General Mills joins the good eggs

July 7, the Humane Society of the United States celebrated General Mills’ move to join food giants like Walmart, Nestle and Starbucks in ending the use of eggs from battery-caged hens. General Mills is grounding its new policy on the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare — a set of principles that will continue to guide the company toward better outcomes for animals across its supply chain. “I hope you’ll join me in celebrating both this landmark decision and the great progress that’s been made by some of the nation’s leading food companies in just a few short months,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the HSUS. 

Goat Power is chowin’ down around P-Town

Chowin’ down around town is the latest in eco-friendly “landscaping,” and one local business has recently been getting much attention. Portland is well known for being progressive and environmentally friendly, as well as being home to small businesses that make big impressions. Goat Power is doing just that, after stepping into the spotlight in April when it started “mowing” the huge field adjacent to Portland International Airport.

Contracted by the Port of Portland for the 25-day job they just wrapped at PDX, this crew loves to work. They chow down everywhere from vineyards to construction sites, on both private and public land. An upcoming gig will have them working the riverbanks in Albany this summer.

Briana Murphy, also known as the “Goat Shepherdess,” is happy spending her days and sometimes nights with her animals, helping people and businesses reclaim and clear their properties. Based on a 10-acre farm in Sherwood, Murphy and 40 goats and one llama recently welcomed 20 new Spanish goats, including 10 does.

“I started the business about four years ago and love what I do,” says Murphy. “The thing no one ever talks about is that it really is a job I run 24 hours a day, 365 days a year — feeding, watering and caring for the animals, plus transporting them to job sites. I miss many birthday parties and events due to the demands of my business — it calls for a lot of dedication.”

“Another thing,” she adds: “you really can’t just leave goats in a barn and wait for the next job. They require care and attention, and the ability to wander. You can’t just tie up a goat.”

Murphy says she gets many calls from people who want just one goat. “It really doesn’t work like that,” she says. “People need to do their homework to learn what caring and providing for a goat — or any livestock animal — is really all about before they decide to add an animal to their home or business.” Reaching out and educating the community is an important part of Murphy’s mission.

The growing popularity of using goats to maintain weeds and clear and fertilize vegetation, as well as sensitive and hard-to-manage areas of land, is understandable. These friendly chompers alleviate the need for pesticides or chemicals, they feed while they work in a way that does not cause erosion, provide natural fertilizer, and can handle steep invasive terrain. Murphy’s current crew can consume about 150 pounds of foliage in a day. They also eat seeds, which slows new growth of vegetation in the areas they’ve tended.

While some call what the goats do “mowing,” that is misleading: they love munching on blackberries and poison ivy, but grass? Not so much.

An electric multi-strand fence and a solar-powered fence energizer keep the goats safely contained on the job site. They are accompanied by “Monty,” their fearless llama protector. Monty’s job is to keep watch for coyotes and alert the herd to danger, or if need be, to neutralize a predator with a swift kick. For these and other reasons, it is important for people to steer clear — this is after all, a working crew.

Murphy’s efforts to educate the public include signage telling neighbors and visitors what is going on — that the goats are working, and that they are not to touch the fence or the goats.

When meeting with potential clients for the first time, Murphy conducts a site visit to evaluate the clients’ needs, project boundaries, possible hazards, and the terrain and vegetation mix. The site must be prepped, removing any hazards, including poisonous plants. Once a contract is set, the idea is to move the project along as quickly as possible. The whole herd works the job and then moves on to the next one.

Happy clients of Goat Power say the option is good for business. By maintaining the land in an eco-friendly way, everyone wins: the goats, the environment, and the business. An added plus is that passersby love seeing the goats out in the field, peacefully munching away.

The goats are good for Murphy too, she says. “I am very fortunate to have found a fulfilling passion.  Every day I am grateful for what these goats have done for me.  I thank the process of working closely with nature and my livestock for making me into the kind of person I had hoped to be.”

