On Friday, I picked up the newly ordered ducks from Privett Hatchery. Several people went in on an order of twenty or so ducks, so it saved us a few dollars each in shipping. I also thought it would save me a weekday trip to the Post Office during business hours, but it turned out they arrived on my day off anyway. In retrospect, it would have been simpler to have ordered my own, as I could have done the minimum of ten and not had the following difficulties…
We had a lot of trouble differentiating the breeds. The order contained (or was supposed to contain) straight-run Cresteds, Mallards, Magpies, Cayugas, Runners, Swedish, and Buff Orpingtons. I was expecting the Swedish to be blue (that’s the only “acceptable” color, but they do have black and silver in their gene pool), but all but a few solid yellow ducks, and the obvious Mallards, appeared to be black. The Swedish could have been mistaken for poorly marked Magpies, so it was difficult to pick them out for sure. If there were Runners and Cayugas in there, they all looked the same to us (but I suspect they were all Cayugas, because we just didn’t see any hint of Runner shape to any of them).
The other point of confusion was that we had ordered all females. Most of the ducklings had red paint on their heads. But, a few had blue paint, which we supposed may indicate males. We called the hatchery for help in confirming this, but they told us paint at all meant they were females. Ok. The phone advice on breed comparison didn’t help, so we finally just took our best guess.
I think those hatcheries handle thousands of hatchlings, and their accuracy isn’t real high when packing complicated orders. Their convention is to pack a few extra in an order as large as twenty, but they didn’t this time. And a LOT of the birds were not doing well, they were weak, with floppy heads. I imagine one can expect some mortality rate with shipping, heck, it’s gotta be hard on the birds.
But also when I got there, the birds were not in a hatcher with food and water in front of them to recover from the trip, but rather were out on the lawn with a half dozen kids playing with them like toys. I know when I was that age, I surely couldn’t resist baby animals, and it probably would be safe to play with home-hatched babies that had a perfect start. But, it may not have been the best thing for these ducks after a long shipping journey, to endure the stress of childrens’ exuberance, and be away from their food, water and heat source during waking hours. I felt relieved that the ones I took seemed to still be robust (since they are $5 apiece, after all!). But felt badly that the ones left behind were all destined to be kids’ pets, since probably some of them wouldn’t be making it.
My intention was to get a combo of Magpies, Runners and Swedish. I got some nicely marked black Magpies, the Swedish are also black, which is ok, but not what I expected. And, the one solid black one I ended up with, I think, is a Cayuga, not a Runner. I don’t want them because they don’t lay well (<100 eggs per year), they are more of a meat breed. But, supposedly their eggs are quite blue, so unless the Swedish lay similar looking eggs, hopefully I can just make sure this girl’s eggs all go into dog food, not baby production.
Here are some pics of the new babies. The Swedish have darker cheeks compared to the Magpies, that’s the subtle way to tell them apart, as far as I know. You can see the one all-black baby, that has a small yellow haze on the chest; that’s the suspected Cayuga. Maybe I’ll grow to like her even though she’s not a runner.