Working on the Duck Cabin

We’ve been fighting our usual Michigan weather to start building the cabin for Freckles and Penguin. One day it’s 70 degrees and sunny and the next it’s 45 degrees and raining. But we have had enough nice days that we’re finally able to begin working on the duck cabin!

Working on the Duck Cabin

The Plan –

Mr. Comfortable made a rough sketch to show me what the cabin will look like when completed. Of course he had to show the sketch to Freckles and Penguin first!

Working on the Duck Cabin

Working on the Duck Cabin has had a slow start.

First we had to come up with the plan. I told Mr. C how much floor space the ducks required and he drew up a plan. Next he began sorting the wood for suitable pieces. Our chainsaw died so the poor man has been reduced to using a mini chainsaw that is supposed to be for trimming very small branches from standing trees.

Using that saw has made the job a lot slower and more difficult but Mr. C kept at it. We now have logs cut for two walls.

Working on the Duck Cabin

It doesn’t look like we’ve made any much headway but cutting logs for the duck cabin is probably the longest part of the job. We had a huge pile of wood leftover from the ice and wind storms we’ve had over the last few years. I think we could have made a nice little tiny house for Mr. Comfortable and me with all that wood!

The front and back of the duck cabin will both have doors so we don’t need as many logs for them. Doors in front and back will make it much easier to clean out the cabin.

Working on the Duck Cabin

Ducks need ventilation so that’s part of the plan!

Under the overhang of the roof we’re putting in ventilation screens. Ducks have very moist breath and the moisture has to be able to escape. If it couldn’t the straw in their cabin would become very wet and moldy very quickly. And in winter it would make things colder for the ducks. We’ll use hardware cloth the length of the cabin on two sides. The ventilation screens will be about 2 inches high and firmly attached to the inside of the cabin.

Working on the Duck Cabin

 The ducks need light but predator-proofing is essential!

Working on the duck cabin doesn’t mean just building a basic shelter. In addition to the ventilation the ducks need light even on days when they can’t go outside. No one wants to spend freezing winter days cooped up in the dark! But the windows have to be predator proof. And we have quite a few predators here. We rarely see stray dogs but there are our foxes, raccoons, and even a couple of coyotes that would love a duck dinner.

Mr. C has made sure no would be diners can get to Freckles and Penguin through the windows. He’s using thick acrylic he had from some old plaques. The windows are being mounted in wooden frames that will be cemented into the walls.

Working on the Duck Cabin

To ensure that no predators can peek in and frighten the ducks to death the windows will have wooden shutters. We’ll make them so that those slick-fingered raccoons can’t open the shutters. The same type of locks will go on the doors.

Their entire cabin, the pond, and the “play area” will be surrounded by chicken wire. This will help keep predators away. No four-legged critters and no hawks will be able to get into the ducks’ area.

Working on the duck cabin hasn’t required much from me so far.

I told Mr. C the space, ventilation, and light requirements. I made a list of potential predators and what the ducks needed in their outdoor space. Mr. Comfortable has done all the work.

It’s my hope that when we begin to actually start construction I’ll be able to do some of the work. But you know men. I’ll probably have to fight Mr. C and Pete to get in on the building. Whatever it takes I’m going to have a part in working on the duck cabin! It’s going to be fun!

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Learning to Sew Part II

Way back last May I wrote that I really need to learn to sew. I’ve been really afraid of sewing for a long time and the reasons are listed in Learning to Sew. This isn’t a fear of not being able to learn. It’s a real fear of injury which I explain in the post from May. But now I have no excuses because of the incredible generosity of someone who sent me *drum roll please* a sewing machine!

My beautiful new sewing machine!

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A Conversation with Death Row Ducks

In a continuing effort to educate city dwellers and others about life in a rural area the CCNN (Comfortable Coop News Network) brings you the first in a one episode series on ducks on death row. Technically it’s an episode on how two ducks, sentenced to death escaped their fate due to the valiant efforts of one man and two dogs. And now…with limited commercial interruption…A Conversation with Death Row Ducks.

Deciding not to butcher your ducks

Interviewer: You are Penguin?

Penguin: Yes. I’m the one who doesn’t have a funny colored bill.

Penguin is a duck and a sloppy eater

(Loud objection heard in the background from Spot who does, indeed have a funny colored bill for a Black Swedish duck. “And wipe your mouth!”)

Interviewer: And you’re Spot? I don’t really need to ask since it’s obvious from your…funny colored bill.

Spot: Ducks can bite, ya know.

Spot is a duck with a funny colored bill!