“Goats are a good tool,” Murphy continues.” They do an excellent job and have a real impact on the environment. There is just a natural order of things. I really hope that as they become more popular and people get used to seeing them working around town that it will take the mystery out of it. They are livestock, and the key is to not stress them. They are very sensitive, low-key animals who just want to do their job. Once you build trust with a goat, they are your friend for life.”

Here’s hoping the addition of goats to Portland’s business scene is just as lasting.

Goat Power - “The Power of Goats to maintain your land”

MowingWithGoats.com * 360-690-6940 


Melinda Thompson is a freelance writer with a degree in Speech Communications and a coveted "Ducktorate" from the Walt Disney World Company. She has been featured in many local magazines and newspapers. She lives in Vancouver USA with her husband, son and daughter.

Farm Bill on its way to President Obama's desk

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Dear Friend,

I have great news to share with you: The Farm Bill -- which includes two major wins on animal welfare issues -- has passed the House and Senate and is now on President Obama's desk awaiting his signature.

The bill includes a provision making it a federal crime to attend or bring a child under the age of 16 to an animal fighting event, based on the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, which will fortify the federal law against organized and barbaric dogfighting and cockfighting rings. Spectator admission fees and high-stakes gambling dollars finance this criminal industry and without spectators, it will be more difficult for dogfighting and cockfighting rings to make a profit.

The Farm Bill also jettisoned the dangerous and overreaching “King amendment,” which sought to nullify state laws setting standards for agricultural production and threatened so many laws on animal welfare around the country. Defeating the King amendment and enacting the animal fighting spectator legislation are top priorities for The HSUS. Now, we await and look forward to President Obama finishing the job by signing the Farm Bill.

Sincerely,

Wayne Pacelle, President & CEO
The Humane Society of the United States

 

Spotlight on...The Lohmann Brown Chicken

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Matchmaker, Matchmaker

Breed Overview

Size:  Medium, 3.5-4.6 lbs.  
Environment:  Ideal for small areas, gardens, yards
Diet:  Omnivorous; diet is typically primarily chicken feed
Temperament:  Friendly, Adaptable
Egg Size & Color:  Very Large, Brown
Laying Rate:  Good — as many as 300 eggs per year

Life Expectancy:  10 years with about 2 years of good laying

Interesting facts:  Developed in Germany, the Lohmann Brown Chicken were often used by commercial chicken farms thanks to their egg quality, production efficiency and adaptability.  They often start egg production earlier than other chickens — 14 as opposed to 20-24 weeks.

Appearance:  These chickens are not fancy.  Their plumage is orange-brown with cream highlights.  Medium in size, they have a long neck, typical comb, and short tail feathers.

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Personality:  Called the best of the backyard chickens by some urban farmers, Lohmann Browns are hardy, friendly and good layers.  While the White Leghorn chicken puts out a comparable number of eggs per year and is number-one for large-scale commercial egg production in the United States, they tend to be nervous and flighty.  Lohmann Brown raisers say they are docile, friendly, and easy to keep.  They can be ideal for a home with children.

Common Health Problems:  If you keep a closed flock (no additions of new birds, or use a quarantine period), you may not need to vaccinate your chickens.  For humans, salmonella poisoning is a concern, so hand-washing is important after handling chickens or eggs.  A big “health concern” for chickens is predators, even in the city.  Threats include chicken hawks, foxes, weasels, owls, dogs, cats and raccoons.  In line with this, chickens should be kept in a coop at night and provided covered area during daytime hours.  Consider wood or concrete for the coop floor to protect young chickens from rodents.  Make sure fences are secure — predators can sneak through very small holes.  

Best Match:  For first-timers, juvenile or adult chickens may be best.  Chicks must live in a brooder for 4-6 weeks depending on outdoor weather.  Check local ordinances as there is commonly a limit on flock size, and many areas prohibit roosters.  

Suggested reading:  A detailed guide to raising and keeping Lohmann Brown Chickens published by the original developer of the breed can be found at:  www.hastavuk.com.tr/en/kitapciklar_en/0/brown.pdf.  

