Renewable Food

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Along with others who see the writing on the wall – and the prices at the store – I’ve been taking steps to make sure I have renewable food on hand.

An excellent form of this being chickens – and ducks, which I just got five more of. Including two male Muscovy and three female Muscovy ducks, which renew themselves without any work needed on my part. The ducks not only renew themselves, they renew my supply of duck eggs – which are superlative for baking and highly desired by others for that purpose.

If you have them, you not only have a renewable source of food, you have fungible food. Duck eggs can be sold – or traded – and are often sold for more than chicken eggs because they are harder to get.

Free-range chicken eggs are also desirable, fungible and renewable. My small flock of seven girls provide that many eggs per day and sometimes more. Which is more than enough to feed two people heartily (scrambled/over-easy/hard-boiled eggs as such plus eggs added to rice or beans to make a protein-rich feast) and leave enough to sell or barter to others for needful things in addition to food.

Or other kinds of food, such as beef or pork – which is harder and more expensive to raise and not feasible to raise unless you have at least a few acres of land. If you have a back yard, you can raise chickens – or ducks.

Or both!

Ducks and chickens freely associate in a mutually beneficial way. If you get both as chicks and raise them together, they will bond together as one flock and the ducks – at least, my Pekin ducks – grow up to be protective of the chickens, a valuable thing if you free range the birds. Chickens are food for hawks but hawks seem to be reluctant to mess with ducks. Possibly because ducks are bigger than chickens, especially if you get a big breed like the Pekin.

Ducks are astute birds; they scan the sky for hawks and if they see something that unsettles them, they not only let the chickens know, they herd the chickens to a safe place, such as the cover of a bush. My main duck – a Pekin male named Flip – even guard-dogs the entrance to the coop, waiting beside it until I show up to close it and tuck everyone in for the night.

The ducks bed down with the chickens and it’s a nice arrangement because there’s no conflict. The chickens roost and the ducks don’t. They bed down on the straw. The main issue is to design your coop so as to avoid the issue of the chickens raining poop  on the ducks.

I am in the process of building a larger coop for the girls, which will allow me to get a few more girls. Which will mean more fungible food. A dozen hens in their prime will give you a dozen eggs per day. That’s seven dozen eggs per week. Enough to keep a large family well-stocked with renewable, high-quality protein that does not have to be refrigerated.

Many people do not know that eggs – as they come from the bird – are perfectly safe to leave out. When laid, they are covered with a thin, translucent coating called the bloom – which government-regulated eggs do not have because government-regulated eggs (which is all store-bought eggs) are required by law to be washed, which removes the bloom – and makes it necessary to refrigerate them, because they are perishable.

But fresh eggs with the bloom can be kept on the counter without worry – or electricity. That makes them storable in addition to renewable and fungible. If things get really bad and the power goes out, your eggs will not go bad.

Unlike store-bought eggs.

And you’ll not have to worry about going to the store. There are no Face Diaper “mandates” in your own backyard and the price of eggs remains your favorite price – free.

Repeatedly.

Yes, there’s the cost of the hens and the cost of building the coop, plus the cost of peripherals such as waterers and feeders (all cheap and easy to build from commonly available things, such as plastic buckets).

But it’ll cost you a lot less than going hungry – and how do you put a price tag on that?

. . .

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52 COMMENTS

  1. Howdy Eric, seldom have much time/interest for things electronic so don’t keep up with you. I see that you’ve decided to give up on joining the Mobility Nobility and have joined the Dirt Dwellers! I went the opposite path: already knew about goats and their milk from the ’70s, went thru the self-sufficient garden, chickens, ducks and steers phase in the ’90s …. Realized lead wasn’t the most palatable precious metal for my personality and skills, so chose mobility.

    For the past 25 years where I live has been dictated by the availability of organic food, especially farmer’s markets, and the decline in quantity and quality of both is sickening. Since I don’t know when, The Government requires eggs sold at farmer’s markets to be cold … which drastically reduces their shelf life. Hopefully you’ve learned that if you don’t wash or refrigerate your eggs, and coat them with Vaseline, that they are good for m-a-n-y months. How many months I don’t know because they are always still good when I run out of eggs.

