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Ducks in a forest? Will it work?

 
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Hey there! We’re keeping our chickens in a fairly dense forest (with some openings in the canopy for sun). I know chickens do well in a forest environment but I have no idea if ducks will. Our baby ducks get here in May and I’m wondering if I can raise them in the chicken area in the forest or if I’ll need a different spot for my ducks? I’m totally new to ducks and can use all the help I can get. I can’t find anyone raising ducks in a forest online but hopefully there is a Permie out there who’s done it.  Thanks in advance!
 
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My free-range ducks go under the underbrush of trees often. (I'm not in a forest, but have midwestern tree-lines on my property)

I can't think why it wouldn't work. They've tried to sleep under trees on many occassions, until I taught them to go into a secure pen at night.

The only real issue with raising ducks, compared to chickens, is they need larger bowls of water to stick their entire bills in and shake around, and the water must be relatively clean.

Basically, ducks like to stick their entire bill in mud after rains and push the bill through the mud to find bugs (and they do the same with dry poultry food). But their nostrils are on the bill, and get clogged, so it's a requirement that (relatively) clean water is available for them to dip their entire bill into and shake around vigorously to clean the nostrils.

Basically, we replace their water once or twice a day, and we only have seven ducks. It's shocking how fast they dirty it, compared to chickens.

Also, for mating, they need to be on top of water (something like a kiddie pool is sufficient).


Ducks are also infamously hard to pluck unless you catch them in the magical window when molting, and even then it's a pain. But they are sooo sooo delicious.
 
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Hello!
I have ducks in a forest - but probably not exactly the same situation as yours. I have nine muscovy ducks on a ~0.5 acre pond on my property. The forest around it is very large, dense fir trees (located in the PNW).

What's your main concern with having them in the forest?

I've found my ducks to be very hardy, even through the two feet of snow we got this winter. They didn't like it, but they survived it haha.

Mine don't venture very far from their spot next to the pond - most of their time is spent on or next to the pond. They don't seem to like pushing through brush and sticks like a chicken does while it forages, I think their feet aren't really made for it and they trip and fall a lot. (which is adorable) I have a little clearing by the pond that they spend some time foraging at the edges of, near my in-progress hugelkultur mounds. They also have their muddy area in front of their shed, which is all flattened out and nothing grows on because they're always stomping through it. If you have a grassy area they can hang out in, they'll turn it to flat mud pretty quickly and probably be very happy with it.

As for sunbathing, they didn't seem to do a lot of that last summer. They're hanging out in the sun nowadays because we're still around 35 at night, but on hot summer days (~85 here) I'd mostly see them hanging out under big trees or under shade on the pond to keep cool.

Chickens and ducks in my experience do get along just fine. I think chickens can be a little more aggressive, but probably someone with both can chip in on personalities. It's been a long time since I kept chickens.

Muscovy ducks are also a South American duck, so I've read they're less cold tolerant than mallard-derived breeds, so I'm betting yours will be happy in a cooler area if that's your concern.

Lastly, I didn't see you mention it, but you'll want at least semi-permanent water for the ducks. They need it to keep their nostrils wet, as well as for bathing. (my ducks have at least two bathing sessions every day). They LOVE water and will spend all night on the water if I feed them too much, since they're not hungry enough to come in. I've seen people with all kinds of solutions to not having a pond for their ducks, like kiddie pools, 50 gallon drums cut in half in the ground, and so on. The smaller it is, the more frequently you'll have to change the water, since they get it super nasty really fast haha.
 
Missy Rae
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Jamin Grey wrote:My free-range ducks go under the underbrush of trees often. (I'm not in a forest, but have midwestern tree-lines on my property)

I can't think why it wouldn't work. They've tried to sleep under trees on many occassions, until I taught them to go into a secure pen at night.

The only real issue with raising ducks, compared to chickens, is they need larger bowls of water to stick their entire bills in and shake around, and the water must be relatively clean.

Basically, ducks like to stick their entire bill in mud after rains and push the bill through the mud to find bugs (and they do the same with dry poultry food). But their nostrils are on the bill, and get clogged, so it's a requirement that (relatively) clean water is available for them to dip their entire bill into and shake around vigorously to clean the nostrils.