 

Gentleman Farrier

O ut to Pasture resident Singer also gets the Vandenbrook treatment (with Kit Collins).  © Nikki Jardin

Out to Pasture resident Singer also gets the Vandenbrook treatment (with Kit Collins).  © Nikki Jardin

Rick Vandenbrook strides through the gate looking every bit the classic cowboy.  From his leather chaps and sweat-stained cowboy hat to his weathered face and slightly limping gait, the man looks straight out of central casting.

Today Vandenbrook is trimming the hooves of a sleepy-eyed donkey named Sergio, who is being led in from the pasture at Out To Pasture Sanctuary in Estacada, Oregon.  While waiting outside the barn Vandenbrook chats, sharing that he’s been in this line of work for about a decade, with a litany of injuries to show for it. 

He points to a scar between his eyes, to where part of an ear is missing, and tells of busted ribs, a broken toe, and legs once so bruised he could hardly walk.  But, like anyone who revels in rough and tumble, there is pride in his patter.  “It’s not an easy job,” he drawls, rummaging through the pockets of his faded work jacket, “but, I give ‘em these apple oat treats.”  He pulls out what look like sawdust-covered lumps of dirt.  “Then I pet ‘em; I do kindness with them.  Here, try one,” he says, offering a treat.

I accept the dust ball and follow his lead as he bites down hard.  “I eat everything I give the horses,” he says.  The treats have a faint hint of apple, but mostly taste like they look, which is to say, like dirt.  “They’re pretty dry,” he acknowledges, crunching away, “but the horses love ‘em.” 

Friend to all beings (© OTP)

Friend to all beings (© OTP)

Vandenbrook practices the centuries-old trade of the farrier, or horseshoer.  The title dates back to the 12th Century as a derivative of the Latin word for iron (ferrum), a common metal used long ago for horse shoes.  But shoeing the horse is only part of job; farriers must also understand anatomy, foot health, and how to trim hooves so as not to impair or retard the horse’s natural gait. 

A former carpenter who changed careers following an injury, Vandenbrook had always loved and wanted to work with animals.  “I was born and raised on horses and I love animals, so I thought the only thing I wanted to do was [work with] animals … but I like the big guys.”

Unfazed by the physical demands of the job, Vandenbrook does find one thing particularly challenging.  “Ornery horses,” he says with a chuckle.  Peevish large animals can be problematic, but Vandenbrook follows this general rule for bad days:  “If I get kicked three times I’m done,” he says, “three strikes and your out.”  And while the work is certainly physical, it also involves a good measure of psychology.  “You have to learn to keep hold of that hoof,” he says.  “I mean, he’s 1200 pounds and I’m 135; he can have his hoof any time he wants, but the minute a horse thinks he can take his foot from me, he’s got me whooped.” 

When Sergio is ready, waiting patiently with Kit Collins, co-founder of Out To Pasture, the black donkey approaches the slim guy in the cowboy hat, knowing his visitor brings yummy (for a donkey) apple oat treats.  Vandenbrook happily obliges, offering treats, gentle words of greeting, and forehead scratches before setting to work. 

Vandenbrook using the hoof rasp (© Nikki Jardin)

Vandenbrook using the hoof rasp (© Nikki Jardin)

Now the farrier is all business, hunkering down with his shoulder against Sergio, lifting a hoof, working away with a magnificent nail file known as a hoof rasp.  While it sounds like a saw, there is no pain, as hooves have roughly the same properties as human fingernails.  Really, it’s a pedicure on a grand scale.  Affirming the routine nature of the process, Sergio stands at ease, happily enjoying his oat treats while Vandenbrook works.

This peaceful scene is a far cry from Sergio and Vandenbrook’s first meeting.  Originally rescued from a farm where he’d been severely neglected, Sergio’s specific history wasn’t clear, but his deep-seated fear of people was.  Just loading him in a trailer to be whisked out of harm’s way and into the loving hands of Out To Pasture took four hours.  In poor physical condition, Sergio’s hooves were a mess, having grown so long they’d begun to curl, a painful malady that can render an animal lame.