    I agree with others about the duck poop … Muscovies are cool personality-wise, but it I was never able to have enough compost or tolerance to deal with their poop. Definitely get a rooster … keep trying until you get a GOOD one, he will look after his hens better than any sweet (poopy!) duck

    FYI, there is a difference between a “government worker” and a “government employee”. One is an oxymoron, and the other is a regular moron.

    • Self-suf’s cool. Fetishizing talisman’izing self-suf past the same one-day-at-a-time that has & will always apply is, otoh, febrile. Those Holodomor’d Ukrainians were Dirt Dwellers, too, had (& became) some of the best topsoil ever. Dusty earth to earthy dust…Houston, we (always) have a problem…just walkin’, in the reign. Sing it, Dino:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Rt1VicF5-0

    • Thing that bothers me about the mobile lifestyle -appealing as it is- is that one has no place where they have a right to be and where others don’t. When they tell you to move along…you move along; and you never have the ability to say ‘get off’in muh property’.
      That, and the the fact that everything one is dependent on -food, water, fuel, etc.- must come from somewhere else, when they restrict the ability to travel, it is all over. And make no mistake about it, between this medical martial law, and greenie-weenie-ism and all…..restriction of movement is coming.
      Us self-sufficient types will be the last hold-outs. We can resist virtualy all economic manipulation, travel restrictions, vaccine passports, and whatever other ridiculous decrees, as well as social ostracism…..they literally have to come and get us with their guns blazing, and even then we can put up a good fight and at least be murdered rather than captured. Dayum! Love the oxymoron/regular moron thing!!!!

      • I’ve never rounded a tree in the woods & come upon a checkpoint. So when the wind whispered through the “your trees made into papers, please,” even tho I was there to hear it, not an unpleasant sound was made. Love that soft sough sound.

      • Even your self sufficient gear is only yours until the government decides it needs it.

        The laws are already on the books for anything ‘yours’ to become government property with any declaration of ’emergency’. You may posses things in the USA, but you OWN nothing if the government wants it. You can be told to ‘move along’ with little more difficulty than the nomad. OR you can get Wacoed. If you are not Wacoed, you can spend your life savings and a decade trying to get back what was ‘yours’. Likely unsuccessfully.

        • Just so.

          Why goo-rilla glued in place gots ta’ come in second to guerilla hued reignbows & arrows. Cuz brutal as the w/ring can be – even if Archie Moore tactics *do* getcha’ to the bell – it ain’t nuthin’ next to w/rong o’ the ring o’ the Sméagol & Sauron ship o’ state’s plans for the apostate.

          COG. Continuity of government. Ever able to not notice how in all those disaster flick renditions extraordinaire that COG is always & every time made cemented humanifest by all those countless wee cogs-ghosts in the machine? The trope o’ dope (what Ali borrowed from Moore) o’ commander in chief staying behind, of giving his ticket to ride away into McArthur’s promised return to some lesser cog/ito, is an all too common all-pit-no-fruit chary atop that rockin’ chair chained to the porch confection, too.

          Chain of gourmand. Who gets to eat who first, citizen g.i.? Who gets to pass the Donners & make it thru that eye of a needle pass once all the snowed have been melted into calorics to feed the valorics? Aye, just rhetorics, them questions.

        • Very true, Anon. Those who have the biggest guns, and the conscienceless mercenaries to wield them ultimately do what they want and obey no law. We can mitigate as best we can. Having “our own” property is one layer of separation; living in one of the freer states among less communized people is another; Leaving the USSA is a big nother.
          There may be nop true escape; no Libertarian paradise…but there are degrees of freedom and quality of life. I used to live in the People’s Republik Of Nueva York…..I moved 1000 miles away to a county that has one traffic light and lots of plain ol’ normal people who raise cows and tobacky….and the freedom I have gained and the quality of life I’ve recovered in the 20 years I’ve been here has been night and day.

  2. Eric, I’m so glad you touched on this topic. I’ve been keeping chickens for two decades for exactly the reasons you mentioned here. Easy to keep, prolific (there are six people and three big dogs and we use more than a dozen eggs a day) and, as a bonus, entertaining as hell.

    We tried ducks a few years ago, but they are the messiest creatures I’ve seen. They need to have someplace to swim, but make sure it’s a big pond, because they shit and shit and shit. Don’t think you can keep a kids play pool, or you’ll be emptying it every day. They are entertaining, though, and the eggs are definitely hearty.

