Stories of life on our farm in Northwest Georgia where every day is an adventure in this beautiful spot that God has entrusted to our stewardship.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Down on Ducks

Friday was our final (fourth) day of butchering, and we had planned to do five of the eight drakes.

On Thursday night we gently herded all the ducks into the chicken tractor in the barnyard.  Then Herb went inside and picked up the five drakes we had marked with silver spray paint that afternoon.  We put them in Zephyr's crate and wheeled them out of the barnyard.

Friday morning about 8 a.m. Herb carried the first drake to the killing cones.
They are tremendously strong with over a  three foot wing span, and they flap their wings very vigorously, making them extremely difficult to stuff into the cone!

When Herb got the second duck into the cone, he reached down to get his knife and stood back up to find the duck perched on the edge of the cone looking at him.  He had to grab it and put it back in again, which distressed both of them, to say the least.

Herb found it much harder to kill the ducks than the chickens.  They are such beautiful animals, almost swan-like, and we have spent many happy hours watching them in the barnyard and spraying water for them to play in.  It seemed much more like a betrayal to kill them.
Getting their feathers wet was more difficult, too.  Even with plenty of Dawn in the hot water, the soapy water beaded off their feathers like . . . water off a duck's back.
It took several dippings to get the feathers to start coming out easily, even with the water at the recommended 180°.  Since the ducks were heavier and longer, suspending them from a rope helped immensely.
Once the outer feathers were gone, we encountered the down.  I read that some people save it, wash it, and use it.  We just wanted to get it off!
This clump of feather and down shows how hard it was to grab those small, light bits of downy feather.
Unfortunately, our delay of a week hoping the weather would cool off seems to have allowed the ducks to reach the age where they were putting out new down.  Here you can see the teeny bits (some were even smaller!) of fluff that were almost impossible to grasp and pull out.

I finally took over the first duck when it was mostly plucked so that Herb could get going on the second one.  I finally had to settle for "good enough" and get on to the butchering.
I discovered that duck anatomy is a little different than chicken anatomy.  For one thing, they have large pelvic bones that chickens don't have.  Their crops would be on either side of their neck, while the chickens' were always on my right.  I knew that there were large oil glands in the tail to avoid cutting, so I took the easy way out and removed the tails completely.  At least the ducks were larger and therefore easier to handle inside.  Surprisingly, they had a lot less fat in them than the chickens, too, and their skin actually felt less greasy.  That is one of the hall marks of Muscovy ducks.

The butchering part went much quicker than the plucking, and soon I had a duck ready to pack up.  One was 5 lbs. and the other 5 lbs. 13 oz.  The third one is another story!
You can see that with all the plucking, rinsing, and scrubbing we still didn't manage to get all the down off!
The second duck nearly ended up being our last one!  It took so long to pluck the first one that the water got up to 200°.  It ended up semi-cooking the duck's skin which made the skin tear during plucking.  So I decided to skin it and cut it up--nearly impossibly with semi-cooked skin!

We were both extremely discouraged, but decided to try one more time.  The third duck went much better, and we felt we were finally learning . . .  So Herb took the two remaining ducks back to the barnyard and set them free!

We knew when to give up on getting down from ducks!  So we now have two lucky ducks sporting silver paint and courting the ladies along with the other three drakes.  Perhaps they'll reward our mercy with lots of little Muscovies running around eating flies.  They'll hardly have to fear for their lives!

1 comment:

  1. I haven't mastered ducks and geese either but I find dry plucking the breast and belly and around to part of the back very easy. Then I use 150-160 for my scal temperature. When I've gotten it all together I duck wax to cold water duck two or three times. That really helps get rid of any fuzz. I recycled the wax when I have a light day. Then it's ready to use the next time.


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