Basically, we replace their water once or twice a day, and we only have seven ducks. It's shocking how fast they dirty it, compared to chickens.

Also, for mating, they need to be on top of water (something like a kiddie pool is sufficient).


Ducks are also infamously hard to pluck unless you catch them in the magical window when molting, and even then it's a pain. But they are sooo sooo delicious.



Thank you! I’m sure I’m going to have a learning curve with my ducks but I’m looking forward to their eggs and eventually their meat as well!
 
Missy Rae
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Bartholomew Olson wrote:Hello!
I have ducks in a forest - but probably not exactly the same situation as yours. I have nine muscovy ducks on a ~0.5 acre pond on my property. The forest around it is very large, dense fir trees (located in the PNW).

What's your main concern with having them in the forest?

I've found my ducks to be very hardy, even through the two feet of snow we got this winter. They didn't like it, but they survived it haha.

Mine don't venture very far from their spot next to the pond - most of their time is spent on or next to the pond. They don't seem to like pushing through brush and sticks like a chicken does while it forages, I think their feet aren't really made for it and they trip and fall a lot. (which is adorable) I have a little clearing by the pond that they spend some time foraging at the edges of, near my in-progress hugelkultur mounds. They also have their muddy area in front of their shed, which is all flattened out and nothing grows on because they're always stomping through it. If you have a grassy area they can hang out in, they'll turn it to flat mud pretty quickly and probably be very happy with it.

As for sunbathing, they didn't seem to do a lot of that last summer. They're hanging out in the sun nowadays because we're still around 35 at night, but on hot summer days (~85 here) I'd mostly see them hanging out under big trees or under shade on the pond to keep cool.

Chickens and ducks in my experience do get along just fine. I think chickens can be a little more aggressive, but probably someone with both can chip in on personalities. It's been a long time since I kept chickens.

Muscovy ducks are also a South American duck, so I've read they're less cold tolerant than mallard-derived breeds, so I'm betting yours will be happy in a cooler area if that's your concern.

Lastly, I didn't see you mention it, but you'll want at least semi-permanent water for the ducks. They need it to keep their nostrils wet, as well as for bathing. (my ducks have at least two bathing sessions every day). They LOVE water and will spend all night on the water if I feed them too much, since they're not hungry enough to come in. I've seen people with all kinds of solutions to not having a pond for their ducks, like kiddie pools, 50 gallon drums cut in half in the ground, and so on. The smaller it is, the more frequently you'll have to change the water, since they get it super nasty really fast haha.



Thanks! This is helpful. I think my concern with them being in the forest is them not having access to pasture grass. We get a lot of snow and have lots of seasonal creeks - I’m thinking now maybe I can make them a small pond by diverting one of the creeks to it. The trees will definitely provide some shelter from our snow in the winter which I think is good. I’m going to have electric netting around their area which should help keep them safe from predators.

I also have a question about their shelter. I was just going to make a simple A frame shelter for them but I keep reading that they need to be locked in at night. I’d like to not have to lock them in - do you think the electric netting will be enough to allow me to keep the shelter open at night?

Thanks for your response!
 
Bartholomew Olson
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Missy Rae wrote:

Bartholomew Olson wrote:Hello!
I have ducks in a forest - but probably not exactly the same situation as yours. I have nine muscovy ducks on a ~0.5 acre pond on my property. The forest around it is very large, dense fir trees (located in the PNW).

What's your main concern with having them in the forest?

I've found my ducks to be very hardy, even through the two feet of snow we got this winter. They didn't like it, but they survived it haha.

Mine don't venture very far from their spot next to the pond - most of their time is spent on or next to the pond. They don't seem to like pushing through brush and sticks like a chicken does while it forages, I think their feet aren't really made for it and they trip and fall a lot. (which is adorable) I have a little clearing by the pond that they spend some time foraging at the edges of, near my in-progress hugelkultur mounds. They also have their muddy area in front of their shed, which is all flattened out and nothing grows on because they're always stomping through it. If you have a grassy area they can hang out in, they'll turn it to flat mud pretty quickly and probably be very happy with it.