    But if you get chickens, make sure you get a rooster. He’ll make sure everyone is safe from flying predators. Hens are always looking down for food. Roosters are always looking up. And if the rooster is not a brother, you’ll always have a batch of little chickies coming around in the early summer. Just make sure you have a safe place where broody hens can sit on them for a couple weeks.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XuIwukUXJs
    There’s eight of them under there!

  3. When my kids were young, we raised and (OMG) ate rabbits.

    Having been through the experiences of milk and beef cattle, hogs and goats, all of which require adequate and expensive pasture, the spatial requirements of a rabbit habitat is wonderfully minimal.

    Within a few square feet of wood and wire cages, a buck and six to ten does will keep a family in high protein, low fat rabbit meat forever. And, their litter can be added to the compost pile for a dose of nitrogen, then recycled into tasty veggies.

    I believe that my kids learned something about self-sufficiency, watching and understanding the process of caring-for and “processing” the meat.

    But then, being unnecessarily cruel to a pretty bunny rabbit was not “woke”.

  4. Ducks are great. They are very hardy , easy to deal with, their eggs are great to eat fried, scrambled, or as you stated for baking. I am amazed at how aware they are of any threats especially the aerial variety.
    We hatched 6 Pekins, and 5 Indian runners this past fall. The girls are producing more eggs than we can personally eat (runners produce somewhere between 180-250 eggs each per year, and probably forage for 85% plus of their daily calories.) When the Pekins start reproducing we’ll have some good meat birds. Looking at expanding the poultry to chickens soon and possibly Dexter cattle.

    This is the year we become more anti-fragile, self sufficient and off the beast systems. If this past year taught me anything, it’s just how fragile supply chains and large centralized systems can be.

    • Excellent, Sicilian!

      I agree that not only is it important to decouple from centralized systems but also that it is healthy to do so. Both physically as well as psychologically. The less dependent we are, the less control they have. The more control we have, the better we feel.

      It’s win for us – and lose for them.

      • Precisely, Eric!

        It can be done with food, electricity, even gasoline. It’s just a question of will and gumption. Let us become ungovernable!

  5. That poultry nipple you have on your water bucket, is that a float valve?
    Do ducks need that type of nipple compared to other nipples?
    Have you had any problems with the water freezing?
    I got some of these, but now I wonder of they’ll work for ducks or geese:

    https://www.theisens.com/products/nipples-poultry-for-hen-hydrator/9101463/

    I saw a Craigslist ad for a rooster, it said his crown got frostbite, made me wonder if my setup will be warm enough. I briefly considered insulated walls, but do you know what mice and hornets do to insulation? Not too mention the cost. I’m leaning towards two walls. 1×2’s on the outside and pallet wood a couple inches away on the inside, or maybe some pressboard, but oh boy do I hate that stuff.

    • Hi Helot,

      The bucket is heated; I found it at Rural King. Rubber coated and very durable. I added the nipples, which I bought separately. They are super easy to install. Basically, just drill the appropriate size hole and thread/seal with RTV or pipe thread tape and you’re done. There are little “ticklers” built into the nipple; when the birds peck at the “tickler,” water flows into the little cup. It keeps them filled without them overflowing.

      Frostbite is definitely a concern in areas where it gets very cold. I wired my coop, which has 120V power outlets. I use them to plug in the water heater and also – when necessary – to run a heat lamp to keep the birds warm.

    • Hi Anon,

      This is beyond disgusting; it’s the sort of thing that justifies self-defense. I would “aid and abet” this family. I would refuse to convict if I were on the jury. God-damn the bastards who would do this to innocent people harming no one on their own damned piece of land.

      • Jury? Never going to go in front of a jury. Even if it did, there is no way in hell that someone with your principles would be allowed on it.

    • God of Death, this is infuriating!

      “Code Enforcer”… The only code worth enforcing is ‘Never tell another person what to do with their own property’.

    • That’s the pen point mightier than sword edges, cuz s/words cut as the magic words tell ‘em to. As do sl/iterates.

      Here’s another parable parabola, personally experienced: We raised ducks, pheasant, quail when I was a kid.

