17 Aug 2018

The Taranaki duck farmer who got through chemo by eating duck eggs

From Country Life, 9:24 pm on 17 August 2018

Every morning for eight months of the year, Taranaki duck farmer Dawn Bendall digs for duck eggs in the laying shed of her family farm.

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Photo: RNZ/Carol Stiles

Dawn and her husband Glen farm 383 White Pekin ducks for meat and eggs.

At the height of the laying season, Dawn fossicks around in wood shavings of up to 25 centimetres deep to retrieve 250 eggs .

"They'll dig up, they'll lay and then they will cover [the egg] up again so if you don't collect the eggs... You could get a massive big cluster of eggs in one spot."

"It's their little way... they've got to not let the vermin get to [the egg], so I don't know what they think of me," she says, roaring with laughter.

Dawn expanded her flock after she was treated for breast cancer. During chemotherapy, one of the few foods she could tolerate was duck egg.

"The duck egg saved my life so that's... part of why we are doing it and why we stick at it."

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Photo: RNZ/Carol Stiles

Many people who are allergic to chicken eggs are able to eat duck eggs, Dawn says.

There's now such demand that Dawn and Glen want to expand their flock to 1000. 

The couple run a few drakes with the ducks and when they want to increase numbers they put eggs in an incubator for 28 days.

"It's probably the best part of the job," she says.

"You open up the incubator and there are these little fluffy yellow things poking their heads up and it's 'Welcome to the world, little one'."

Dawn sells her duck eggs locally and also couriers them —carefully —around the North Island.