend’s incubator and see what would hatch. After following the basic incubating instructions and the designated number of days passed by, Gallus was beginning to give up hope.

Then, after a few more days she happened to pass by the incubator and heard fluttering from inside the incubator. She looked in the window and saw one baby duck, doing well. This happened to be the only one of 15 eggs that hatched so they decided to name the duckling “Speedy.”

Well, the Galluses didn’t want Speedy to get lonely so they went to town and bought Daisy, a Pekin duck. After that, the family was “hooked” on ducks. Unfortunately, in the fall of that year, Speedy flew away because she ended up being a wild Mallard duck.

Then, Daisy was a bit distressed about being alone, so they bought two more Pekin ducks, Duke and Shirley. In the spring, the family bought a flock of Rouen ducklings too. But as they grew, the Galluses realized large ducks just ate a lot and made a mess.

They looked into smaller ducks, but with most hatcheries in the area hatching only large ducks, the smaller ducks were harder to find. They came across an Oregon hatchery, Holderread’s Waterfowl Farm and Preservation Center, which has now become their only source for breeding stock. The center is known for its rare breeds and quality stock of ducks and geese, according to Gallus. From there, they purchased Australian Spotteds and white Indian Runners and had them shipped to them that summer.

“We were so fond of these little web-footed animals, we decided to start a hatchery,” Gallus said.

Just added to their breeding stock last year are the Miniature Appleyards ducks and Pilgrim geese. When people ask why the Galluses raise ducks and geese and what they do with them, they reply, “It’s like having any other kind of pets around.”

“We enjoy watching them walk (or waddle) around the yard and watching them fly over us,” Gallus said. “It’s really neat to be in your house reading a book or washing the dishes and suddenly see a bunch of ducks fly right next to the window,” she said. “It puts a smile on my face every time.”

The family particularly enjoys watching the ducks and geese on rainy days. They splash in the puddles and search for worms in the grass. “They really are a treat to watch on a gloomy day,” she said.

The ducks and geese can live to be eight years old, and are not raised for butchering. They are very easy to keep and don’t need to be penned up behind a fence. They can roam around the yard as long as kids or dogs don’t pester them.

“Ducks don’t have much of a tolerance for getting chased by anything and their legs can be easily hurt by persistent pestering,” Gallus said.

The ducks can be easily herded to a desired location by walking slowly behind them, arms extended. “They always form a tight group when approached by people so they are pretty easy to work with,” Gallus said.

Other than keeping them safe, all they need is food and water, and shade on those hot summer days, according to Gallus.

Also, the only reason ducks head south for the winter is to find open water. As long as there is a supply of open water, the ducks will stick around. A milk-house heater can be provided during the very cold temperatures, along with a thick layer of bedding, shelter, and ice-free water.

Ducks and geese are very smart, Gallus said. They put themselves away at night so all the family has to do is shut the barn to protect them from nocturnal predators.

Before the young ducks get their adult feathers and after about nine weeks of age, the Galluses can tell the difference between sexes when the ducks quack. The females have a pronounced, sharp quack and the males let out more of a low-toned, raspy quack, Gallus said.

Hatching of the ducks and geese begins in April. The hens will lay an egg each day for several months straight, as long as the eggs are taken away. The Galluses do let the moms hatch out their own eggs at the end of the hatching season.

For more information about Quack Estates, visit the web site, or call (612) 839-8082.

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