Interviewer: You were both originally scheduled to be executed sometime after Christmas and now we’ve been informed that you are no longer on death row. That must feel just wonderful.

Penguin: Is there a question in there? Of course it feels wonderful. How would you feel if you discovered you’re not going to end up featherless and crispy-skinned on a platter?

Spot: Please excuse Penguin. He’s testy because he’s hungry. He’s always hungry. It feels great to know we’ve gone from dinner ducks to breeder ducks and won’t be eaten!

 

Interviewer: Why is Penguin hungry? Don’t you get fed in here in the tub cell?

Spot: We get fed 4 times a day which is one more than the average death row prisoner but then again, most death row prisoners aren’t being fattened up for consumption.

 

Interviewer: So how did you get this reprieve? Was it some group of skilled lawyers and their band of eager law students?

Penguin: You really think ducks can afford lawyers? We can’t even get a lawyer pro bono. Duck rights are not big in legal circles.

Spot: We had a lawyer recommended to us by those dogs that live outside the tub. They call him F. Lee Daddy and they said he can get any animal off any charge no matter how guilty the critter is…or in our case, isn’t.

 

Interviewer: And just what did F. Lee Daddy do to get your sentenced commuted?

Spot: He talked to that lady who feeds us and washes our tub and makes the water for swimming come into the tub. He told her we were cute and sweet and that we look at him and our eyes show we’re smart.

Penguin: We are smart! We learned that when F. Lee Daddy or the lady come in the room to make the water noise in the white chair at night that we aren’t supposed to quack when they say, “Shh.” That’s practically genius level stuff when you’re a duck!

 

Interviewer: And did the dogs that live outside the tub help in any way?

Spot: They told the lady they love us and they told her they kiss our bills and should not be eaten. They said they would be crushed and heartbroken if we got cooked, especially if she cut our heads off first. Like Stu…who actually had it coming because he was mean and just look what he did to Penguin’s tail feathers!

Penguin: I hate when those dogs lick our bills. There’s no way to preserve your dignity when there’s a big, wet tongue sliding over your face.

 

Interviewer: So now that you’re no longer condemned to orange glaze death do you have plans?

Penguin: It turns out I’m a boy duck. This makes me really, really valuable so…

(Interrupted by Spot)

Spot: I’m a duck. Girl ducks are ducks. Boy ducks are drakes and yes, Penguin is a drake. It’s a good thing his drake feather finally popped up because the lady really didn’t want to keep either of us but two ducks would be one too many! Now girl ducks lay eggs even if there’s no boy duck around but the lady said if they were keeping one they might as well keep both. What she meant was that since Penguin is a boy and now can help make baby ducks he has a purpose. I always had one.

 

Interviewer: So what’s in your future?

Spot: We will live in the tub for a little while longer. F. Lee Daddy has decided to build us a log cabin duck home in the backyard (whatever that is). But the lady has promised to stop poking our breasts and picking us up to weigh us while we’re still in there. She will continue to feed us, wash the tub, and make the swimming water come. And the dogs will keep adoring us from outside the tub.

Penguin: A log cabin? Like this?

Log cabin in the woods

Spot: No. That’s a people log cabin.

Penguin: What about this one? I don’t like this one. It’s scary and there’s a small human trying to break in!

Spooky little cabin in the woods

Spot: It’ll be more like this one.

A great poultry log cabin

Interviewer: Penguin? Can we get back to your future?

Penguin: Sex is in my future. A lot of sex. I have to make lots of little ducks the lady can put in the freezer with Stu so she doesn’t start looking at us like food. Again.

 

Interviewer: I’m really happy for both of you. Does the lady know ducks can live more than ten years?

Spot: SHHH! Don’t get her thinking about ten years of quacking and cleaning the log cabin!

 

In a follow-up interview with “The Lady” our dedicated team of reporters (okay.one person) asked the following.

Interviewer: Now that you’ve shown you have at least the possibility of possessing a soul and may not be the world’s only living heart donor do you feel better about yourself?

The Lady: *sigh*

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Butchering a Duck

This post contains some graphic pictures. If you are squeamish or there are kids you’d prefer not viewing them please check out a different post.

After three days of Stu beating up on the other two ducks I decided today was the day he had to be butchered. He was definitely big enough and Penguin and Spot had signed a petition to get Stu out of the tub. Stu bullied them and wouldn’t even let them get their share of the food. It was time to get started on butchering a duck!

