When the chaos dies down and you're sick of canned food, what will your long term plan be?

The Last Slaughter Day

Posted on July 17th, by Kathy in Becoming a Farmer. 2 comments

The Last Slaughter Day

As we’ve mentioned in other posts, the chickens we’ve raised and butchered have been tastier than anything we’ll ever be able to get at the store. And what’s tastier than chickens? Ducks! So this year we bought and raised 6 ducks for meat. We’d had 2 egg ducks in previous years and had been warned that “ducks are messy”… and yes, they are… but when you have 6 big ones, they’re infinitely worse. And they make the drinking water brown and muddy and they stink… a lot… like the elephant pen at the zoo but worse! Just a warning in case you’re thinking this is a great idea…

When we had our first chicken killing day, the ducks didn’t seem fat enough (and they’re cute, so we weren’t sure we could kill them). But as they got bigger over the last couple weeks, they got stinkier and more disgusting and we decided the deed had to be done.

How does it do that?

How does it do that?

You can kill zombie ducks by cutting their heads off.

You can kill zombie ducks by cutting their heads off.

We’d never killed a duck before, but we figured we’d just do something similar to how we’d done the chickens and it would all work out. We hadn’t anticipated how much longer a duck’s neck is than a chicken’s though.  When we put ducks in the Killing Cones their necks hung out a long ways!  Typically we let the chickens hang there upside down for a bit because all the blood rushes to their heads and they kind of go to sleep.  But when we left the ducks hanging they used their long necks to twist their heads upright and then look around. They also quacked back and forth with the chickens that were still in the coop.  It was unnerving to walk up to them as they stared at me with one beady eye.

The first one went just fine.  It was easier to find the vein so that it went quickly.

The second one didn’t go so well.

I did the deed and then left it to go through its death flops while I helped Leah pluck a rooster we’d already killed.  (Just can’t have roosters in the hen pen.)  Suddenly Leah yelled, “It’s loose!”

Somehow as it flopped around its feet had gotten out of the ties and it had jumped out of the killing cone and was walking through the grass.  Imagine the AFLAC duck with a big gash in its neck trying to quack and obviously dying.  I ran over, grabbed it and took it back to the tree holding the killing cone.  Then I asked Leah to bring me a knife but not to look because she was feeling pretty squeamish that day.  I cut off it’s head to end everything quickly and then held it down a bit while it flapped it’s wings and wiggled it’s headless neck.

“There,” I said, “It’s pretty much dead,” and I started to carry it over to the work table.

“NO! NO! NO! no,no,no,no,no!” Leah yelled.  “Don’t you bring that thing over here if it’s still moving.”

A soapy Rouen duck... tasty...

A soapy Rouen duck… tasty…

I dropped it on the ground and it just laid there, completely still and dead, finally.

We looked at it for a second to see if it moved.  It didn’t.

Leah burst out laughing, so hard that she had to squat down.  We both laughed then for a long time, not necessarily because it was funny, though it kind of was in a gruesome way.  I think it was just so much stress that we had to get some relief. Plus two women standing around and looking intently at a dead bird doing nothing is pretty funny.

Look! It's done! We'll pluck the rest when we get ready to eat it.

Look! It’s done! We’ll pluck the rest when we get ready to eat it.

And that’s not the end of the story… we’d read on the internet that plucking ducks was harder than chickens, they’re water fowl and the hot water we dunk them in doesn’t penetrate the oily feathers very well. BUT we’d also read (on the internet) that if you add dish soap to the water it cuts the oil and helps with the plucking.

There’s a reason that duck, pluck and fuck all rhyme.

So we added dish soap to the water and dunked the first duck and started the fucking plucking. Leah was pleasantly surprised when the wing and tail feathers came out almost as easily as a chicken. The back feathers were a dream. Then she started on the wings and belly… and the nightmare began. These are the dense feathers that aren’t supposed to get wet… and they don’t, no matter how intensely you dunk them in boiling water. We even tried dunking them after the easy feathers were pulled out… it didn’t help. They don’t so much come out as get ripped off. SO! the ducks, when “done,” look like they have a bad case of mange. Yummy!

Double, double toil and trouble;  Fire burn, and caldron bubble.

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.

An added bonus is that if you don’t watch the water while you’re plucking, the rolling water creates tons of bubbles and lifts the lid off your turkey fryer.

Gutting them doesn’t get any better. They’re not built quite the same as a chicken; their legs are so short it’s hard to get into the cavity to remove parts. AND all the parts are solidly installed and take lots of work to get detached. And their organs are huge compared to a chicken (which the hungry waiting cat really appreciated).

Everything went “fine” after that. No more zombie birds running around, the plucking didn’t get better, but it didn’t get worse. We’re sure they’ll taste great when we get to cooking them!

But when we were done we threw the killing cones away.  We agreed we’re done raising meat birds… at least until the apocalypse starts.

So the cost of ducks looks like this:

2 smoked duck breasts from the store: $33

Our Cost:
Ducklings $7
Feed: not so much
Mess / stench: worse than full port-a-potties at a concert
Emotional Trauma: bad – death row ducks look at you and sometimes jump out of their killing cones and run around when they’re supposed to be quietly dying
Processing: half a bottle of soap, plucking=fucking challenging, gutting=tight mess
Learning you can buy them at the store: Priceless, we have no understanding of WHY this is. Anyone who has slaughtered a duck is crazy if they’re willing to sell it to someone else for any price.

A word to the wise, if you’re still thinking about raising meat ducks, get Pekins (the white birds) rather than Rouens (the brown french ducks). Like french women, french ducks never get fat and aren’t worth the hassle. 

2 thoughts on “The Last Slaughter Day

  1. I may have overlooked it, but do you put bedding or any kind in the duck/chicken pen? I’m looking at raising ducks – I know, IN SPITE of all the good advice and pictures you’ve posted, but I really need eggs that will work well in my gluten free baking- and I’ve been advised that keeping a layer of bedding cuts the smell and mess. Thank you!

    • We have tried a variety of bedding and have found that pine shavings seem to work best for us. However, we only put bedding in the hen house and keep all the food and water outside. We’ve learned from experience that bedding+ducks+water=horrible mess, so if you have the option to separate these things, that’s probably best. We’ve gone to keeping the waterer and the kiddie pool on cement that drains out of the pen rather than on the dirt… chickens and ducks seem to love to make mud 🙂 And honestly, we loved our egg ducks; they laid fabulous eggs and had great personalities… we just didn’t have the energy to start all over after the bear broke in, knowing what a mess they make. Good luck and let us know if you have any other questions!