      The ducks were down at the pond, which was nearby the swamp, which was full of snapping turtles & gar. The snappers swapped swamp for pond, & ate most of the ducks.

      The pheasant pen/hutch/coop got infiltrated by a possum early one morning. It killed them all. Blood lust, not breakfast. This was long before I’d ever heard of/about Pogo, & his enemy in the mirror.

      We did alright with the quail. Except for the time a yellow rat snake got through a small hole in the cinder block wall, into the brooder, & swallowed a bunch of the chicks.

      Orwell’s Animal Farm, Spiegelman’s Maus…& lemonaid stand licensure.

  6. Never eat a cracked egg.

    Chop off the head of the chicken, throw it to the ground and let it run around like a chicken with its head cut off, dip the chicken by the feet into boiling water to loosen the feathers, pluck it or have a chicken plucker, singe the pinfeathers, disembowel the chicken, place the butchered chicken in cold water to cool down, drop the fresh chicken into a storage bag. Freeze, you’ll be eating chicken for a while.

    Done it many times.

    You need a meat saw when you butcher deer, cattle, pigs, etc.

    Have plenty of pheasant flying around out there and they’re good to eat too.

    The farmer/rancher to the south has 300 head of cattle, the one to the east another 300 and the farmer/rancher to the west has another 300 head.

    Tons of pigs out there in the pig sty, not to worry.

    You just can’t starve, you are a fool if you do.

    During the summer months when the garden grows, you have fresh vegetables to harvest. You just can’t go wrong.

    • **”Chop off the head of the chicken, throw it to the ground and let it run around like a chicken with its head cut off, dip the chicken by the feet into boiling water to loosen the feathers, pluck it or have a chicken plucker, singe the pinfeathers, disembowel the chicken, place the butchered chicken in cold water to cool down, drop the fresh chicken into a storage bag. Freeze,”**

      Next time, I’ll just paint a star of David on the chicken and get a German to do the dirty work.

      Jewish chicken: “Oy, so I’ll die. Just make sure if you sell me to the Goyim that you charge retail! And make him promise that he won’t use me for Chicken Cordon Bleu!”

  7. This is wonderful!

    Don’t forget goats (for meat and or milk)- easy to keep, as long as you make a well-fenced area for them. I’d really like to get me some Nubians..and may just finally do it this year. (Well, for me, they’d just be for milk…couldn’t kill ’em. I butchered some excess roosters a few years ago….and i won’t even do that again! ….And I still feel bad about taking my Jersey steer to the butcher- and that was about 15 years ago!)

    • Morning, Nunz!

      I like goats – but not their milk! Plus, they are difficult to keep fenced. My buddy has a small herd and they are constantly getting out; they like to stand on the hood of his truck, too. . .

      I am considering a couple of cows instead as they are easy to fence and not hard to keep if you have a few acres to pasture them on. The main issue for me is the water supply. I’m working on that! One cow will provide more milk than two people can use, leaving extra for cheese – or to sell as milk or cheese.

      • A farmer I know who has cows is ready to give them up, they kick his ass. And, he’s a rough fella, tougher than me. Black-eyes, bruises, the works. YMMV. Just a heads up.

        Loved this article (trying to build/fix up something right now as well) didn’t know about ducks protecting chickens, and the hawk factor, thanks for that. …Do you have coyotes around? They are like laughing hyenas or BLM Molotov tossing juveniles around here. I’m not sure how I’ll deal with that. For one, considering a night scope to weed them out some.

        drumphish’s kill method for chickens is exactly how the old timers I knew did it on the farm in the 1970’s. (I plan to do the same.) It seems like a good reason not to give meat-poultry names.

        I wonder if a couple of geese would fit in, too?

        • LOL, Helot! What the hell is that guy doing to those cows??? Heck, there are some guys around here (Including the dude I used to buy mine from) who are in their 80’s and still messing with cows…. Only harm a cow ever did to me, was when a steer stepped on my foot….but that was my fault, ’cause when you’re mingling with large animals and doing things like feedin’ them carrots by hand, you’re supposed to exercise a little caution. (I think he broke my toe…but it healed in about 6 weeks…I never really even gave it a second thought)

          • I don’t know why his experience is so different from you guys. He works in a small locker, too. Maybe that’s part of it? He had some really great beef prices though and is a nice guy.
            He said he’s stickin’ to pigs, chickens and bees.