This Pekin duck will be butchered for stew

I have to admit I was up all night the night before. It wasn’t going to be easy to butcher Stu. Ducks are more intelligent than chickens (not that being smarter than a chicken is a claim to fame) and Stu had personality. I have never butchered an animal without feeling gratitude for it giving us food and sorrow at the taking of its life. But these ducks were brought home to be meat and Stu was making life very unpleasant for Spot and Penguin.

The weather was great for butchering (in the high 50’s) and I would normally do the whole job outside. Unfortunately, my hands were giving me a lot of trouble so we decapitated the duck outside and I finished everything else inside.

I didn’t get as many pictures as I had originally planned because it’s hard to butcher and photograph at the same time and Mr. Comfortable was avoiding the kitchen.

Stu was a tricky duck in the end. I put him in a contractors garbage bag which should have been tough enough to stand up to his nails and also too thick for him to wriggle through. It should have been. I cut a hole in the corner of the bag and had Mr. Comfortable hold it open. I grabbed Stu and stuffed him, head first, into the bag.

Instantly he managed to both scratch tears in the bag and push his chest partly through the hole. I had to bundle him up in the bag like I was swaddling him. I knew these ducks weren’t used to being handled but Stu really didn’t like the idea of being held. As I struggled to hold on to him I briefly thought about just shooting him right there in the bathroom but it would scare the other ducks, give the dogs heart attacks, and Mr. C would probably have objected.

Since Mr. Comfortable had made it very clear he wanted nothing to do with what I’m sure he considered duckacide I was worried about how I’d hold the duck and swing the axe. Clearly Stu wasn’t going to be one of those birds that would lie quietly awaiting his fate. But my wonderful (if very nervous and sad) husband told me he’d cut Stu’s head off if I would hold the duck. I decided Mr. C probably wouldn’t execute me and run off with the duck so I pinned Stu to the log and let Mr. C swing away.

As soon as the duck was decapitated I sent Mr. C into the house to get a bucket. As a city boy I was pretty sure he didn’t know the bird would continue to move after his head was removed from his body. I didn’t want to have to revive Mr. C if he saw a zombie duck flapping around. My timing was perfect. Stu stopped moving right before Mr. C got back with the bucket.

Duck decapitated and ready to dress out

Once I’d hung the bird over the bucket to bleed out a bit it was time to move inside. I’d covered the table with plastic and had my knives ready. The bucket went next to the table so I could drop everything I wasn’t keeping in it for easy disposal. Keeping Remy and Henry away from the bucket and the bird wasn’t as hard as I expected. One good holler and they decided to watch from a distance.

Since this bird will be duck stew I didn’t worry about plucking it. I simply cut through the skin, starting at the neck and peeled feathers and skin back together.

Skinning a duck means no plucking!

The trachea was visible next to the neck but it, along with all the internal parts is removed after the skin.

Butchering a duck is easy

I cut the feet off just to make the final steps of skinning it easier. And since the wings have very little meat on them I just removed them by breaking the bone and cutting the tendons. The duck feet can be saved for making duck stock but I’m not planning on making any so I just threw the feet away.

Duck feet can be used to make duck stock

Once the bird was mostly skinned I could clearly see the body cavity. It’s crucial not to nick the intestines so I made a cut wide around the vent (the part from which it excretes waste). I pinched the vent and carefully pulled the internal organs out of the cavity.

When butchering a duck the internal organs slide out easily

The yellow fat membrane is cut to allow the organs to be removed easily.

It’s also important not to tear or cut the bile duct which is attached to the liver. And the heart, lungs, trachea, and kidneys will almost definitely have to be pulled out separately.

Once the bird is emptied I rinsed it and cut off as much of the remaining skin as I could. There’s a lot of silver skin (just like pork tenderloin) on a duck and the skin is tough!

After the duck was rinsed I removed the breasts, all the meat from the drumsticks, and from the back. Ducks don’t yield as much meat as you might think looking at one so I cut every bit of meat I could from the carcass. I had to remove the tendons as I came across them and also had a few feather shafts to cut out.

I was going to make duck stew right away but I think I’m going to give Mr. C time to stop thinking of it as Stu and remember it was meant to be dinner.

 

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Ducks in the Tub

Mr. Comfortable went to our oldest son’s house for Thanksgiving and on Saturday, before we headed back home, I went with my son, Paul, to pick up a couple of ducks. His friends got an unexpected brood from an unexpected dalliance between one of their Pekin ducks and one of the Black Swedish ducks. And it was the mallard that sat on the nest! Because we got home late Saturday and I was tired and more than a bit sore I didn’t want to do much. So the ducks (three instead of two) got rinsed off instead of bathed and now I have ducks in the tub!

Ducks are delicious but right now they're in my tub!

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