Hundred-year-old Advice for Raising Ducks

19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Thursday, June 18, 1914:  Jimmie and I were in the carpenter business this morning. I could pound my fingers, drive nails crooked, and make the boards stick together. The result is to be a home for the duck hatcher (as Jimmie calls her) and her ducks.

Source: Farm Journal (May, 1914)

Source: Farm Journal (May, 1914)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

I wish that I could see what the pen or small building that Grandma and her eight-year-old brother Jimmie built for the duck and her ducklings looked like. What a fun activity for the two siblings to do together!

I couldn’t find any pictures or information about duck houses, but I did find to two short articles about ducks in 1914 issues of Farm Journal:

A lover of fowls will find duck raising interesting and profitable. The Pekin is the duck most generally reared for market purposes. It is ready for market in a short time. A Pekin duck grows faster than any other fowl, except the goose.

Farm Journal (August, 1914)

The illustration on this page shows a flock of Pekin ducks and a swimming pool. Undoubtedly they are in the height of their glory, for a duck naturally takes to water. While it is possible to keep ducks profitably without bathing water, if the breeders can have access to a pond or creek for several hours a day it will be the means of keeping them in better condition. Unlike a hen, the duck can not scratch, and consequently, does not get the exercise the hen does. But when allowed bathing water it will obtain the needed exercise and thus keep down fat.

Ducklings, however, intended for market, must be deprived of this luxury, or they will not be able to secure the required weight. Baby ducklings, before they grow their feathers, should not be allowed near water, except for drinking purposes, as they are easy prey to cramps (which often means death) when their down becomes water-soaked.

On Long Island, where the business is conducted on the largest scale, those in the breeding pens are allowed in the creek at any time they choose during the day, but at night they are driven into a house where they are kept until late in the morning. This is done so that none of the eggs will be lost, for ducks, as a rule, lay at night.

Farm Journal (May, 1914)

14 Responses

  1. Oh, wouldn’t that be a sight to see? I think all of us have images in our mind of Grandma and Jimmie working together on a duck house!

  2. I can just imagine what fun they had building a pen for the duck hatcher & her ducks. lol They sound like such light hearted kids.

  3. This must’ve been a sight to see! I wonder if the ducks found it habitable?

  4. I watched an episode of a Louis CK comedy series last night. He was going to entertain troops in Afghanistan. His six year old secretly packed a duckling into his bag to keep him safe.

  5. What a happy pair they must have made, working toward a singular purpose! :)

  6. Interesting facts about raising ducks.

  7. I liked this for two reasons. One, because grandma seemed to be having fun (and I love her amusing way of describing it.) And two, I like the info about ducks. Thanks.

  8. Interesting info. Loved her entry, a peek into real life and her sense of humor.

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