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Oak Leaves (or other deciduous leaves) for duck bedding? Success?

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I am designing a smallish urban duck yard for 2020. I would like to use the abundance of leaves that fall from area trees as bedding. I am familiar that some leaves like maples can tend to layer flat and go more anaerobic.
Oak leaves however, with their tannins and tougher structure (?) might serve as a bedding. I am wondering if I should shred them first. Wood chips are avail and free but a bit more work.  Straw is fast and easy but cost money and is not that cheap at that ( I live next to an organic garden supply store).  Wood chips will be part of the system outside but I am wondering about the duck co-op itself with regard to these Oak leaves.

Ps - I am woodworker and have access to lots of sawdust (from machines) which is all different size particles - even tiny. I would use it but I worry about airborne wood dust being a hazard for ducks just as it is for humans. Thoughts?

Thanks for any input.

Nick
 
Posts: 71
Location: Lewis County, WA USDA Zone 8b
11
cat dog trees
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Yay, ducks!

Leaves...hmmm...you don't want these guys living in moldy bedding - I don't know if I'd use leaves. When they get wet, they pretty much stay wet.

Although ducks are hardy and waterproof, their house needs to be as dry and clean as possible so they don't become ill - respiratory illness is the first thing that comes to mind. "As possible" means it's always going to be a mess, but try to keep on top of it.

I use straw, and about once a week, I stir it up some and toss new straw on the top. I don't put feed in the house, but they do have a pan of water. Their house doesn't have a solid bottom - I used 1/2" hardware cloth. I'll take all the old straw out in the spring.

Ducklings have a rough time with dusty bedding.

This is an excerpt from Storey's Guide to Raising Ducks by Dave Holderread:

Materials such as clean pine, fir, and cedar wood shavings and coarse sawdust; peanut hulls; peat moss; crushed corn cobs; coffee bean hulls; flax; or straw can be used for bedding. Whatever bedding you use, make sure it is mold free and has not been contaminated with treated products.



Holderread, Dave. Storey's Guide to Raising Ducks: Breeds, Care, Health. 2nd ed., Storey, 2011.p.197

(It's a great book)

If you're setting up a brooder for ducklings, keep them on a no-slip surface and don't introduce any bedding until they know what's food and what's not. I used coated hardware cloth in the brooder at first and later pine shavings.

The bedding composts marvelously.

Here's my duck's house (I'm not a wood worker ;) (
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Nick Schneider
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duck urban cooking
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Thank you, Beth, for the advice and pictures. Now that I think about it more. One, Storey's Guide does not mention leaves amongst a larger list of high C materials, but two, if we think about how ducks do it in nature the grass (straw) makes more sense. Grasses grow on edges of ponds and grasses have hollow stems which are good for managing moisture when they are dry.
My next thoughts are to go to any number of neighbors who are growing tall ornamental grasses and ask if I can harvest them at the end of the season.
It has to be somewhat similar to oat straw.

Do you use any of the dirty duck bathing water (if you have it) for watering crops? If so, do you wait to harvest or only use it on certain types of crops?  
I understand that Duck manure is very "cool" and can be applied directly to crops without aging it.

Do you ever run your ducks onto young succulent cover crops (ex. oats, peas, rye, millet) when the cover crops are about 4-6 inches high?
This my plan. I have two smaller contained grow areas to try this.

Thanks agin.

Nick
 
Beth Johnson
Posts: 71
Location: Lewis County, WA USDA Zone 8b
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Nick Schneider wrote:Thank you, Beth, for the advice and pictures.



:) Thanks for giving me the excuse to post the pictures!

Nick Schneider wrote:My next thoughts are to go to any number of neighbors who are growing tall ornamental grasses and ask if I can harvest them at the end of the season.
It has to be somewhat similar to oat straw.



I think that's a great idea!

Nick Schneider wrote:Do you use any of the dirty duck bathing water (if you have it) for watering crops? If so, do you wait to harvest or only use it on certain types of crops?  
I understand that Duck manure is very "cool" and can be applied directly to crops without aging it.



I've lived here in semi-urban area for two years today (w00t), so I've been doing my best to build up tilth by sheet mulching and allowing the previous owner's vegetable garden to run wild with dandelions so the tap roots might break up the impacted soil (it's about six inches lower than the surrounding ground). Hopefully I'll be able to plant in 2020.

My adult ducks free range during the day (~0.75 acre) and poop wherever they want. My dog eats and rolls in the poop. ;) They have two pools (one was the dog's - now they all share). About once a week I use 5 gallon buckets to bail out the water, and I pour a bucket or two into the compost bin. The pools are usually under trees (I move the pools after I clean them), so the trees get a drink. Super gross bedding goes into a pile where the ducks rummage and the dog rolls. I think the pool water is diluted enough to pour on crops.

