We have about 5 pairs of ducks ready for dispatch. The male ducks (drakes) are 6 months old and above, mature and already capable of mating. These drakes were also part of our duck fattening program so they are large and meaty birds that will make a fantastic duck stew. But because these drakes grew very quickly, they have “angel wing syndrome”, presented as a deformity of the wing. This does not affect the breeding or genetics of the ducks.
The drakes come with female ducks that are 6 months old and above, some have already laid their first clutch of eggs. So when you buy a breeding pair, you don’t need to wait 6 months to start having eggs and ducklings.
What?! Prefer turkey?
Sure! We don’t have them! 😂 But our neighbour does! 😄 She sells turkey chicks at 250 pesos each. When you come and visit, we can check them out.
Our neighbour has a large kabir hen. They want to breed it. Someone gave them a native rooster. But the kabir hen was so big that it frightened the rooster. So our neighbour asked to borrow our rooster. I decided to lend them one of our red native roosters. It was a reasonably large rooster. But the kabir hen intimidated it. Our neighbour asked to borrow our white rooster.
Now this white rooster is My Rooster. It’s a big mature rooster with huge spurs. I agreed to lend my white rooster. Here he is with the kabir hen.
After several weeks nothing happened. As it turns out, the kabir hen is just too large such that it wasn’t possible for any native rooster to mate with it. What a pity! So now our neighbour will slaughter the kabir hen for a birthday on June 4.
Here are some photos of my favourite rooster.
We breed native chickens for meat. In March and April we sold a fairly good number of native chickens we’ve raised wondering about in the backyard. March and April was graduation month and fiesta in a few places. We also sold a pig for someone’s graduation party.
We keep a couple of roosters for breeding. We don’t keep roosters for cockfighting. The very first time I witnessed a cockfighting derby was last week on Pamilacan Island. They were having their village fiesta and cockfighting was one of the special events. I was able to take a couple of videos.
I personally don’t know what to feel about cockfighting. I’ve seen roosters fighting as they often do in nature. It is bloody, violent, deadly. But it takes hours. And of course, before the fight becomes deadly, the rooster is free to run away — unless they were tied up as they often are to prevent them from escaping or getting stolen.
In a cockfighting derby, because of the frighteningly sharp steel spurs attached to the roosters’ legs, the fight only takes a few seconds, sometimes a couple of minutes. Sometimes the losing rooster dies, sometimes it lives to fight again another day. At the Pamilacan Island derby, there was a veterinarian tasked to provide care for wounded or injured roosters. Perhaps for people too!
PS. Cockfighting in the Philippines is regulated by law.
I learned about the duck fattening phase via a website dedicated to promoting awareness of foie gras production and animal welfare. My interest in the finishing stage for ducks came about because of the need to raise the best quality duck meat. This means lean, plump meat that is also tender. At 6 months, duck meat begins to become tough so the goal was to raise fat ducks suitable for consumption by the time they are only 3-4 months of age.
It was necessary to conduct several experiments to figure out exactly when our ducks reached the fastest growth spurt. I tried giving a protein-rich diet ad libitum to ducks at 10 weeks, 12 weeks and 14 weeks. This protein diet lasts for only 2 weeks. I found that our Muscovy ducks are suitable for finishing stage at no less than 12 weeks and no more than 14 weeks.
How much and how often do I feed the ducks at fattening? I visit the duck fattening pen at least 3 times a day and when the feeding tray is empty, I just fill it up. It is also necessary to provide lots of water. For fattening, I also had to make a separate pen to keep out the other older ducks. When the fattening phase is finished, the ducks are released with all the rest.
The results of the fattening phase are very good. Previously, at 4 months of age our ducks would only have a dressed weight of about 1.6kg (male) and .8 kg (female). With the fattening phase our ducks at 4 months of age have a dressed weight of 2.4kg (male) and 1.5kg (female).
To make the scheme economical, I needed to find a cheap source of protein to feed the ducks. In our village, one of the cheapest source is fish. Depending on the season, anchovies can be as cheap as 25 pesos per kilo. Ducks at fattening would need about 20%-24% protein so I simply mix the boiled anchovies with bulk food stuffs such as chopped banana stalks, seasonal windfall fruits, corn-based or wheat-based mash or pellet feeds, etc.
If the ducks get a lot of protein and grow too quickly, their wings tend to become deformed — something called angel wing syndrome. I often get this with the duck fattening phase. Sometimes the deformity sorts itself out.
Since ducks are a natural glutton, feeding them to fatten at younger or older ages is just not economical. There is a fattening or finishing age for ducks and that is something that you must find out for yourself by experimenting. I assume not all duck breeds or flocks are the same when it comes to fattening, this is why I suggest that people who are raising ducks for meat conduct their own experiments.
