Call me contrarian but since it seems like every other Brooklynite or Oaklander has backyard chickens, we wanted a different kind of egg-layer*. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against chickens (or our friends in Oakland and NYC!) When well-kept and not living among a few thousand of their closest pecking order, they are handsome and cheerful. (I mean, the chickens, not our peeps. I mean…oh, forget it.) The choice of duck over chicken came down to these three things: 1) we personally witnessed the growth and development of someone else’s bunch down the street, 2) ducks are reputedly more weather-hardy and less prone to illness and disease and 3) my mother got scared by a chicken as a small child.
Actually, it was a bunch of chickens that freaked my mom. And she was really little, say 3 or 4. This was once upon a time when people of average means raised their own Sunday dinners out the back. My grandparents had a piece of land in Georgia where the Atlanta airport now lives and they liked their food fresh (apparently!) The tale as I remember it is that my mother kept begging her mother to let her feed the chickens since everyone else got to feed the chickens except her. Now if you know anything about hungry chickens, you can easily imagine what happened when that little girl walked into the coop carrying a bucket of feed….
So after hearing this semi-scary story at a seminal moment in my own childhood, it stuck. I didn’t want to invest all this time in a project that might make kids skittish, possibly even my own kid. As it turned out, I need not have worried.
*We also (briefly) considered guinea hens—mostly for their tick-hunting prowess and because they’re so darn cute. But my Lancaster County-bred nephew took me aside and said, Lori, you don’t want guineas. Apparently they are not nearly as biddable as ducks or even chickens.
Copyright 2012, Lori Fontanes