As for sunbathing, they didn't seem to do a lot of that last summer. They're hanging out in the sun nowadays because we're still around 35 at night, but on hot summer days (~85 here) I'd mostly see them hanging out under big trees or under shade on the pond to keep cool.

Chickens and ducks in my experience do get along just fine. I think chickens can be a little more aggressive, but probably someone with both can chip in on personalities. It's been a long time since I kept chickens.

Muscovy ducks are also a South American duck, so I've read they're less cold tolerant than mallard-derived breeds, so I'm betting yours will be happy in a cooler area if that's your concern.

Lastly, I didn't see you mention it, but you'll want at least semi-permanent water for the ducks. They need it to keep their nostrils wet, as well as for bathing. (my ducks have at least two bathing sessions every day). They LOVE water and will spend all night on the water if I feed them too much, since they're not hungry enough to come in. I've seen people with all kinds of solutions to not having a pond for their ducks, like kiddie pools, 50 gallon drums cut in half in the ground, and so on. The smaller it is, the more frequently you'll have to change the water, since they get it super nasty really fast haha.



Thanks! This is helpful. I think my concern with them being in the forest is them not having access to pasture grass. We get a lot of snow and have lots of seasonal creeks - I’m thinking now maybe I can make them a small pond by diverting one of the creeks to it. The trees will definitely provide some shelter from our snow in the winter which I think is good. I’m going to have electric netting around their area which should help keep them safe from predators.

I also have a question about their shelter. I was just going to make a simple A frame shelter for them but I keep reading that they need to be locked in at night. I’d like to not have to lock them in - do you think the electric netting will be enough to allow me to keep the shelter open at night?

Thanks for your response!



Unfortunately I'll have the same advice as everyone else. Birds are not smart animals. I tried keeping mine out on the pond at night as well, since I had a really hard time getting them to come in at night. But predators are really smart, and you'll find there's a lot more than just coyotes, cougars, etc. Raccoons, possums, weasel family animals, bobcat, lynx, cougars, coyotes, and bears will all want a piece of your birds. And maybe others can speak to this, but I'm not sure an electric fence is enough. I know a bear will tear through it without probably feeling it, and any of the small predators I mentioned will find a way through. My understanding is that electric fences are meant more as a passive deterrent to would-be escapees, not for keeping predators out. A predator stalking a sleeping duck will have a much higher drive to get in than a duck does to get out.

So I lost quite a few ducks as I figured out how much food I needed to feed them to get them in every night. It's also a training exercise for them, since ducks apparently don't come in at night like chickens do, so you have to teach them. Be patient with them, I had a lot of nights where it took me 15 minutes of quiet waiting for the last duck or two to figure out they were the last ones on the pond and come in for food. And a lot of the time the last one didn't come in, and I just wished it luck alone on the pond.

Also, muscovy ducks are very quiet, which mallard breeds are NOT known for lol. So mine are tucked away quiet at night, but yours are likely to spend a lot of the day and some of the night making a ruckus that will attract predators. I have a neighbor near me who lost a closed coop of 20 chickens overnight because something chewed through the paneling and killed everything. Predators are hungry and driven.

Oh and don't keep their food with them, I've had a black bear steal both a five gallon bucket of feed, as well as an entire bag of it.

The streams sound great! I wish I had a stream to play with, but mine is just the pond. (I have no idea how it's fed, it's in a low spot of course, so I assume the water table is just high there and acts as a spring)
 
Missy Rae
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Bartholomew Olson wrote:

Missy Rae wrote:

Bartholomew Olson wrote:Hello!
I have ducks in a forest - but probably not exactly the same situation as yours. I have nine muscovy ducks on a ~0.5 acre pond on my property. The forest around it is very large, dense fir trees (located in the PNW).

What's your main concern with having them in the forest?

I've found my ducks to be very hardy, even through the two feet of snow we got this winter. They didn't like it, but they survived it haha.