Our ducks learned to dance sometime before the drought. This is behaviour so far observed only amongst a few of the younger (less than a year old) female ducks. I associated this behaviour with the drought. Third week of May it finally started raining heavily. And the ducks are still dancing. But not as often as before.
I just feel grateful that the long dry spell has finally been broken. Over the past several weeks temperatures have been reaching a rather uncomfortable 35°C – perhaps not too bad if you live in a nipa house surrounded by trees. For now, it’s 29°C at high noon and probably will be raining later in the evening.
The last clutch of duck eggs were laid in December and hatched in February. Over the next 3 months, we didn’t have any eggs. The two drakes stopped courting the duck hens — they all stopped mating. I would’ve thought that – like chickens – duck hens would continue laying eggs even without a drake, but this wasn’t the case. Just like the drought of now 4 months, the ducks expressed their own response to the dry spell.
The strange dance that some duck hens began exhibiting in January (and a couple of them continue to do so) suddenly have new meaning to me.
Then earlier this month, it started to rain, not very much, but at least, the earth gets a bit to drink! And the drake began his dance, and now, we have eggs again!
With that, our alpha drake has become more aggressive with regard to enlarging his territory. Here, in the video above, he has engaged one of the roosters in a fight. The drake uses his weight to pin down the rooster and his wings to beat him, while the rooster uses his sharp beak in several attempts to inflict wounds on vulnerable areas of the drake’s body such as the eyes.
It looks like a nasty fight but neither animals really get hurt. Roosters fighting are bloodier and deadlier with their sharp beaks, claws and spurs.
Looking on are 10 young ducks (of 4 months age) that have been released a month ago from an experimental fattening program I started in early January. Note that some of the ducks have “angel wing syndrome”. This wing deformity seems to appear when young ducks are fed large amounts of protein, thus motivating a growth spur much faster than their bodies could take. This leads me to think that this breed of Muscovies should start fattening/finishing at 12 weeks of age minimum instead of 10 weeks.
Later, I’ll write more about this new fattening phase program I am implementing as I am getting very good results!
Our first, very small cacao harvest of two fruits. The cacao tree is 3 years old, it is a bit of a late bloomer because of the poor conditions here. Since I’ve been dumping pig shit under the tree, the flowers produced many fruits, although many of the fruits rotted away before they could mature. It seems that the flies pollinated the flowers during the season of flies, that season associated with maize (in the hills) and the drying of manta ray meat (along the coast).
So I had a few cacao beans to experiment with. My goal was to learn to ferment, dry and roast the beans so that they possessed that most sought-after dark cacao flavour that seemed always absent in many commercial cacao tablets or powder available. The dutch alkalised cocoa are often the most bland.
This experiment, some 50 cacao beans, yielded less than half cup of cacao powder. With these and the wonderful aroma of the beans after roasting, I can say that my experiment is a success. Most importantly, I can now relate the flavour, and thus the importance, of fermenting the beans, with that intoxicating dark cacao flavour.
I am certain that if the beans are fermented properly, then it would not be necessary to roast the beans for too long. If the beans are roasted too long, the precious cacao butter or oil seeps into the skins of the beans – and the skins are discarded and with it, much of the flavour and healthful benefits of cacao.
Before roasting, drying is also crucial and it needs to be done within 2 days. It was raining when the beans were fermenting, and just when I needed to dry them, the sun generously made sure that the beans dried within 2 days!
To grind the cacao beans, folks normally go to a shop in the city that offers such services for cacao, corn, coffee, meat, etc. It would be ridiculous if I went there with my 50 cacao beans which will simply disappear into the grinder. So I decided I could do it at home, but without the benefit of the heated grinding that cacao really needs. For now, I tried using a Turkish coffee grinder, which proved impossible. So I opted for the osteriser which I bought a couple of years ago primarily for the purpose of grinding coffee beans.
The taste and aroma of these roasted cacao beans is distinctly pure dark chocolate – no off bitterness, no acidic or sour taste. I cannot believe my luck in achieving this on my first attempt. However, since Trevor planted the beans 3 years ago, I have been reading about the process of – perhaps the secret of – producing the perfect cacao, from the tree to the cup. That was all theory, and now if I can only replicate this practical experiment with more cacao beans. We have two fruiting trees now, and about 6 smaller ones. Perhaps in the next season …
I’m sure you don’t see this very often. 😉 This is speckly hen and one of our duck hens fighting. The duck hen has a brood of some 16 ducklings and she doesn’t like old speckly grabbing their food and pecking them. These fights are usually quite harmless because the animals can flee for safety – they are not confined in pens or coops.