They have four 3-gallon galvanized pans for water. They drink from and bathe in them, and I throw the water from the pan they use overnight into...the compost bin. So far the red worms have survived the duck poop/pee and sometimes I give the ducks a shovel full of the worms.

Nick Schneider wrote:Do you ever run your ducks onto young succulent cover crops (ex. oats, peas, rye, millet) when the cover crops are about 4-6 inches high?
This my plan. I have two smaller contained grow areas to try this.



I love your plan, and I'll follow your lead once I have something growing besides dandelions and moss. Once your crops are established, release the ducks! Ducks will trample the hell out of anything and everything - sometimes they kind of roll over things. I don't know when your cover crops will be safe from the drunk ducks. It depends on the size of the ducks and if they decide to take a group nap on your crops. See what happens!

They also drill holes in mud that will leave the ground looking like the surface of the moon, so I'd rotate them through your crops. Right now, I throw some of their used hay on the holes, mainly to signal to myself that I'll fall to the center of the Earth if I step there.

Please start a thread when you start your project! I'd love to follow your progress.

 
Posts: 211
Location: South of Winona, Minnesota
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We have 2 ducks. Their coop has a concrete floor covered with a rubber floor mat. We use leaves in the winter and all year for nesting. The floor is cleaned daily with a squeegee and big "dust" pan and fresh leaves applied as needed. They have access outdoors except in the coldest Minnesota weather when they prefer staying inside. We have a small greenhouse attached to the coop that they can access when the weather is too cold, even having occasional baths in a rubber tub on sunny days. They seem happy with the setup.
 
Nick Schneider
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duck urban cooking
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Larisa Walk wrote:We have 2 ducks. Their coop has a concrete floor covered with a rubber floor mat. We use leaves in the winter and all year for nesting. The floor is cleaned daily with a squeegee and big "dust" pan and fresh leaves applied as needed. They have access outdoors except in the coldest Minnesota weather when they prefer staying inside. We have a small greenhouse attached to the coop that they can access when the weather is too cold, even having occasional baths in a rubber tub on sunny days. They seem happy with the setup.




Larisa, I see that you share a cold climate location like me. Thanks for posting about your two ducks. One your concrete floor / rubber mat set-up, are those mats the ones used for standing on? They have holes in them. Or are they a solid type that link together or perhaps another type. I have the option to leave some concrete in place for this project and was not sure about it as a flooring ducks.

What types of leaves do you use?  You clean/replace daily so I imagine there is much less time for ammonia orders to develop. Is it fair to assume your greenhouse and duck coop set up is configured in such a way that the solar gain accumulated in the summer does not overheat the duck house?
Green house / duck house has been on my thoughts as well.

Nick
 
Larisa Walk
Posts: 211
Location: South of Winona, Minnesota
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The rubber flooring is a hodgepodge of rubber roofing scraps and rubber bed liners for pickups. The greenhouse has solid thick cow mats with no concrete underneath. During really cold weather ice forms in they wettest spots near their water bowl, but on good solar gain days we can usually chip up the mess by later in the day. We use silver maple and boxelder leaves as that's mostly what's around the house. The solar greenhouse has vertical glazing only, is well ventilated, has quite a bit of tree shade in summer, and we also have curtains to keep it cool. Doesn't add any unwanted heat to the duck coop but is a handy space to spread garden harvests out to dry/cure (like amaranth, sorghum, flint corn, onions, garlic, and squash). In the coldest part of the winter we move our handful of chickens to the greenhouse as it makes doing chores when it's sub zero outside a bit easier. With curtains and snow cover, the greenhouse and duck coop will maintain temperatures 20*F warmer than outdoors. When it goes below -20*F we added a heat mat for the ducks since they're at floor level. The chickens did well on their roost with some extra blankets hung around them (kind of like the poultry equivalent of a four-poster bed with curtains). Hope this info helps.
 
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We utilized deep composting fall leaves in our duck/goose open air pen last fall through early spring. It was a combination of maple, oak, and poplar. You have to turn it as waterfowl won't work it like chickens or turkeys. Minimal odors as long as you turn it and add more as needed. This year we're going to try to shred the leaves first. It IS a pain in the butt to shovel it all out at the end. We dug it all into our garden after letting it sit in a heap for a month. It was a worm factory even in winter. Another pro was that we dug their water buckets into the composting leaves to insulate them and it kept the water from freezing many nights or easy to put a boot heel through the ice on top in the morning. We are in zone 7A for reference and had record rainfall last year. I would call it a success overall.
 
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