Farming Pekin Ducks for eggs in New Zealand is providing a lucrative income for Pete and Katie Mitchell who supply to the NZ Asian market.
There are several varieties of Pekin duck. The better known varieties include the British strain, Cherry Valley, and the King Cole. Katie and Pete Mitchell farm 3,000 of the large white King Cole Pekins for eggs at Ahuroa in Northland, New Zealand, on 20 acres of land.
Duck Egg Markets
In 2001, Pete and Katie took over the duck farm from previous owners who hadn’t succeeded in establishing good markets for the eggs they produced. Now, with two part-time workers, the Mitchells have developed strong markets in the Asian communities of Auckland, as well as into restaurants and have begun to establish markets as far south as Wellington.
Substantial communities of Asians have established themselves in Auckland and these include Cambodians, Vietnamese, Laotians, Philippinos, Thais, Indians, and Chinese. Virtually all Asian peoples enjoy duck eggs. With the notable exception of the Japanese, the Mitchell’s duck eggs are eaten in the hundreds of dozens by these communities.
Other important markets include those who are allergic to chicken.
In New Zealand the produce of RMP Licencees is vastly preferred over any other. An RMP is a written risk management programme set up to monitor and control the quality, hazards and labelling of animal produce. An RMP looks to biological, as well as chemical and physical factors. The Mitchell’s duck farm is currently believed to be the only one in NZ with an RMP license.
The ducks are housed in sheds which take up 2884m2. They spend most of their lives on untreated pine shavings in the large sheds which are split into six. Ducks are split into young birds, laying birds, etc. When the ducks are not laying, around 2 months of the year, they are turned out into the paddocks to enjoy the grass and the outdoors where they can dig up worms with their bills and swim on ponds. Within minutes of being herded into the paddocks, they locate the pond and any shallow puddles and quickly turn from white to something rather muddy. They revel in it.
Pete says that there are no flies on the farm because the ducks clean them up as soon as they appear. Snails don’t get much of a chance either. As the farmers work around the farm, they come across huhu grubs and other tasty morsels (at least from a duck’s point of view) and they all wind up with the ducks who make short work of them. Ducks will never deliberately destroy eggs, but once in a while a duck will roll one out of her nest because it’s gone bad. It’s an instinctual act to ensure that predators only get the egg that’s no good and not venture near the nest. If perchance one of these rolled-out eggs is crushed by a careless boot or wheelbarrow, the ducks will be there in a flash to gobble it up.
In the main, the Mitchells feed their ducks pellets which are nutritionally complete, and they supplement with a smattering of brewer’s grain, along with plenty of fresh water.
Ducklings hatch 28 days after the egg has been laid which is convenient if maths isn’t your strong point. Four weeks to the day. Pekins are not good mothers as a rule and usually won’t sit on their eggs for the necessary incubation period. For this reason the Mitchells transfer eggs to incubators and raise them themselves.
When the ducklings are six or seven weeks old they’re introduced to the paddocks and ponds outside unless the conditions are too cold for them. They come back inside at around 26 weeks old, when they start laying. Ten months later they go into moult and stop laying and are herded outside again.
Duck farming practicalities
Duck farming isn’t as easy as it might seem and the Mitchells work their farm seven days a week. There are eggs to be collected; the ducks have to fed; drains need to be kept clear and regularly washed through, and the shavings have to be changed, and all of it is done by hand.
One of the advantages of having to clean out the untreated soiled wood shavings is the saleable byproduct of sought after compost. Katie says that duck manure is less potent than chicken manure and that even after a day of working with bare hands in it, there is no odour on her hands.
Source: Theresa Sjoquist interview with Katie & Pete Mitchell, October 2010
Please Note: I am a writer. I have no feathers, eggs, meat and I apologise, but I do not know where to get such items from. This article was published in 2011.