These ducks look tasty, even though I very much like them, I can’t wait to butcher and taste them. How long do I need to wait to butcher ducks?
Ducks are ready for butchering around 8 to 12 weeks of age. Many choose this time window as the right balance between reaching the ideal weight and dropping the unnecessary pin feathers. The exact slaughtering age may slightly vary based on the climate, gender, breed, and genetic variations.
If you are a first-time duck raiser, it is important that you understand the fundamentals of raising and processing your animals.
Timing is critical and experience will teach you best. However, since you are a beginner, you must have great observation skills and a profound focus on your animals to compensate. Here is your beginner farmer’s guide to raising and slaughtering ducks.
There are many age windows you can choose from when it comes to butchering ducks. Just the rule of thumb here is that the younger the duck, the softer its flesh. Therefore, you may depend on how you want the meat to be. You can butcher at different times to provide your customers options, too.
Aside from preference, there are also other factors to consider in timing the slaughtering.
Essentially, the younger the duck, the more tender its flesh is. However, this does not mean you can slaughter at any time.
Most ducks raised commercially can be slaughtered as early as 7 weeks since they are mostly given high-protein diets. This gives them enough proportions of meat and fats, making them ready for consumption.
Homesteaders will slaughter ducks as soon as they reach 8 weeks. Just remember to check if there are still pin feathers remaining. As soon as the duck sheds these, then it is ready.
Those postponing to go beyond the 8th week for bigger ducks will do so in different window times, like 12.5 weeks and 18 weeks. These are the periods when ducks are just about to grow a new set of feathers. If you want to cut processing time, timing is important, so you will have fewer feathers to pluck.
There are actually two ways to clean a duck and have it ready for slaughtering: plucking and skinning the duck.
Plucking is still the best and cleanest way. This involves manually removing the feathers so you get a smoother carcass. Plucking also helps seal the natural moisture in the meat, making it more flavorful when cooked.
For faster processing, some skin ducks instead. You can do this with more mature ducks and certain breeds.
Plucking is done either wet or dry. Dry plucking is more challenging since you do not use aid in removing the feathers faster. But, its advantage is there’ll be fewer risks of tearing or cooking the meat.
Wet plucking involves submerging the duck in hot water so it will be easier to remove the feathers. You just have to be careful though in submerging it in hot water for extended periods as it may tear the flesh or slightly cook it.
All duck breeds can be raised for their meat, but for the most bang for the buck, homesteaders opt for some breeds that yield more meat at a faster time.
Pekin ducks can be slaughtered in around 8 to 9 weeks, or when they already reach their ideal butcher weight, which is about 6 to 8 pounds.
Other popular options include Moulard, Muscovy, Aylesbury, and Rouen.
What is the Best Duck Breed for Slaughtering?
Pekin ducks are the most popular breed for slaughtering. It is also prevalent in the East and is used extensively in Asian cuisines. It is known for its mild taste, high meat yield, and fast growth. In fact, a Pekin duck can weigh up to 8 pounds easily in just 9 weeks.
A variety called Jumbo Pekins is best slaughtered by around 12 weeks, which by then can reach between 9 to 11 pounds.
Pekin duck meat is red meat and contains generous amounts of fat. This makes it popular in some cuisines since it holds moisture and renders fat very well. Just like chicken, it can also be cooked whole and be served on special occasions.
Another reason why Pekin duck is a top-of-mind choice for raising and slaughtering is its high and big egg yield. This breed is versatile, bringing more value to your investment. Peking ducks are capable of producing up to 300 extra-large eggs annually.
Can You Reach Faster Slaughter Age?
Reaching faster the ducks’ slaughter age is possible. It boils down to feeding more and with rations containing high amounts of protein. Though there are certain tradeoffs along the way, mostly negligible, considering the faster return of investment.
Start by choosing the right breed, which is the Pekin duck. As of now, no other duck breed nor variations of it can rival the economy of raising Pekin ducks.
As mentioned, Pekin ducks mature fast at around 8 to 9 weeks. Fattening them is also easier and speedier, with between 7 to 10 days period. Whereas in other breeds like the Muscovy, the fattening period can last up to 2 weeks, therefore costing you more food.
What to Feed Your Ducks to Get Them Ready for Slaughtering?
Experienced farmers recommend feeding your Pekin ducks 3 times a day with a high-protein (22%) diet for the first 2 weeks. After which, you can reduce it by 2% in the next two, then another 2% by the next 5 to 7 weeks, or until it reaches the ideal slaughter age of 7 to 8 weeks.
A duck’s ideal diet should contain grains, which should be made into a wet mash through fermenting. As you know, ducks find it difficult to gulp dry feed since they feed by the mouth, unlike chickens who peck.
The tradeoff though is slaughtering young ducks is having to remove more feathers. This can be augmented by using the wet plucking method that includes scalding the duck in hot water to help remove oily feathers easily.
Timing and Duck Care
Aside from giving a high-protein diet, other factors can affect the quality of the duck meat. One of which, as the main topic of this article, is butchering timing.
Timing is of the essence since it will maximize the result of your time and investment in raising ducks. It will also translate to more satisfied customers and a more sustainable and profitable business.
The environment also plays a great role in raising healthy ducks. Contrary to beliefs, ducks do not necessarily need a huge swimming area.
In fact, you can even improvise water containers and sources by making deep troughs out of half of the rubber tires. They just need enough depth for their bills to go through as they drink water.
Another consideration is climate. Drop the summer season and go for early spring or late fall. Ducks are distressed during hot days and as a result, will not eat as much. Therefore, it is slower to reach their ideal weight by then.
The right butchering age for ducks is a balance between reaching the ideal weight and dropping the unnecessary pin feathers. You can’t hurry as much other than maximizing the fattening period. Choosing the best breed, which is the Pekin duck, is also the best you can do if you want to have a high meat yield in the fastest time.