Because of Sergio’s fear of humans, he was tranquilized for his first sessions with farriers, a practice Collins wasn’t happy about.  Having heard good things about a certain local shoer she decided to give him a try.  During an early phone conversation with Vandenbrook, Collins mentioned coordinating the farrier’s visit with the vet for tranquilizers.  He stopped her, saying, “No — don’t do that.”  Collins recalled him saying “We’ll teach him to calm down.  We’ll kill him with kindness.”

Rick with OTP's Kit Collins (© Nikki Jardin)

Rick with OTP's Kit Collins (© Nikki Jardin)

During Vandenbrook’s first visit, Sergio was a terror, spinning in the air, jumping and thrashing.  “It was really scary,” Collins’ remembers. “But, Rick came out with this bucket of treats and just spent forever trimming his hooves.”  That session lasted several hours, but it was accomplished without tranquilizers.  “He didn’t even charge us extra,” Collins says, who has relied on Vandenbrook ever since.

“It’s all about the treats,” Vandenbrook says.  He relied on tranquilizers early in his first years as a farrier, but not anymore.  “It’s actually easier not to sedate them,” he says.  “They remember that shot and how it doesn’t feel good.  I give them treats so next time they think, ‘Hey, this guy isn’t going to hurt me.’

Vandenbrook maintains a steady, calming patter while working with each of Sergio’s hooves, clipping and filing with a confident rhythm, saying his own calm demeanor is key to working with skittish animals.  “You know, this big guy can feel the touch of a fly, so he can also feel if I’m nervous.  If I go in calm, he’s gonna be calm.” 

He further notes that body position matters.  “A lot of guys will hold that foot wherever it’s comfortable for them.  Bull.  You gotta feel the horse and feel where he wants to relax it.  The second he’s relaxed, I put my body where he’s comfortable.  I think I make a lot of progress that way.  It also helps to have someone like Kit here to talk to.  If we just stand here talking in calm voices, just talking and working, the horse calms down.”

Rick and Sergio, bonded buddies (© OTP)

Rick and Sergio, bonded buddies (© OTP)

Vandenbrook grew up in Milwaukie, Oregon, when pastureland was abundant.  His family had only three neighbors, but all had barnyard animals.  He tended to chickens, ducks, rabbits, goats and pigs on his own family’s “mini-farm.”  He also often visited and learned to ride at his grandparents’, who had thousands of acres in Lewiston, Idaho.  “I’ve been riding since I was about three,” he says.

His home today isn’t much different.  Vandenbrook and his wife Joyce live on several acres just outside of Estacada, along with more than 40 farm animals, many of whom are rescues.  “We keep as many as we can, or try to find good homes.”  He says his family has always taken kindly to animals and he doesn’t tolerate cruelty.  In the course of his work he sometimes finds situations of neglect or abuse and he doesn’t hesitate to speak up.  “I’ll turn ‘em in,” he says matter of factly.  “I care more about that animal.”

Vandenbrook gently drops the last of Sergio’s four nicely manicured hooves onto the hay-strewn barn floor, petting him affectionately.  The donkey expresses fondness in return, nuzzling Vandenbrook’s gloved hand. 

Leaving for this day the farrier looks back.  “That little donkin’ — he’s gotten better and better each time; it’s just taken awhile.”

Out to Pasture Sanctuary - Harvesting Love

Volunteer Hannah and Hank the Pig exchange love

Volunteer Hannah and Hank the Pig exchange love

The first thing you notice when entering the big swinging gate at Out to Pasture Sanctuary in Estacada, Oregon is the racket.  Imagine for a moment all of the barnyard sounds you can, shake them around, multiply them a couple of times, and hit “play.”  That’ll be a good approximation of the joyful noise that greets you here.  Bleating and crowing take up the most headspace, and an occasional turkey gobble or pig grunt add a nice accent.  Altogether it makes you smile.