Old speckly hen has always been quite a bully, sometimes resulting in duckling fatalities because of repetitive pecking – so honestly, she had it coming.
Generally, ducks are not as bloody and violent in their fights compared to chickens. Without the sharp claws and beaks, ducks can’t really inflict wounds and can really just rely on their weight and the strength of their wings to subdue their opponents. So, this fight just ended with old speckly hen running away and mommy duck hissing at her. I doubt that speckly hen learned her lesson though …
Finally, we managed to visit the restaurant that buys our ducks! I have looked them up on Trip Advisor earlier and saw that they went up and down the 1-5 ranking of best restaurants in Bohol. I have often been disappointed with culinary experiences here but wondered if this place will disappoint my pessimism – if they appreciate the exquisite flavour of barbary duck then they must be more sophisticated than the usual folks who are happy with the same bland menu every season.
I went there with my husband and ordered: Salad Niçoise, house wine (white wine), Spaghetti Niçoise, Mexican Beef, Black Coffee and Coffee Grand Marnier. It was all absolutely amazingly good food!! Thank goodness!! The staff were so friendly and worked hard too!
Here’s the Salad Niçoise (above) which doesn’t look particularly impressive but the taste is amazing. The salad vegetables and herbs here are delightfully refreshing and flavourful, as it turns out, the place have their own herb and vegetable garden.The freshness of such simple ingredients as tomatoes, basil and cucumbers make such an enormous difference in the quality of this salad.
Both the Salad Niçoise and Spaghetti Niçoise also gave me an idea as to how I can put more fish in our diet. The dressing with anchovies and the seared tuna were just perfect.
Here is the Mexican Beef which I nearly finished before I could take a photo! I often order beef to see how good a restaurant is because a bad restaurant would often have tough pieces of meat in pathetic servings. But this beef was tender and not overcooked or over-sauced and over-spiced. If you have excellent ingredients, there is no need to be garish!
The coffee was excellent, and in Bohol it is so easy to ruin good coffee beans! Thank goodness, this restaurant knew how to brew good coffee. The French coffee I ordered was also excellent. I was a bit nervous because I often have allergic reactions to both milk and alcohol but I experienced no discomfort with both the cream and the Grand Marnier. Often, I have associated my problems with the quality of the liquor.
It was really great to get to know this place and indeed, quite an honour that they are serving our ducks here!
Here (below) are some photos, this time of the herb and vegetable gardens that the restaurant maintains. I cannot stress enough what a difference it makes to have these ingredients fresh! Hopefully, our own garden will get better over time and provide us with our own fresh produce. It hasn’t been easy with the bad and rocky soil but over the years, it is getting better!
Anyway, when in Bohol, do take the time to visit The Pearl Restaurant at Linaw Beach Resort on Panglao Island. Cheers!
OK, yesterday was Duckerday, today it’s Linggo ng Pato! 😜
This time, it’s the duck legs, breast, liver, gizzard and heart. I decided to cook the duck legs and breast ala confit. However, I didn’t bother to salt, cure or marinate the meat. I also didn’t have enough duck fat to use for the confit, so I got some palm oil and used that instead.
Cooking duck meat in oil is fantastic because oil heats up really fast, stays hot, and cooks deep into the meat. You actually save more energy than cooking meat in water like stew. Anyway, the only other ingredients I added to the oil were: salt, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, sage, tomatoes, black peppercorns and garlic.
When the duck legs and breast were close to super tender, I added in the heart and gizzard (sliced a bit so they cook easier). The result, is absolutely fantastic! I should add: (1) curing, salting or marinating duck meat is probably unnecessary because duck meat (well maybe at least OUR ducks, 😄) is already very flavourful; (2) curing and salting only dries up and meat and makes it tougher so it is not necessary!; (3) those native tomatoes are the BEST tasting tomatoes, they have more flavour than those huge expensive hybrid tomatoes!
And here’s what I did with the liver – I used a bit of the oil and bits of garlic and tomatoes from the confit, then used that to cook the liver, adding water when the pan dries a bit, de-glazing it and bringing out that delicious brown sauce!!!! I served the liver with a bit of chilli and singakamas (jicama) from the garden. This liver is brilliant, absolutely fantastic, smooth like your most expensive foie gras can ever be smooth!
Also, I think this duck liver is much larger than the usual because this duck is part of my experiment on fattening phase for ducks. I will write about that later when I get more results.
In the meantime, I am just so ecstatic with the result of this cooking experiment! I would never find this fantastic quality of duck meat (and cooking of course hahah! 😂) anywhere else! Cheers! 😄