• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

effect of ducks on soil  RSS feed

 
Laurent Voulzy
Posts: 49
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I just got 10 ducklings, they're 1 month now. They spend loads of time in this one wet area where I dug a pond for them.

another area is a garden which we haven't planted in yet but has strawberries we transplanted.

what are the effects of ducks on soil ecosystem and surface vegetation:
- do they eat all the earthworms ? that would be bad
- what do their poop do to the soil?
- can they coexist with vegetable garden?
- do their foraging (moving their beak in the earth) destroy mycelium or small fixing roots?
- effect on erosion?

thanks
 
Libbie Hawker
Posts: 102
Location: Friday Harbor, WA
7
chicken food preservation hugelkultur
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Laurent Voulzy wrote:I just got 10 ducklings, they're 1 month now. They spend loads of time in this one wet area where I dug a pond for them.

another area is a garden which we haven't planted in yet but has strawberries we transplanted.

what are the effects of ducks on soil ecosystem and surface vegetation:
- do they eat all the earthworms ? that would be bad
- what do their poop do to the soil?
- can they coexist with vegetable garden?
- do their foraging (moving their beak in the earth) destroy mycelium or small fixing roots?
- effect on erosion?

thanks


Hi, Laurent

There are two types of duck in the world, and their type is determined by the way they feed. There are dabblers and divers. The majority of domesticated ducks (in western countries, at least) are dabblers, which means they feed on the surface of water or just below the surface. (You have surely seen ducks in a pond with just their butts up in the air--they're dipping down to eat plant and animal life they find floating just below the surface.)

Common duck breeds have been domesticated from dabbling species. So they still have a significant instinct to stick their beak into muddy water and "chomp" rapidly. This helps them filter through mud or through surface layers of water to find little bits of food. All this means that unless ducks are provided with enough dabbling space (enough pond surface and muddy pond margin per duck), they will make their own! They do this by dabbling in any muddy areas they create by standing/walking on bare ground. The cycle goes like this: ducks stand or walk in a particular area long enough that vegetation stops growing in. That patch becomes muddy. That patch soon becomes VERY muddy and water-logged. the ducks begin to dabble in it. The dabbling creates a muddy hole. The hole becomes larger as they continue to use it!

So the bad news is, unless you rotate them frequently onto un-muddied ground and allow the muddied ground to "heal over" with new grass and other vegetation, they will turn a sizable chunk of your land into mud-holes. Obviously this can be bad for erosion and would probably have a negative effect on mycelia in that area.

But the good news is, they don't scratch or dig the same way chickens do, so they won't tear apart your garden looking for critters beneath the soil. (They might flick aside leaves or other fallen vegetation, but they don't scratch and till up the earth the way chickens do.) Ducks will not decimate your earthworm population, unless the earthworms are really making themselves easy to find. Duck poop is great for your land (though it is fairly "hot," like chicken poop, so it's best aged before you spread a lot of it on your vegetable beds.) They do like to eat tender new shoots, so they will pull up seedlings and eat them, but they typically leave most established vegetables alone (except lettuce--they love lettuce!) Ducks are excellent at controlling slugs--no other bird eats slugs quite like a duck! Slugs are like candy to them--they can't get enough.

In my experience with ducks (which has mostly been in zoos and aviaries...not the same environment as a permie garden, so take my experience within context, please!) the best way to keep them from turning everything into a mud pit is to rotate them onto new land as often as possible, and to have one area that's okay for them to "terraform" to their hearts' content. Choose a section of land (obviously by your pond) and keep a little fence around it. Let them do their dabbling behavior there, and don't try to fight it. It's a losing battle. Rotate them onto other parts of your property frequently using portable poultry netting, thus preventing them from standing/walking on any one area for too long. Those flat, wide feet really trample the vegetation down, so give duck-trodden areas time to recover before the ducks spend any significant time there again. Allow them to forage within their poultry netting for a few hours or the day or whatever; provide a shallow bowl of water for them to dunk their heads in as needed. Then bring them back to their pond area and let them tear it up all they want.
 
Laurent Voulzy
Posts: 49
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks Libbie, that was very helpful in understanding their effect.
Could I somehow use them to help de compact soil? seems already they'd eat the daikon sprouts before they mature so I'll have to be smart about it.
Their palmed feet is what squishes the plants, what if I let areas grow tall does that mitigate the damage?
Regarding the ponds, what's a good liner ? currently they're just bare soil, which is saturated in enough clay to keep the ponds full in these rainy days. I was thinking of adding rocks and water weed at the bottom and zero man made stuff but from what you say the water weed will get eaten away.
I have two ponds, soon to be three and expanding. I guess I should also rotate their ponds uh? and pond sqft/ duck is?
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 2989
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
242
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Most of the people who keep ducks have something like a kiddie pool for their water source not true ponds.
They can not traverse "tall" grasses easily, they might even get hung up in them.
Ducks with a true pond will tend to stick closer to their water source than ducks with a kiddie pool.
The pond bottom will end up sealed by the duck poop then that poop will continue to build up, requiring a cleaning out.
That's the down side.

