Duck Tales: Depressing Duck Math

Though the ducks are laying cheerfully, I did find most of the receipts for the ducks and well, even if we achieved peak production for this month and December (daily laying from the Khakis and the Cayuga finally laying a couple eggs a week this month and next), we’d be in the hole on the ducks by quite a bit.

The waterers endlessly leaking and being super expensive was the problem.  We dropped a lot on waterers designed for indoor poultry, though we didn’t really think that part through when we got them.  So, sucky!  We’ll have to do some kind of hanging thing sometime in the next few weeks and see how that goes.

We spent about $120 on various feeding and watering contraptions, mostly waterers.  The ducks themselves cost $47 and one had to be killed for severe congenital problems.  The first 75lbs of feed was just starter ration to get them to laying age.  We’re now at 120lbs of layer ration used so far.

The starter was about 20 a sack, the layer 14 or so a sack.

Without projecting the additional costs of more feed (we buy layer 80lbs at a time, and in a week or two we’ll be through 160lbs of feed), we can only “earn” about $170 in market value for the eggs this year.  But we’ve spent about $240 all told and have to buy more feed to get them to year-end.  Figuring 80lbs/month, we’ll close the year out having spent about 300 dollars on all costs for the ducks, with a maximum of about 170 dollars in egg value from 4 layers.

And peak laying is 8-9 dozen eggs per month with that many.  Current  market value of a dozen duck eggs is about $7, so each month the ducks would be producing (if all four lay) 56-63 dollars worth of eggs.

If we have to kill the second Cayuga for being a dud, we won’t get to 170 bucks this year and our laying max is 7.5 dozen, or $52.50/month in egg value.

So, even at peak laying, we don’t see a breakeven on the ducks until sometime in March.  Now, doing it this way loads all the expense at once, amortizing the ducks’ purchase price and the equipment over 3 years (reasonable laying lifetime at good high numbers per month) makes that 170 for the year look a lot nicer.

To summarize:

  • All expenses at once– $170-$300= $130 loss at peak laying numbers.
  • Amortizing equipment and animal purchase price over 3 years– $170-$100= $70 profit at peak laying numbers.

We may not get peak laying, I’ll revisit this in January and obviously if I have to kill the Cayuga, I’ll note that as well.

Our labor is negligible, the ducks take a couple minutes a day, even moving the run takes seconds.  I was pretty surprised, it seems longer some days, but 5 minutes is a long duck-tending day.  Water costs are a few dollars annually.  And of course, feed is the biggie.  They eat a variable amount daily, sometimes a quart, sometimes three, they clearly get a lot out of the fresh grass and bugs they have access to.  But right now a safe guess is 80lbs/month, or about $340/yr, rounding a bit.

So right now, next year the ducks would bring in $625-750 in eggs at peak laying, which compares ok with the feed estimate above.

I am less depressed now, yay!

Duck Tales, egg update

We now get 2 eggs a day most days out of 3 Khaki Campbells and 1 Cayuga.  Sometimes one of the eggs is a double-yolk.  Twice, about four weeks apart, we’ve had a paperthin-shelled egg, perfectly formed as an egg, but with a shell of leathery thinness.  We didn’t eat either of those.

 I thought it was a bad-pass from one of the Khakis and that between the 3 of them they aren’t laying daily, but maybe it’s early efforts from the Cayuga.  Hard to say.

The ducks just continue to make nests in the grass of their run as we move it around the yard, except for most of the double yolks and those two paper thin eggs.  Those get laid in the mud by the water.  And the ducks continue to not damage their own eggs, even the very fragile misstep ones.

 I got a cool tip on how to figure out who’s laying (it involves food coloring!), but I am not sure I want to narrow the field just yet, since this is the time of year laying slows down anyhow.  I’ll likely give all four another month, and maybe just not worry about it until spring.  We’ll see how late fall and winter laying goes, especially once we have to bring them into the barn.

Duck Math, Lessons Learned

The ducks are past 18 weeks and now laying 1-2 eggs a day, so we don’t have to buy eggs right now and may not have to through winter.  We are ok with moderating our intake to what they lay and next year storing any excess when we get our first full laying year.

The big lesson for us was that at this little homestead level, there is no point in buying ducklings.  It was great to learn how to raise them and go through the basic process, but the cost of starter for just a few ducks is more expensive than buying someone else’s grown ducks who specializes in selling adults.  Freshly hatched from the feed store, each duckling ran us 9-10$.  We could have bought three or four guaranteed laying adult females for 15-25$ each in late spring and already had eggs for months.  And the cash value of a dozen duck eggs is pretty high, so it would have penciled out within a few weeks.

I am not sure it will pencil out this year, it depends on if we start getting 3-4 eggs a day and if the ducks will lay through late fall and early winter.  It is no loss, though, the ducks will have paid for their costs of purchase and feed by spring.

I think it’s just surprising sometimes that there is a justification for letting others specialize even at relatively low levels.  But then again, specialization has always been a part of homesteading, farmsteading and farming.  It’s just hard to remember with the media promotion of mixed-use farming as if it doesn’t also require some specializing.

The sheep cow the goats

They lounge around in the stall entrance blocking the gate, chewing their cud in the good shade while the goats bleat and stand a few feet away in the slightly less cool shade next to the entrance.

It’s pretty funny.  Of course, when I try to take a picture they slowly get up and file out into the paddock, as far as they can get from the barn.  And they do make out like they meant to get up right then and go have a nibble.

In duck news, the weather’s been swinging wildly from cold to superhot and according to the internet, this can stall laying for a few days to several weeks unless the ducks are moved to a more controlled climate setting.  It could also be the youth of the ducks, the most regular laying is after 22 weeks for just about all breeds except the very largest.  So we may just not see any more until they are all older by a few more weeks.

At least one child has had chicken pox most of the week, and I am wiped out, so that’s all for now.


Awaiting eggs!

Not sure when they will happen, but this weekend is 14 weeks for the ducks, which is the earliest we’d get anything, so we set up a nest box for them and hope they will lay on what’s left of the starter ration until we switch over to layer ration at 18 weeks or empty sack, whichever comes first.

Also, one of the ducks kept flying out, so we covered their pen with chicken wire, which is working great and is still easy to move around.  The ducks, if they are at least half girls (2/4), will be our homesteading YAY for the year, as the cost to keep them relative to their egg production for the rest of the year is more than competitive to buying locally.  Keeping them on fresh grass seems to be reducing their purchased feed consumption without affecting their growth.