Near the entrance on the left are several very rotund pigs waddling about in their pens.  Next are curious, talkative wooly sheep, and then a couple of goats.  To the right, roosters bluster and puff up, and in the distance two llamas crane exquisite necks to take a peek at the visitor while a horse looks to see what all the fuss is about. 

It may be just another day at the farm, but this sanctuary, with its mission to rescue abused and neglected farm animals, isn’t your typical barnyard.

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Out to Pasture (OTP) was founded in 2004 by Kit and John Collins, shortly after Kit saw a flyer for Oregon Animal Rescue in a feed store.  Already active with In Defense of Animals and the NW Miniature Pig Association, the couple was at that time also becoming more aware of the plight of unwanted farm animals. 

Kit called Oregon Animal Rescue, and was surprised to learn that founder Carmel Guzman didn’t even have property, let alone a working farm.

“At that time, Carmel drove a school bus for a living and had no land,” says Kit.  “She would just find homes for unwanted farm animals without housing them in between. 

After agreeing to adopt a donkey from Carmel’s rescue, Kit realized that Out to Pasture had been born.  “I decided it would be better to do something with what we had than to do nothing at all.”

What the Collinses have is three acres in Estacada, now home to more than 150 animals — including that magnificent posse of pigs, sheep, goats and llamas, plus a turkey, pea hens, a nutty little dog, that first rescued donkey, and a retired thoroughbred racing horse.  Oh, and also a few dozen rescue cats and more than 50 roosters.

The farm has an impressively efficient system of pens and pastures that allow the animals to be as social or as introverted as they like, with plenty of room to roam, wallow, peck or simply kick back for a nice stretch of reflective cud-chewing.  So far, the system has worked well, though there has been considerable challenge with those 50 or so roosters.

Two of the many roosters on the farm

Two of the many roosters on the farm

“It’s really unnatural to have that many roosters together,” Kit says, “so that’s been our biggest challenge.”  A series of tree-shaded, spacious rooster pens wend through the property, each housing various numbers of the boisterous birds.  The Collinses discovered that in some cases, housing bigger roosters with smaller ones created a natural hierarchy that kept fighting to a minimum.  They also found that sometimes creating a little interspecies bonding helped too.  “We put the big turkey in with eight other roosters and that stopped the fighting in one of the pens,” says Kit.

Um . . . why so many roosters?

“Well, the rooster issue is a huge problem,” acknowledges Kit.  Referring to the recent boom in backyard chickens, she says that when people consider buying chicks, they often don’t realize that half of the hatchlings will be roosters, leading to a lot of unwanted birds.  “People selling these chicks should be a little more upfront about that so people can consider what they’ll do if they do get a rooster,”  says Kit, adding with a sigh, “We get calls all summer about roosters.”

It seems like a tremendous load to manage on a relatively small property, but the Collinses are bolstered by a dedicated cadre of volunteers that helps with everything from rounding up animals for vet visits, harvesting hay, feeding and watering pets and livestock, and of course, doing a goodly amount of cleanup.

“Our volunteers do a lot of input and output work,” Kit says, laughing.  To which John chimes in, “Yeah, bringing in the food and water and taking out the results!”  Monthly volunteer work parties help with larger projects, and people in the professional community offer assistance as well (see OTP's Circle of Friends).

While the primary mission of OTP is tending to the physical and emotional well-being of its rescues, it also works with other groups, like the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon.  By loaning feral cat traps to locals, OTP relieves residents of the cost of traps, as well as the hour-long drive to get them in Portland.

Where pigs can be pigs

Where pigs can be pigs

Along with these on-the-ground efforts, John points out that an important part of their mission is to “inform and inspire people to find alternatives to exploiting animals for things like food, research and entertainment.”  OTP plays an active role in the vegan community; at a recent open house event Kit and John offered vegan cookbooks as raffle prizes.  “We try to promote the idea of both veganism and animal compassion,” says John.  “Our point is that all these animals want is to live, and we ask people to think about that a little bit.”