      • Hey Eric!

        Yes! Cows are easy! I had 10, and really…just let ’em graze, and give ’em water (I just had about 5 old mineral tubs that I’d fill manually every day with a hose….but since that wastes a lot of time, next time, I’d get one’a them automatic freeze-proof waterers….easy enought to run a line to ’em- and it conserves water, as ya don’t have to dump out dirty water ).

        If it’s just a cow or two, you could buy hay for ’em to winter on- or just fence off a hayfield and let er grow up and put the cows in come winter and let ’em eat it directly. They are easy to keep in if your fences are halfway decent. Hard to get back in though if you let ’em get out!

        Throw ’em a little grain to keep ’em friendly…mine would come when I called them!

        Interesting thing that I had never known till I had cows: If you have a herd, and they calve, the various mothers will take turns babysitting a bunch of calves as the other mothers go and graze. A different mother does the job on different days, and they just keep taking turns. Really cool! I had no idea that cow society was so organized!

        Cows can be quite fast and agile too! They are really enjoyable to keep, and really no trouble a’tall.

        I’ve always wanted a Jersey milk cow (They give the richest milk)…but I refrain from getting one, ’cause 90% of the milk would go to waste (Back in the days when dairys used to sell off new-born baby bull calves really cheap- like $35 -or before that when they’d even give ’em away, you could raise the calves on your milk cow’s milk and make some good money….but those days are gone, and now the unwanted bull calves sell for so much it just doesn’t pay.

        • Excellent, Nunz – thanks for the first-hand info!

          I have a fenced area set up already; I divided my field into tow sections – to let the hat grow in one, the other for the cows to roam. I’m working on the water issue. The problem there is getting the water to the field. Running a hose from the house means several hundred feet of hose!

          • You’ll love having a few cows, Eric! (‘cows‘) -Don’t just get one, as they are very social animals and get depressed if left alone).

            As for the water, why not rent a little trencher and use PVC pipe? Few hunnert feet of 1/2″ PVC won’t cost much, and you’ll be set virtually forever….. You can just have a spigot at the end for now if you don’t want to spring for a waterer yet- and it’s not a big deal to water by hand if you just have a few cows. Go down to Tractor Supply and get a mineral block for them to lick (<$10) and you'll be on your way!

            • PS. Eric,
              Probably not a necessity for you…but just FYI, as you might want like it:

              Donkeys and cows get along wonderfully. A donkey will protect calves and vulnerable cows from coyotes and such….and you don’t have to do anything ‘extra’ for the donkey… They can be had cheaply (anywhere from free to $200)….so if ya like donkeys….
              Just don’t get a jack (intact male)- or you’ll find out why we apply the term ‘jackass’ to PITA people! Get a gelding or a jenet(female)- Donkeys are like dogs…they get along great with people, and like hanging around us.
              I made the mistake of getting a jack…. :p ….my one mistake! I’ll never forget the time I went to pet him, and I see something out of the corner of my eye, like his front leg coming forward on a nearly horizontal plane; alarmed, I turned to look, and see that it wasn’t his leg…he was popping a boner….. 😮 😮
              Shortly after that, he jumped the rerar fence, ’cause my neighbor had a jenet…. and thankfully, my neighbor bought him off of me for what I had paid for him- $125- which was kinda funny, ’cause I had bought him from my neighbor’s father!

        • Bottle calves in my area are about $15, currently. There was a while in the ’80’s where you had to lock your doors at the sale barn. You couldn’t hardly give a calf away. Dad brought home three once that someone put in the cab of his pickup.

          • I don’t understand that. Why couldn’t you give them away? I mean, why was there no demand for them? I’m guessing they are too labor intensive and you can’t make your money back on just a. few?

            • Prices on everything were in the bottom of the outhouse at that time. If you raised them, you wouldn’t get your money back come sale time. Late ’70’s and early ’80’s were tough. Dad had 8-10 brood sows for a while. Went to bed one night and 30 lb. feeder pigs were at $30. The next day they were a buck a head. Cattle went the same direction. For a couple of years we would pick up bottle calves to use for dog food. It was cheaper than commercial dog food.

