Do ducks (thinking specifically of Muscovies) do well with a moving stream as their water? Will they suffer if it dries up for a few days here and there/rises and flows rapidly after heavy rainfall? Trying to work with my land here, but obviously want to make sure it's sustainable before bringing home waterfowl!
What do ducks (in the wild) do in the winter if their natural water source is frozen? Do *all* ducks have the instinct to migrate in that case? How do you reconcile this from a permaculture perspective?
And side topic - what is the simplest way to fence across a small stream?
Muscovies are South American, basically tropical; although quite hardy, and therefore non-migratory. If you establish a home base for them, out of the way of the flood waters, they will come back to it at night....and it would be safest to shut them in at night, out of the reach of predators. The exception might be if you had a pond or other permanent water and could have them on an island or a floating raft. They are good swimmers and most can fly, so they should be able to make their way home in all but the most violent floods. In a severe freeze, enough to freeze all the creek water over, it would be good to take them some warm water daily to drink.
The only way I've seen a fence across a creek work is made of panels, suspended from above on a cable or some such, so that logs, brush, etc. washing downstream in a flood event will lift the lower edge of the panel up and wash on through. Otherwise such stuff will pile up against the fence and eventually break it.
A few things to add from my experience with muscovies is that definitely need water at least deep enough to stick their heads under at all times, or at all times they have access to food. They are quite good at choking to death without it. So, for days when it's frozen or the stream has dried up, it's good to give them a bucket of water. I usually go with a gallon for every 10 ducks per day, fresh daily.
Our muscovy ducks don't actually like our stream and they only go in the pond certain times of the year. They much prefer buckets filled with rain water to stream or groundwater. The the thing they like most about the stream is hunting bugs, slugs and small animals that live along the bank.
Not me, but my friend had muscovy ducks that enjoyed sleeping on the water. The water froze. The ducks had no feet anymore. Muscovy ducks are not smart with cold weather. They are still very close to their wild background which as Alder mentioned is not from the Great White North.
Predators: Raccoons and otters swim. An island is no defence against them, in fact around here raccoons especially like waterfowl sleeping on islands. Less competition with cats. Some wild dogs also swim.
Depending on your predator situation, it is a good idea to lock up your ducks at night. I know it doesn't seem like a premie idea, but when you realize that by having vulnerable livestock 'wild' at night, you train the predators to eat that animal. You either have to kill that predator or worse, that predator will know now how delicious and easy domestic animals are to eat and be a plague on both your farm and for other farmers.
That's the problem with most domestic animals, the survival techniques have been bred out of them. Even a duck like muscovy which is close to it's wild heritage, doesn't have the survival techniques for dealing with predators they didn't evolve with. Moving the duck out of it's natural habitat puts the role of protection onto the ones who did the moving - aka, us humans.
Well, at least that's my opinion and thoughts on the subject. I've lost a lot of ducks before I learned that. What's more, I've lost some very lovely livestock because other farmers had trained predators to eat farm animals instead of their native foodstuff. Ask me about it someday, but I warn you, I'm still quite raw on the subject and will go on at great length about how there is no problem cougar, just problem people.
My statement about the island reflects my Georgia background, where alligators serve as a deterrent to raccoons, etc. getting to nest sites. To such an extent that their protection is worth the number of ducks they themselves take. A mistake is often made to remove alligators from farm and homestead situations, only to lead to increased losses of birds both wild and domestic.
Wow! So, I'm not sure how I missed the fact yhat Muscovies are originally tropical climate birds. No idea why I ended up with the thought that they were a more northern duck, but here I am - glad to know that now though! I would much rather choose a breed whose instincts are suited to my region/climate.
With that, any recs on a dual-purpose duck breed for New England?
Afa predators, we have tons, and our current plan involves a two part animal housing space (which we already have built on our land), one half of which is 3.5-sided with an opening to pasture/paddocks, and is where goats and llama will sleep, and the second half is accessible through the first half by a tiny chicken door in the corner, the second half being the bird housing. Bird housing side is already predator-tight save for the chicken door - the hope is that the birds will learn to go back there to roost at night and the giant llama and several goats hanging out taking up the doorway will deter any predators from poking around in there to find the chicken door. So in theory the animals will be able to come and go at will but have a level of protection at night as well. I'm sure there will be troubleshooting, but we have to start somewhere.
The Greenhouse of the Future ebook by Francis Gendron