Tonawanda News

Features

August 27, 2013

CRITTER COMPANIONS: Don't forget about the birds during fair season

Tonawanda News — My substitution for Sports Illustrated, Men’s Fitness and Harpers magazine was always easy: Strombergs, Murray McMurray Hatchery and Holderread Waterfowl. 

These magazines would keep me occupied for not only hours, but days. I would study all the 1-inch-by-1-inch cells that would contain an exemplar picture of an adult male and female duck, chicken, turkey or goose. The magazines would arrive in late winter, days apart from one another, just in time for placing an order in the early spring. This way the chicks or ducklings would be ready to be judged at the summer fairs.

Chicks are usually shipped in quantities of 25 and ducklings in groups of 15. These numbers are the lowest quantity the hatcheries feel safe to ship. This size shipment keeps the individual birds company, potentially reducing the stress of shipping, and most importantly they could keep each other warm — something vital to their survival. 

All birds that are shipped are a day old and do not require food for approximately three days. The yolk which is still attached to their lower abdomen provides all the nutrients they require in the overnight shipping package.

I remember picking up my first package of live ducklings at the post office. It was many years after keeping ducks and chickens already, but these were exotic. They were hatched in Oregon. The postal worker went behind the partition and I knew they were returning to the counter when I could hear the immature quacking of fifteen or so ducklings coming from a shoe-sized box.

It was quite the setup from starting them out in the garage under a brooder light, then moving them to the barn with pine shavings on the bottom of their stall and then finally outside during the day with pools, river rocks and hide huts.

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