Out to Pasture is 100 percent volunteer run, including Kit and John, who both have day jobs in Portland in addition to stewarding their sizeable flock.  Amazingly, the pace doesn’t seem to faze them.  When asked what he loves about the work, John replies, “It’s multi-faceted; I love looking around at the end of my day, noticing the weather, the plants and the animals, all the sounds.  I’m just so happy to be here.”

Kit agrees, adding, “I love getting animals when they’re in a really tough spot, when we get them at the last minute and I can look them in the eye and know that they are going to live out their lives like they should.  You can tell that they are so happy to be alive.”

Learn more about Out to Pasture Sanctuary, or about volunteering or donating, at OutToPastureSanctuary.org.

Check out this video of some of the animals at OTP:

Bicycle century raises funds for area sanctuaries

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The 4th annual 100-mile Sanctuary Century pedals off on Saturday, Sept. 15 with the goal of raising $20,000 for Out to Pasture Farm SanctuaryHome Animal Sanctuary and Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest.  The century loop begins and ends in the Buckman neighborhood of SE Portland, and loops through points in Vancouver, Troutdale, Gresham and Milwaukie.  A celebration is happening at ride’s end at Vegan Minimal at 12th and Stark in Portland.  For details, to register or to donate, contact ericphelps@gmail.com, or go to The Sanctuary Century on Facebook.

Make Mine Chocolate

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With the steady stream of Easter bunny images hopping around this time of year it’s no surprise that many young children are asking for a bunny of their very own.  Who doesn’t love the thought of a soft, cuddly friend with a twinkling velvet nose and whirring whiskers!  Unfortunately, many parents succumb to the idea and present a live bunny in their kids’ Easter baskets – only to soon discover that rabbits really aren’t little kid-friendly.  The result?  Thousands of rabbits end up neglected or dumped at overflowing shelters, parks and greenspaces.  No happy ever-afters there.

Not to say rabbits don’t make wonderful pets; they do — for the right, rabbit-loving person.  Anyone considering adding a rabbit to the family should carefully research the needs and realities of living with them . . . which can last 10 years or more with a healthy, well cared-for bunny.

As prey animals, rabbits are easily stressed by loud noise and fast movement, and aren’t typically fond of being cuddled, held or carried.  And unless they are spayed or neutered, those docile babies can reach sexual maturity within just 90 days, resulting in all kinds of hijinks, such as urine spraying, territorial and aggressive behavior, humping, and chewing the bejeezus out of everything.  Not exactly Little Bunny Froo Froo.  Families should also consider the time and effort it takes to potty-train, provide ample exercise, and a diet that in fact involves much more than Peter Rabbit’s fabled diet of lettuce and carrots.

Numerous organizations, such as Rabbit AdvocatesRabbit Meadows Sanctuary, the Oregon Humane SocietySeattle Humane Society and even local 4-H clubs, are more than happy to provide resources on proper care for these gentle, sensitive animals. 

If it turns out a rabbit isn’t a fit for your family, a good old-fashioned chocolate bunny is bound to bring a smile Easter morning.

The Complete Care of Baby Animals

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The Complete Care of Baby Animals:

Expert Advice on Raising Orphaned, Adopted, or Newly Bought Kittens, Puppies, Foals, Lambs and More; 2nd Edition, Revised and Updated

by C. E. Spaulding, DVM and Jackie Clay

Spring is almost upon us, and along with this beautiful season comes the birth of baby animals.  As a Spot reader you’re surely fond of critters, but would you know what to do if suddenly faced with an orphaned duckling, kitten or doe?  The Complete Care of Baby Animals addresses how to care for them — and more than 30 other young ones, including reptiles — should they happen your way.

This writer is getting two ducklings come spring, and after reading several books on duck care, I found this guide helpful and thorough.  It’s a fun and informative read for animal lovers, whether you’re one who picks up strays, or someone simply interested in learning how to care for various furbabies.

