Duck report

One of my ducks started another nest of eggs, near the busy MLK street side of my garden. She pulled out a bunch of soft downy feathers and settled in right next to the chain link fence. I thought: good luck with that. Periodically eggs would roll from the nest under the fence to the sidewalk. I watched a few passersby pause, look at this greenish egg rolling around with the ubiquitous Dorito bags, and then gently push the egg back into the nest.

So it’s through a community effort that these ducklings finally hatched.

They are certainly adorable. But then they grow up. What’s a girl to do that has a pending permit from the City of Oakland that says: “No slaughtering or butchering of animals allowed?”

With previous hatches, I had been lucky and bartered with people–they got ducklings, I got some produce. But a few duckies did stick around and they grew up, and I had some big ducks on my hands. I figured it would be pretty easy to find a slaughterhouse. Nope. One place I called said they don’t process ducks, just chickens. Another said they had a 100 duck minimum. Finally I found a place in Manteca that would process my measly 8 ducks. Manteca is an hour’s drive away. To process 8 ducks, it would cost $80 ($10/duck). The paradox that I could buy a cooked duck from Chinatown for less than $10 was not lost on me. Still, I went. I didn’t have many other options.

The trip to Manteca was actually kind of fun because my friend D came along, and of course so did Billy and baby Francis. The slaughterhouse was a real mom and pop affair, not the nightmare PETA video places that I imagine when I think slaughterhouse. They did an outstanding, quick, clean job with the ducks. Much faster than I would, and less painful–my fingers really get weary trying to get all those pin feathers. Although $10/duck seemed high, I realized that if someone had walked up to me and said, “i’ll do that for $10,” I do believe I would have gladly handed them the duck.

The money’s spent, the fuel burned, I’m not mad about it. But I do wonder how this Oakland no slaughter law will work for someone with no car and no cash.

We’ll see how this batch of ducklings turn out. I’ve made a couple barters with folks to trade ducklings for things like eggs or tomatoes. Contact me ( if you want to do this with this hatch…

15 responses to “Duck report

  1. I just finished reading your book and I fell in love with it. I went to a local nursery today to buy heirloom seeds and I am so excited to start my fall garden in a few weeks. Thank you for writing the book, it was just what I needed in my life right now.

  2. Barter away the ducks entirely for chickens. Eat the chicken eggs.

  3. I would imagine a little illegal slaughtering might just take place. A few sheets or tarps strategicall place on newly-strung line would keep prying eyes at bay….not that I suggest you disobey the law.

  4. You could come here to the San Andreas area where we as a group of friends help each other slaughter dozens of chickens at a time in a quick and humane manner and then use the chicken plucker machine to defeather. Or check with the stockton_san_joaquin_county_freecycle group because there are grow your own chicken folks who also would help you do the job for free with just the cost of gas to drive to Tracy/Manteca/Valley Springs area.

  5. We might be interested in some ducklings. We have a small (sub)urban farm in Martinez, about 30 minutes away. I’ll e-mail you.

  6. I agree with the above posters….. either do the slaughter quietly out of sight (bathtub butchering?), or find some where else that you can do the butchering. That’s assuming you can’t barter this batch for something. I wish cities would just give up on these regulations. People are just trying to survive in an era where income often doesn’t match living expenses.

  7. I am always so glad to see a new post from you, proof that you have not given up the blog entirely. I had ducks and found out I didn’t like the meat, but loved the eggs. Ditto for my sheep (hate the meat but love the yarn I get from them…)

  8. Lovely and yummy looking duck. Very glad to know a small scale poultry processor still exists within driving distance. Very good point about the no cash and no car scenario. Interesting that our current food system is so skewed toward the need to always drive animals to their fate. I think the cultural expectation around having slaughter tidily hidden away some place is more stressful on the animals than processing locally. Good luck with your permit!

  9. To bad about those regulations! It’s legel here in Albuquerque – don’t spose you want to move though? 🙂

  10. Talk to folks at stores that sell hunting stuff… all those duck hunters have to take their game SOMEwhere, find out where.

  11. Since you are not under the radar anymore it’s so troubling that you have to drive your food or trade and pay to have it done by someone else. I do our chickens in our backyard still and I don’t think it’s illegal. I would have to pay $3.50 per chicken and $8-$10 in gas to drive the 14 chickens to have them processed. Then it’s even illegal for me to sell them since they have a license and I don’t. Also I don’t have a pick up truck and I don’t want to put them in my trunk!

  12. The absurdity of it all slays me. Are they trying to be sure animals are treated humanely? Small and backyard farms are the most humane places when it comes to raising and harvesting meat. The last day of these critters should be chasing down a juicy bug and sitting in the sun, not stressing out in an hour long car ride. They are practically assuring only the rich can eat grass fed, humanely raised meat and the rest of us can eat factory farmed, environment polluting, poor quality crap. Shame on you Mayor Quan. Shame on you City of Oakland. (Crossing Oakland OFF our list of prospective home buying locations.)

  13. Mmmm–duck hearts! I love duck.

  14. Carol Michaelis

    “Farm City” was a great book! I feel really sad that I had to finish it. I’ve been reading here and you mention, Novella, MLK street. Glad to see you haven’t had to move away from your home or farm. Wish I would have known you were coming to Manteca. I would have asked you to autograph your book. Thanks for the great read!

  15. I’ve been trying to make my farm with an explanation I found on and hope I get it right. Thank you for your blog

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