This is my first spring with ducks. I'll getting ready to do my early spring planting in a couple of weeks or so. I have six ducks, and the garden space is about 1/10th of an acre. Right now my ducks can forage in the garden area and beyond, and I consider that a very good thing. Once seeds are planted, what are your recommendations for what to do with the ducks? Do you tend to fence yours out? If so, for how long? Or do you let them forage and que sera sera? What has worked and not worked for you?
Work like you were living in the early days of a better nation. --Oysterband
Our ducks love some newly planted beds to run their beaks through. If we dont fence then they will eat or trample most things. Their big flat feet really smoosh things down to the ground. Watch out!
Even an 18 inch fence should keep them out with out too much trouble. Keep in kind that they will use the full length of their necks to reach through and dabble at whatever they can reach.
Once the plants are as big as they are they wont bother the plants much. However they will bother small immature fruit, or fully ripened fruits and veggies. A green tomato - they wont care. A red tomato? Oh my goodness consider that one a duck donation.
We keep the ducks fenced out of the garden as a baseline, and then let them in when the time is right. - when the plants are grown some before fruiting, or after fruiting before ripening, or at the end of the season for clean up. Or before planting at the begining.
I fence my ducks out of my annual garden beds, especially when the plants are itty bitty. Even the big ones and ones they don't eat, they will squish down (most of the garlic around my fruit trees ends up squished by them as they dig for bugs in the mulch around the tree).
But, unlike with chickens, it's really easy to keep a duck out. A short 18 inch fence will do it, or even just making a raised bed. If they're really hungry, they might try to circumvent those things, but most of the time they won't bother. And, thankfully, they don't do damage as quickly as a chicken. So you can see them in there and shoo them out and make the fence a little taller, and no real harm is done.
If you're growing potatoes or kale or daikon radishes, you probably won't even need to fence them out. They don't like the taste of them. There was a span of time when I was unintentionally underfeeding my ducks, and they ate the potato plants. But, as long as mine are fed enough (I feed them at the end of the day), they don't eat my potatoes.
I feed my ducks Scratch and Peck Organic Soy & Corn Free feed. I used to ferment it, and that was really helpful and cut down on feed costs (I stopped while pregnant and the smell made me feel like barfing--I need to get back into the habit again!)