Maybe 4 years ago I was reading Cure Tooth Decay, by Ramiel Nagel. It was fascinating, but what really got my attention diet-wise, was his info on how duck eggs are wonderful for tooth remineralisation. My eldest son, who normally had a high pain tolerance (has been bitten by about 4 different types of spiders, sliced himself badly while building a cubby in the bush etc and would never cry or complain much) had been a writhing mess on the floor when he had toothache. Now we were growing our own veg and chicken eggs, eating a very “from scratch” sort of diet and I didn’t get how we could have tooth decay creeping into the family. Cure Tooth Decay made it clear that excess of poorly prepared grains in the diet and a lack of tooth-building foods in the diet was just as much a problem as an excess of sugar and junk could be.
We were wanting to produce more eggs here, so decided duck eggs would be the optimal choice, as they’re 4 times higher than chicken eggs in fat soluble vitamins A and D…and generally helpful for tooth remineralisation.
Next step was to research which types of ducks were the top layers.
Being fond of the less common varieties, we went for Welsh Harlequins, and were blessed enough to find someone with a few hours drive of our place selling a small flock of these gorgeous ducks.
Fast forward a few years, and we now have a beautiful flock of Welsh Harlequin X (excellent layers, but they’re not show standard), which has just increased by 16 this Spring, after a successful incubator hatch.
The egg laying has been sporadic over the years, ducks being far more particular with their diet that chickens are (in our experience anyway!). Once we went for about 6 months with barely an egg from them, which was such a disappointment when they were costing so much to feed! I tried organic chicken feed from a local organic store, and it worked beautifully…for about a month. Then we were back to meagre production.
A slight increase in production occurred when I started using a different hose for their water. Sound crazy? We’re an organic market garden, and Rick has a fertigation system (a way of pumping liquid nutrients into the irrigation pipes for the crops) and I had been using one of the hoses connected to this system for the ducks water. Certain minerals have the ability to promote either fruiting or leaf growth in crops (male or female qualities) and I wondered if there was something in there that was stopping egg (like fruit) production. 10 days after switching to a hose that pumped up pure unfertigated bore water, I started getting some eggs.
Eventually I contacted Country Heritage Feeds, a local organic chicken feed producer and they got me onto the high protein organic mash that they sell to commercial egg producers. That was about 3 months ago, and we haven’t looked back. That feed has made an incredible difference. We went from a few eggs a day, to almost every duck laying almost every day! And this has been going on steadily for 3 months! UPDATE: Excellent egg production for over a year, and increased broodiness. They have just slowed down over the last few weeks.
Now we get more eggs than we need…and they’re all fertile. That batch of 16 we had hatch this Spring were from 21 eggs that we incubated in a Janoel incubator (I will note that we put an extra thermometer/humidity reader in there for the incubation, as the incubator wasn’t doing a good job of regulating temperature by itself).
Last Spring we had 10 hatch, out of about 11 eggs, under chicken hens, who then went on to raise the ducklings for us. So funny when the ducklings jump in the water for a swim and their “mother” hen freaks out because she can’t understand why any chick of hers would want to get wet!
Onto the fertile eggs. So long as our ducks are pumping out fertile eggs like this, we have our surplus available for sale. And it doesn’t matter where in Australia you live, because we are able to safely express post them anywhere in the country.
Our Fertile Welsh Harlequin X eggs, from organically fed, free ranged birds, are $30/doz.
Eggs are most fertile for the first 7 days from being laid, so I post eggs on the day, or day after they are laid. For example, if you wanted 2 dozen, you’d get the eggs from the day I post, and from the day before I post.
AUTUMN 2020 UPDATE: I get slightly less eggs throughout Autumn, so it can take an extra day to get enough eggs to fill an order. I’m also using Sendle rather than Aus Post, because Aus Post express service has been taking too long due to COVID-19 creating a spike in online sales and therefore an overload on their postal system. They were also being too rough with the parcels.
JANUARY 2021 UPDATE: The laying has just dropped back again, after about 6 months of the girls laying close to maximum output. I may not have surplus eggs for a few months, I’ll see how they go!
JULY 2021 UPDATE: Some of the girls have started laying again, but not in numbers that leave me with enough surplus to sell. So fertile eggs are not available at the moment, sorry.
I can post 1 doz anywhere in Australia for $20.
I can post 2 doz anywhere in Australia for $25
Demand is high in Spring (and this Autumn), so sometimes there’s a waiting list.
So far we’ve sent out over 15 doz, and only had 3 eggs have any breakage (UPDATE: We’ve had a few parcels with more breakages now, but this was using Aus Post. No trouble yet with Sendle). I achieve this by lining a box with either fabric or bubble wrap, and then individually wrapping each egg in cloth, taping that on with packing tape, and then placing them in the box, filling gaps with more bubble wrap or fabric (I use old clean sheets and bubble wrap from business packages that we’ve received, so we’re keeping it eco-friendly), and sealing the box.
I try to always add an extra couple of eggs to the box, so that in the unlikely event of breakage, you still will have as many eggs as you paid for.
NOTE: the cotton wrapping of the eggs insulates heat, and therefore can start the incubation process early. Be aware your babies might hatch out about 3 days early!
This week I’ve been getting lovely feedback from buyers who’s ducklings have just hatched. The hatch rates have been impressive (as shipped eggs usually have the reputation of less fertility).
“Hi Racheal, it’s David. I got a dozen eggs from you last month remember? Just thought you might like to know our babies have arrived, 2 days early. 7/12 all safe and well. Candled after a week and all 12 forming well, at 2 weeks 2 had turned bad, by the end of week 3, 2 looked malformed and were dry and we lost 1 after he’d almost pipped his way out yesterday. It was looking like we might be lucky with 10 near the end but not to be. The ducklings are little beauties but don’t they take a long time pipping! Kind regards, David”
“Hi Racheal, thank you very much for selling your Welsh Harlequin duck eggs to us. We have lots of them. Your ducklings are the best hatch. Thanks again Racheal, Phillip and Cheryl.”
To order, contact Racheal at email@example.com
NOTE: If you don’t hear from me within 2 days, check your junk mail folder for a reply. This seems to be happening to a few people!
October 2022 Update:
I’m very sorry to say, almost my entire flock of Welsh Harlequins was lost in a fox attack (it got into their lock-up), a few nights ago. 🙁
I’m glad their fertile eggs have gone right around the country over the past few years, so the family is not completely lost…but now we definitely don’t have any duck eggs, fertile or not, available.