              Times were tight then, at least for my family. Dad logged and did a little farming. No money to speak of in any of it for a few years. If it wasn’t for keeping a milk cow, some chickens and a big garden, there would have been times when we had nothing to eat. Creamed eggs over toast is scraping the bottom of the barrel, to me. That’s what we had when there wasn’t anything else.

            • **”I don’t understand that. Why couldn’t you give them away? “**

              Back then, beef cows weren’t too expensive; Dairy cows [From whence the bottle calves come- They take the calves away from the mothers so they can harvest all the milk] produce less meat, and are less efficient for meat production, since they still eat about the same as a beef cow; and the dairy-breed steers bring less when mature and sold for beef, because there’s less beef per pound of cow.
              The dairy heifers, on the other hand, are either kept by the dairy farmers for future milk production, or sold….but bring good money, because of their value as milk producers.
              Decades ago, it was common for dairy farmers to just whack the bull calves in the head and kill ’em as soon as they were born, ’cause they were considered worthless- nobody’d buy them, and it didn’t pay for the dairy farmer to raise ’em. . Many farmers are cruel and callous!
              When I first moved to the country 20 years ago, you could still get Holstein calves for $35- so you could raise ’em, and make a few hundred bucks on each one. But shortly thereafter, raising bottle calves became very popular (I’m thinking someone must have started publicizing the idea.) and suddenly those newborn calves were selling for a HUNDRED and twenty-five bucks! At that price, it’s hard to make a good return for the work and expenses incurred in raising them- ‘specially given the fact that if the calves aren’t treated properly in their first day or two, before you get them, they have a high probability of dying.
              I did good with bottle calves- it was a nice way to make money- but as soon as the prices of the calves went nuts, I bailed- but the timing was just right, as I had already made enough money to move up to beef breeds- and it was nice not having to mess with feeding babies- just having a few cows living in the pasture, and making an extra $4K-$5K a year for doing almost nothing. Really makes you appreciate the true value of having land….and what we’ve lost by being herded into cities and suburbs where WE are the commodity!

              • Thanks for the replies. It was very interesting. I had grandparents who ran dairy cows and such back then, I only remember shades of what their life was like.

      • Well that link ain’t working, Brandon- but knowing you, it was probably some Biblical reference to separating the sheep from the goats….or maybe one about separating the men from the boys in Greece (Which is accomplished with a crowbar).

        Hmmm…the more I think about it, the more i suspect the latter.

  8. Eric: As you may know, I have had 3 buff Orpington duck ladies since last April. Amazing eggers since September. My recommendation is that you get a doggie/kiddie pool with a hose bib drain. Being water fowl, ducks will love it for lots of obvious reasons. Most importantly, though, it allows them to keep clean and drink clean water you control. You can use the drained effluvia water to water your garden. It’s amazing fertilizer and needs no further treatment like chicken waste might. Just be aware mating behavior takes place in water and would probably take place in the pool. I don’t have any males, but I’ve heard that females should have separate night housing from males.

  9. Our chickens are doing well, save for one that choked herself to death on accident with the door on the nesting box… Good to know about the ducks, though. That will certainly be of use when we finally can flee the horrors of the city and move to the country for good.

  10. Hi Eric, thank you for this very helpful article. I’ll be doing the same thing. Another benefit is that chickens are funny and make you laugh. At least they make me laugh. Same when the ducks all talk to each other.

  11. Pickle some of those eggs in case something happens to your flock.

    Beware the bird flu too. Not the sickness but the government showing up demanding to kill all your birds because they may get sick. It has happened to many.

    Don’t overlook other critters. Cute, fuzzy and tasty.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guinea_pig#As_food


    Because guinea pigs require much less room than traditional livestock and reproduce extremely quickly, they are a more profitable source of food and income than many traditional stock animals, such as pigs and cattle;[134] moreover, they can be raised in an urban environment. Both rural and urban families raise guinea pigs for supplementary income, and the animals are commonly bought and sold at local markets and large-scale municipal fairs.[135] Guinea pig meat is high in protein and low in fat and cholesterol, and is described as being similar to rabbit and the dark meat of chicken.

  12. Hi Eric. Don’t know how much you know about muscovies. They do fly and roost. Also very good at brooding. With three hens you could possibly have about fifty of them by this fall. Hope you like eating duck and duck eggs! How soon before you spring for a couple of dairy goats?

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