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How to Keep Ducks Safe and Fed, Affordably?

 
Nicole Alderman
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duck forest garden hugelkultur
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We eat a lot of eggs in my family. My husband, by himself, eats eight chicken eggs a day! We thought, therefore, that getting some ducks would be financially wise. We live in the lush pacific northwest, on five acres (though two of those acres are protected wetlands). We’re thinking about keeping 12+ ducks for eggs and meat, and we would like to avoid additional feed as much as possible. We do, however, have coyotes, a black bear, hawks, owls, and bobcats in our area. I have some thoughts as for how to keep our ducks safe and self-sufficient, but I have no idea if they are good ideas! I would love your input!

We’re thinking about making a large (around 1,700-2,000sqft) permanent duck run with a small, plastic pond (to be upgraded when we have time/money), and duck house. About ½ of that area would be grass/weed mix, while the other half would be paths cut through salmonberry bramble, as well as the duck house and pond. The whole duck run would be fenced by four-foot solar electric netting. I’m hoping that the fence will deter the bobcats and coyotes—as well as the raccoons that will likely come--, while the salmonberry will give the ducks somewhere to hide from hawks. The ducks would be housed in their house at night.

On days when I have time (hopefully every day), I would rotate the ducks through the rest of the property, with their paddock being half in the woods and half in the grass/weeds. I’m wondering if their day-time paddock would need to be electric, too, or if I could get away with waddle fencing or non-electric poultry netting to save money.

Any thoughts or suggestions? Would this work? How could it be improved while still being affordable?

Thank you so much!
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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You need predator-proof fencing if you are not there every minute. I learned the hard way.
 
Nicole Alderman
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duck forest garden hugelkultur
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That's what I was afraid of . Do you think the electric netting and forest/salmonberry bramble to hide in will be enough to keep the ducks safe enough that the 12 ducks reproduce as fast/faster than they get eaten?
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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electric net to keep coyotes (and dogs!) out, brambles to hide from hawks and owls. You should be OK during the day.

Yes it is a PITA. It is pretty much the same pain for 2 as it is for 20, and only a little more for 200.

Getting a full perimeter fence is the best thing you can do, then you only need wattles for the daily runs. But that is easier said than done for most people's budgets and time. It took a while for us to get predator resistant perimeter, and we had new 5-wire barbed wire when we moved in.
 
Nicole Alderman
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duck forest garden hugelkultur
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Thank you! It's reassuring to know that my ducks should be safe with the electric netting and salmonberrry bushes.

Do you (or anyone else) know how many square feet of forage per duck they need to be mostly self-sufficient? I would like to spend very little on duck food, if possible.

Also, if the ducklings are raised by their parents, will they still need duckling food? Will they be safe with the other ducks?
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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SHOULD be safe, but nothing is guaranteed.

IT DEPENDS! Yes, that answer is getting old on permies.com, but it is usually right.

Depends on how dense your food is. We probably need 2 acres for 12 ducks, you should need a lot less.

We never give ducklings special food. We give them what we have, it may be gamebird starter or may be layer ration--as long as it doesn't have medication (we never buy medicated and try to buy organic if available). And that is only if they are penned in a small pen--we want them to forage from day one if possible. Keeping them with mom helps that, too. Mom will usually protect them from the males and they will help them fit in.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi Nicole,

As others have pointed out...and just a kinda fact of life...predators are part of many biomes.

Now with that said...there is hope...even for free ranging your animals.

Each area is a living experiment of what can and cannot be effectively done...even with a subtle change in "animal format" you can go from losing animals to not losing them...its all a game of balance.

A large drake Muscovy can even chase of a bear (I know I have seen it happen more than once...as well as dogs, otters, coyotes, etc)...however...he has to be the right animal...raised usually by hand with lost of emotional support when young and part of a "solid family" matrix...That is just one example of what you may consider. Another is a nice flock of Runners...which are better egg layers than most chickens all and all, plus can hold their own (when in a family/flock) against many predators.

If you can afford an employable and practical enclosure that still affords natural feeding behaviors...all the better.

Good luck!

j.
 
Nicole Alderman
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I realized that I have never updated this tread! Our 10 ducks (seven drakes and three hen--I shouldn't try for the lottery) are quite happy in their new home. Their duck run ended up being about 1700 sqft, surrounded by chicken wire and three lines of electric wire (which currently aren't holding much of a charge, but we've been too busy to try and figure that out, sigh). The ducks love hanging out under the salmonberry bushes, as well as foraging in the grass and weeds and eating the free veggies that my husband brings home from our local co-op grocery store.

We ended up making their duck house out of an existing structure that the previous owner had made. It had originally been a very flimsy structure over a wood-fired hottub (now a duck tub!) and concrete pad he made. My family (okay mostly my father!) did an amazing job salvaging the structure and reinforcing/rebuilding it into a duck house. It cost about $300 for the cedar, hardware cloth, 2x4s, treated wood posts for the corners, and concrete blocks. Here's some pictures of the construction and end result .
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The hottub and concrete pad before construction
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Adding structural support and siding
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The finished house!
 
Nicole Alderman
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duck forest garden hugelkultur
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More pictures, this time with ducks! Here they are in their duck house, and then in their tub. We really lucked out on re-purposing the hot tub, because it already had a drain and so we can hook a hose up to it and drain the pond water into our garden. Not as nice as a swale, but still pretty awesome!
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Ducks in their house
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Going to thier tub!
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Swimming
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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