Going to the Auction ... What to Do with Too Many Roosters & Ducks

Every year in the fall, it's the same story here at Paradise in Disguise Hobby Farm. For every batch of chicks that was hatched and grown out for pullets, there are inevitable cockerels. Many of them I grow out for meat, some are kept for breeding. But this year's hatching season lasted a lot longer than previous years, when I was mostly hatching for my own flock & only selling the few "extras". As a result, there ended up being way more cockerels than I've ever had. Once mid-September came, I realized that there was limited time before I go on week-long vacation to Maine, starting October 5th. I couldn't be spending every extra moment processing roosters, plus many were still on the small size. After processing 17 cockerels, and estimating I had a minimum of 20 more to process, I mentioned my dilemma to the rest of the family. Someone mentioned "auction" & I quickly thought how that would be a good, quick solution. While I knew I may not get all their feed costs back from selling them, I'd be saving quite a bit if I sent them to the auction, rather than feed them for another 1 or 2 months. Then, I'd have to process them when it was cold or do part of it inside, which isn't the most ideal.
Long story short, the "local" auction is in Unadilla at Chambers on Wednesdays, with the "small animals" starting at 11:30am. Tuesday, Mom & I made make-shift cages out of old wire "scraps", old rabbit cage units, two of which were from when I originally got my first chickens in 2008. Once it was dark, Mom & I started loading the cages with the cockerels, a few older hens & the younger ducklings. Not all the chickens were pleased & some let out some loud "screams" and "squawks", so we tried to close their mouths, so it didn't sound like a chicken massacre was going on! When all was loaded up, we had 22 medium & large cockerels, 11 or 12 small cockerels ("pigeon sized"), 15 baby ducklings, 5 medium -sized ducklings, 9 medium & large ducklings, plus 8 hens (4 each of 2 yr & 1 yr olds). It was time to say "good-bye" to Lavender, Lilac, Onyx, Susie, Bearded Iris, the buff leghorn & 2 other un-named Catskill Homesteader hens. I had listed them on craigslist, but didn't really want to wait for someone to come & buy them, since I had a limited time frame to downsize.

Wednesday at the auction was interesting - we pulled in & Onyx found a hole in the cage & escaped. Picture this: 3 adults chasing a small black hen who's loudly cackling & running between cars. Meanwhile, a group of "buyers" were gathered around the truck looking at all the "delicious chicken" that we had, making offers before the auction had even started. Thankfully, an experienced auction-goer told us to not sell them to those guys, but put them in the auction. We ended up not catching Onyx, but after awhile her cackling grew silence, so our guess is that someone else caught her & got either a free hen or a free meal. Either way, she was a crazy hen who hated being cooped up or touched. If she did, she'd scream like she was being plucked alive. I didn't like that. I don't mind a few squawks, but not most of them settled down after a few seconds. Not Onyx, she must have know that her demise was coming soon enough, so she was always afraid of getting "the ax".

Anyways, we unloaded the truck of its "precious cargo" & set them beside the other "small animals" being auctioned off. There were boxes, cages, feed bags, all containing old hen, roosters, ducks, rabbits & guinea pigs. We ended up staying for the auction, just to witness one, and it was quite interesting. There were several buyers who obviously were looking for "cheap meat" & that's what they got. A few others bought, and it looked like they were actually interested in the animal, not the meat. Someone also had canaries & they went for $35 to $52 each! Because there were so many roosters, old hens & ducks, it wasn't a "money-making" auction, but simply a money-saving auction to reduce the number of mouths to feed. Plus, now I know if I want to sell extra cockerels without raising them out for meat, there are other options.

Oh, on our way home, we stopped along the streets of Unadilla & picked up bags of leaves, yard & plant clippings, etc for the chicken yard. So, we made the rest of the flock happy, not just that there was fewer roosters, but that they had more material to make into compost.

On another subject, I wrote this little 'bio' about the Muscovy ducks, so I thought I'd share it here:

The Muscovy duck "hens" will lay clutches of eggs next spring, sit on them for 35 days, and there'll be more ducklings. The drakes are wonderful to raise out for delicious meat, similar to "sirloin" or as a substitute for shredded beef recipes. They are not fatty or "greasy" like other ducks, but a lean, dark meat. Their eggs also are excellent in baking, quiches and many other things. But, they're not considered the best breed if you only want eggs, they're primary use is "dual-purpose" for meat and eggs with ducks that will raise their own young. The drakes can get to be 2x the size of the ducks, but with my stock, both genders are "non-aggressive" towards humans, as some Muscovy drakes have gotten a bad report. The adult drake, the father of these ducklings, is huge, almost the size of a Canada goose, and although he might seem "intimidating", he's really only interested in chasing after the female ducks.
They are quiet, only really "squeaking" when they're young or the hens are broody. No loud  "quaking" with these ducks. Adult drakes only "hiss" or make a "panting" noise, and the adult hens make soft, quiet squeaky noises, often accompanied by wagging tails and bobbing heads and necks when "talking" to each other. They are hilarious to watch, and the young ducklings are so adorable.
They are super hardy and don't mind the winter; they can fly well over short distances, but never "fly away", simply just for a faster mode of transportation from one area to another.
They are not related to Mallards, therefore if crossed with any other duck breed, their offspring will be sterile. A great meat "terminal" duck cross is between the Muscovy & Pekin duck.