On our way home from church today, Steve looked at me and said that he was considering processing ALL of our ducks. I was pretty surprised, since our original plan had been to eat 20 and keep 10 for egg laying. We were making a stop at the feed store on our way home, and I think the dollar signs were getting to him, specifically the $35 signs that it’s been costing us to feed these ducks.
I was really not so thrilled with that idea. We’ve spent a LOT of money on these Cayugas. It didn’t seem right to put them all in the freezer after we’ve poured not just money, but a lot of time and energy into them. I asked him why he wanted to just get rid of them all, to which he said we’d just ‘start over’ in the spring with something that produces more. Realization seemed to hit him as he was saying this, because then he said “But then we’d have to invest that much more time and money from the beginning when we’ve already come this many weeks with what we have.”
We have some major growing pains over here.
It’s the point where the novelty has worn off and all we’re doing is ‘dumping’ money with no eggs in sight and nothing in the freezer. Between purchasing the ducks themselves and all of their feed (not to mention the fencing we put up just for them), we probably could have bought grocery store chickens for an entire year. But we talked it out, and reminded ourselves that it’s not ‘dumping’ money, it’s investing that money into future food products. Even though it’s a long way off, it’s certainly much closer than it was in the beginning. As long as we correctly sex the ducks we keep back, we will not have to buy ducklings again. Now that we have a fence up, it will be there for a long time for both these and any future animals that we add. It’s funny how being in the thick of it can cloud your thinking. Since we’re not only paying for feed without getting eggs but also BUYING eggs in the process, it’s a little difficult to remember that there are better things ahead!
It took 11 months before our French Angora rabbits were old enough to have kits and produce a litter that survived past a few days. And it was 14 months before a used spinning wheel came along that we could afford, and another month beyond that before I had my first skein of Angora yarn. (And by the way, isn’t it GREAT?! #notsohumblebrag) I’m not sure I’ll wholeheartedly agree that it’s worth it until I’ve got a few more of these, but this yarn is so soft (I mean, amazingly soft. You’d want to clothe a newborn in it soft) and the picture doesn’t even come close to doing the muted, slightly bluish smoke color justice.
We spent quite a lot of money on fruit trees, and set aside many hours to plant and care for them. And we don’t expect fruit from them for maybe YEARS. Why does 18-20 weeks seem so bad to get an egg?
In the end, we decided to scale back slightly. Rather than 10 egg layers, we’ll keep back 4-6 ducks and 1 drake. That way, we’ll be able to hatch our own ducklings for next year and save on some of the cost. Additionally, that should hack the feed bill down from $35/week to maybe $10. $35 isn’t all that much, it’s only $1.16 per duck. When there’s 30 of them, $1.16 becomes a LOT. At 6 or 7 it’s much more manageable.
We also plan on implementing a sprouted fodder system (more on that later!) which will significantly reduce feed cost for both the ducks and the rabbits.
The future. MUST. REMEMBER. FUTURE.
In the meantime, we’ll focus on some of those instant gratification aspects of homesteading, like baking bread. For the same amount of money as a loaf of store bought bread, you can buy the flour, yeast, and salt to make dozens of homemade loves! And no waiting around for it to become 18-20 weeks, or for the weather to be right, or worrying about it getting through the fence.