We recently had to deal with an unpopular job on the farm. Our duck flock had too many drakes. Culling livestock is not my favorite farm task, but it is necessary.
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Warning: this post contains a farm image some might find graphic.
Last spring we lost several ducks to a fox, despite our efforts to predator-proof our property. I had pretty much given up on keeping ducks. A midsummer stop at a local feed store and I was toting home a new flock. I just couldn’t pass up the “duck for a buck” sale of Khaki Campbells.
I like to keep ducks for their eggs, and Khaki Campbells are probably the best domestic duck layers. They are a mid-sized breed that can be used for both eggs and meat. They are not the largest duck out there, so not generally raised for meat production.
I was thrilled with my thrifty summer duckling purchase. They were not sexed, and I hoped for hens. As they grew and their colors came in, I had a flock of six hens and eight drakes.
It’s important to have a proper drake to hen ratio. Drakes can become aggressive toward each other, and overbreeding hens can result in injury. This is especially true in the spring and early summer when hormone levels are the highest. One drake per 3-4 hens is a good ratio for a mid-sized breed.
We have not done a lot of our own butchering, so procrastinated culling the drakes. When raising meat ducks and butchering them whole, 7-8 weeks is the best age for ease of plucking. Breasting is less labor-intensive for older birds.
My husband used a restraining cone to quickly and humanely harvest the drakes. Breasting them became a bit of a homeschool science lesson as he pointed out the layer of fat, breast bone, breast, etc. If you are interested in how a duck is breasted there are a number of YouTube videos. Click here for a short one showing the process.
Culling livestock is a necessary task to maintain healthy animals. Although I don’t think I will ever enjoy the butchering process, it is a part of farm life. I’m thankful for the ability to raise healthy animals and provide for my family.