Mine don't venture very far from their spot next to the pond - most of their time is spent on or next to the pond. They don't seem to like pushing through brush and sticks like a chicken does while it forages, I think their feet aren't really made for it and they trip and fall a lot. (which is adorable) I have a little clearing by the pond that they spend some time foraging at the edges of, near my in-progress hugelkultur mounds. They also have their muddy area in front of their shed, which is all flattened out and nothing grows on because they're always stomping through it. If you have a grassy area they can hang out in, they'll turn it to flat mud pretty quickly and probably be very happy with it.

As for sunbathing, they didn't seem to do a lot of that last summer. They're hanging out in the sun nowadays because we're still around 35 at night, but on hot summer days (~85 here) I'd mostly see them hanging out under big trees or under shade on the pond to keep cool.

Chickens and ducks in my experience do get along just fine. I think chickens can be a little more aggressive, but probably someone with both can chip in on personalities. It's been a long time since I kept chickens.

Muscovy ducks are also a South American duck, so I've read they're less cold tolerant than mallard-derived breeds, so I'm betting yours will be happy in a cooler area if that's your concern.

Lastly, I didn't see you mention it, but you'll want at least semi-permanent water for the ducks. They need it to keep their nostrils wet, as well as for bathing. (my ducks have at least two bathing sessions every day). They LOVE water and will spend all night on the water if I feed them too much, since they're not hungry enough to come in. I've seen people with all kinds of solutions to not having a pond for their ducks, like kiddie pools, 50 gallon drums cut in half in the ground, and so on. The smaller it is, the more frequently you'll have to change the water, since they get it super nasty really fast haha.



Thanks! This is helpful. I think my concern with them being in the forest is them not having access to pasture grass. We get a lot of snow and have lots of seasonal creeks - I’m thinking now maybe I can make them a small pond by diverting one of the creeks to it. The trees will definitely provide some shelter from our snow in the winter which I think is good. I’m going to have electric netting around their area which should help keep them safe from predators.

I also have a question about their shelter. I was just going to make a simple A frame shelter for them but I keep reading that they need to be locked in at night. I’d like to not have to lock them in - do you think the electric netting will be enough to allow me to keep the shelter open at night?

Thanks for your response!



Unfortunately I'll have the same advice as everyone else. Birds are not smart animals. I tried keeping mine out on the pond at night as well, since I had a really hard time getting them to come in at night. But predators are really smart, and you'll find there's a lot more than just coyotes, cougars, etc. Raccoons, possums, weasel family animals, bobcat, lynx, cougars, coyotes, and bears will all want a piece of your birds. And maybe others can speak to this, but I'm not sure an electric fence is enough. I know a bear will tear through it without probably feeling it, and any of the small predators I mentioned will find a way through. My understanding is that electric fences are meant more as a passive deterrent to would-be escapees, not for keeping predators out. A predator stalking a sleeping duck will have a much higher drive to get in than a duck does to get out.

So I lost quite a few ducks as I figured out how much food I needed to feed them to get them in every night. It's also a training exercise for them, since ducks apparently don't come in at night like chickens do, so you have to teach them. Be patient with them, I had a lot of nights where it took me 15 minutes of quiet waiting for the last duck or two to figure out they were the last ones on the pond and come in for food. And a lot of the time the last one didn't come in, and I just wished it luck alone on the pond.

Also, muscovy ducks are very quiet, which mallard breeds are NOT known for lol. So mine are tucked away quiet at night, but yours are likely to spend a lot of the day and some of the night making a ruckus that will attract predators. I have a neighbor near me who lost a closed coop of 20 chickens overnight because something chewed through the paneling and killed everything. Predators are hungry and driven.

Oh and don't keep their food with them, I've had a black bear steal both a five gallon bucket of feed, as well as an entire bag of it.

The streams sound great! I wish I had a stream to play with, but mine is just the pond. (I have no idea how it's fed, it's in a low spot of course, so I assume the water table is just high there and acts as a spring)



Thank you! It sounds like I’ll need to lock them up in their coop at night, which isn’t a huge deal, I’ll make it one of my kids chores. 😂

I was told that Bears hate electric fencing because they approach usually with their noses on the ground so when the get shocked it’s usually on their sensitive snout. I’m a little more concerned about cougars getting through. I definitely planned on keeping their food and water out of the coop and stored in bear proof containers just like I do for the chickens. My ducks are blue & black Swedish and Rouin... I’m guessing they will be noisier like you mentioned.