 

The Welsh Harlequin Duck

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Matchmaker, Matchmaker

Breed Overview

Size:   4.5 – 5.5 lbs.
Grooming:   Clip wings if keeping as pets
Exercise:      Needs at least 10'x10' waddling/living space per duck
Environment:   Usually happy in the yard with a garden and/or pond.
Diet:    Insects, Amphibians, Snails, Small Fish, Algae and Aquatic Plants, Lettuces, and Duck Feed
Temperament:  Calm and Placid
Interesting facts:  Developed and named in North Wales from Khaki Campbell ducks, today the Welsh Harlequin is considered critically endangered.  Its light color may make it more vulnerable to predators.  Ducks oil their feathers (enabling them to float) by activating a preen gland on their rumps.

Appearance:  A beautiful duck, the drake (male) has a green and bronze head and ringed neck.  The breast and shoulders are a rich red-brown and white, the underbody is creamy white, and wings are somewhat tortoiseshell.  The duck (hen/female) is honey-fawn with a darker rear-end and striking tortoiseshell wings.

Personality:  Their calm makes them excellent pets, especially when hand-raised.  Ducklings can "imprint" on humans.  Easily exhausted, a balance of attention and rest are vital for babies.  Average egg-laying is 100-200 eggs per year, with most laying in spring and summer.  Males have a high libido and can be aggressive if competing over females, so one male per five females is ideal.  Remove aggressive males to protect hens from injury.  Fun to watch and great pets, ducks are however messy due to their love of splashing around in their water. Plus, their poop can quickly ruin lawn or garden areas.

Life Expectancy:  9-12 years

Common Health Problems:  Injury and wire cages can cause bumble-foot (a bacterial infection and inflammatory reaction) so it’s best to provide plenty of outdoor time.  In general, ducks are very healthy and, unlike chickens, do not usually require vaccinations.  Salmonella is a concern, hand washing after handling ducks or eggs is important.  The biggest “health concern” for ducks is predators — including hawks, eagles, rats, foxes, dogs, cats, and raccoons.  Close ducks in a coop at night and provide a daytime covered area.  Consider wood or concrete for the coop floor to protect from prevent rodents.  Make sure fences are secure — predator can sneak through very small holes.  Ducks require constant fresh water to clean their eyes and bills.

Best Match:  For first timers, juvenile or adult ducks may be best.  Ducklings must live in a brooder, stay dry, and can drown or choke on food and other objects.  That said, ducklings are fun.  Check local ordinances as two adult ducks is a common in-town limit.  Ducks are social, so a solo bird is not advisable.  They can be noisy, but some breeds, such as the Cayuga, are quieter than others.  Welsh Harlequin females make noise when laying and often when expecting their morning meal.  Do not purchase ducks for Easter without a long-term plan.  Ducks live about 10 years, so before ordering, find a friend or family member with a farm who can either take them when full grown or watch them in an emergency or while you’re away.

Helpful Facts:

  • Females are typically louder than males, so if you don't need a ton of eggs, you may want a male and a female.  However the Welsh Harlequins are good sitters, so watch for eggs lest you end up with unwanted babies.
  • Ducklings and domestic ducks cannot be “set free” at a pond or other outdoor location as they will likely starve and will certainly not enjoy a long life.
  • Duck eggs are recommended for hard boiling or baking as they are higher in fat and protein than chicken eggs.
  • The duck enthusiast may enjoy showing their ducks at county fairs.

Suggested reading:  Choosing and Keeping Ducks and Geese by Liz Wright (2008) and Storey's guide for Raising Ducks by Dave Holderread (2000).

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How to get a Welsh Harlequin:  MetzerFarms.com or McmurrayHatchery.com.  Many farms ship day-old ducks.  This is a fairly safe practice as the ducks mostly sleep throughout their one-day trip.  Other endangered species may be available locally.  In Eugene, Ancona, Saxony and Silver Appleyard Miniature Ducks are available at Boondockers Farm (Boondockers.sharepoint.com).  What makes the Welsh Harlequin ideal is that it is docile, a great layer, and is typically satisfied with garden life since it is a poor flyer.