Thank you for all the tips! It really helps.
 
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Bartholomew Olson wrote:I have a little clearing by the pond that they spend some time foraging at the edges of, near my in-progress hugelkultur mounds.



This sounds like OP should increase the edge of the forrest to accomodate the ducks.

I imagine fingers of clearings proturing into the forrest...may the can double as paths?

As for the predator pressure on sleeping ducks: Isn't it common to also have a pair of geese?
As far as i know those guys are munch more alert and will immedetily let everyone know when
a predator approaches.
 
Missy Rae
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R. Han wrote:

Bartholomew Olson wrote:I have a little clearing by the pond that they spend some time foraging at the edges of, near my in-progress hugelkultur mounds.



This sounds like OP should increase the edge of the forrest to accomodate the ducks.

I imagine fingers of clearings proturing into the forrest...may the can double as paths?

As for the predator pressure on sleeping ducks: Isn't it common to also have a pair of geese?
As far as i know those guys are munch more alert and will immedetily let everyone know when
a predator approaches.



We’re clearing a large space in the forest so I think it will work ok... I’ve thought about geese too. Maybe I’ll get a guard goose!
 
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We have been keeping ducks in my yard for the past few years. We have electric net surrounding  roughly a half acre for 6-ish ducks. We put them in a secure house at night.

Our most significant predator pressure have been from the flying kind. Even though we have fruit trees & berry bushes for cover, we also put up additional overhead cover. We also encourage songbirds in the yard which help deter the hawks, especially during nesting season.

Our ducks are very friendly and curious, so the idea for some guard geese may be a good one. Seems like most predators find duck mighty tasty, and the ducks don't always seem to realize they are on the menu.

Our duck area is probably half uncut grassy meadow, and the rest is mixed mulch under the trees and shrubs. The ducks eat some plant material, but their favorite activity is digging in the mulch for bugs. I suspect they would also like the forest floor for the same reasons.

I am curious how heavy the underbrush is where you plan to keep them. Ducks aren't the most mobile on land, so they may appreciate you opening things up a bit.

Also, the electric net may be tough to put out if the underbrush is too dense. Anything touching the fence reduces it's charge. During the growing season, you will need to keep the fence clear. Especially if you plan to move it. I startef with one string of mobile net which I moved every few days. I bought a second and then third section on fence, so I don't have to move it often now.

One other tip for ducks in electrics fence - keep their wings clipped, because they might be able to fly better than you expect & remember to clip them again after they molt.
 
Missy Rae
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Rick English wrote:We have been keeping ducks in my yard for the past few years. We have electric net surrounding  roughly a half acre for 6-ish ducks. We put them in a secure house at night.

Our most significant predator pressure have been from the flying kind. Even though we have fruit trees & berry bushes for cover, we also put up additional overhead cover. We also encourage songbirds in the yard which help deter the hawks, especially during nesting season.

Our ducks are very friendly and curious, so the idea for some guard geese may be a good one. Seems like most predators find duck mighty tasty, and the ducks don't always seem to realize they are on the menu.

Our duck area is probably half uncut grassy meadow, and the rest is mixed mulch under the trees and shrubs. The ducks eat some plant material, but their favorite activity is digging in the mulch for bugs. I suspect they would also like the forest floor for the same reasons.

I am curious how heavy the underbrush is where you plan to keep them. Ducks aren't the most mobile on land, so they may appreciate you opening things up a bit.

Also, the electric net may be tough to put out if the underbrush is too dense. Anything touching the fence reduces it's charge. During the growing season, you will need to keep the fence clear. Especially if you plan to move it. I startef with one string of mobile net which I moved every few days. I bought a second and then third section on fence, so I don't have to move it often now.

One other tip for ducks in electrics fence - keep their wings clipped, because they might be able to fly better than you expect & remember to clip them again after they molt.



Such great info, thank you! We are working on opening up the forest and had the same thought about the fencing needing to have clear space. I bought more fencing so we can make their area bigger and I just added a guard goose to my duckling order. I’m hoping for the best!
 
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