The up side is that;
Ducks will keep slugs and snail populations under control.
They are capable of laying eggs at the rate of a chicken but the eggs are larger and tastier.
If you have grassy areas that aren't tall grass, they will nibble away.
Muscovy ducks even help control ticks something that chickens don't.

Redhawk
 
Travis Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 1362
149
books cat chicken duck rabbit transportation trees woodworking
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We have ducks and don't consider them an issue. They are Khaki Campbell's so they kick out a tremendous amount of eggs, yet keep ticks under control, along with snakes, frogs and toads. Now I live in Maine so we have no big, nor poisonous snakes here, but since having ducks I have yet to see one where they frequent. Their dabbling no doubt drives the snakes away, or they simple kill them. I have witnessed ducks eating whole snakes, and they LIVE to gobble up toads and frogs, and ones fairly big for their size too!

When it comes to their antics, I just love ducks. They are funny, though as Bryant says, we have a Kiddie Pool for ours and they do make it a slimy mess in short order. And while I prefer the chicken eggs for omelettes, I prefer the duck eggs for cooking, so big and rich. It makes excellent baked dishes requiring eggs!

I like that they self-roost. That is they let themselves back into their coop at night, so for us in the summer months it is just open the door after 8 AM, and then at twilight, shut the door to the coop to keep them Predator-Free. In other words when it is dark, they go into the coop for the night all on their own. But why not let them out until 8 AM? They lay their eggs from 6 AM to 8 AM and if they are not in the coop, you will never find the eggs. Man can they hide them. But unlike a chicken that lays them anytime, ducks are consistent so after 8 AM we send out the kids to let the ducks out and gather up the eggs. It does not seem like a big deal, but it is actually nice.

 
Nicole Alderman
garden master
Posts: 1707
Location: Pacific Northwest
263
cat duck forest garden hugelkultur cooking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My ducks will eat most any seedling...except daikons. I'd throw down buckwheat, field peas, and daikon seeds, and they'd pick out everything except the daikons. So, your daikons are pretty safe.

I also used to have an insane amount of little grass spiders. I'd take a step and spiders would flee from my feet, so dense there was about 1 spider per half inch. Now that I have ducks, I no longer see spiders. They also love eating carpenter ants, and slugs. I'm pretty sure they eat worms when they can get them, but they would need bare ground to get down to the worms--they don't really eat through the mat of grass roots. They LOVE digging through lose leaf mulch to find bugs. Some ducks like drilling in the dirt/mud more than others. My first few ducks never did much drilling, and then I got three ducks from another lady, and those ducks taught the rest of my flock to drill in the mud and dit.

I have anconas, a khaki campbell, and a runner duck. I wouldn't think the ducks would uncompact your soil. Mine compact their bedding with their little webbed feet. I also haven't noticed mine making muddy areas, but perhaps that's because I have gravely loam soils, and not clay? I've also only had mine for 3 years, and I don't crowd them. I have 7 ducks right now (at the highest amount, I had about 20) and they have a 1,700sqft yard and free range around an acre for about 4 hours/day.

In their yard, they have eaten the grass down quite short, and it's a little sad looking due to all their poop perhaps creating too much nitrogen. This happened last winter, too, and the lawn  perked up in the summer (they love eating newly grown, or frost bitten grass, but don't eat mature grass).

I'd love to see what someone with more expereience with soil biology has to say!
 
Libbie Hawker
Posts: 102
Location: Friday Harbor, WA
7
chicken food preservation hugelkultur
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Laurent Voulzy wrote:Thanks Libbie, that was very helpful in understanding their effect.
Could I somehow use them to help de compact soil?


I wouldn't think ducks would be great at loosening up soil. In fact, I would expect they'd have the opposite effect! So much standing on those palmated feet--it's going to compact whatever soil they don't turn into dabbling holes. Chickens would be a much better choice for loosening up compacted soil, since they love to scratch. Pigs would be even better--they'd get the work done in just a few days! But they take up a lot more space.

Their palmed feet is what squishes the plants, what if I let areas grow tall does that mitigate the damage?


In my experience, ducks appreciate tall grass for nesting in and they'll forage in it for bugs to eat, so they would be attracted to tall-grass areas. But I can't say whether it would help mitigate duck damage. It might be worth experimenting with! Let us know how it goes for you.

Regarding the ponds, what's a good liner ? currently they're just bare soil, which is saturated in enough clay to keep the ponds full in these rainy days. I was thinking of adding rocks and water weed at the bottom and zero man made stuff but from what you say the water weed will get eaten away.


Water plants like duckweed will be eaten quickly, but it's great for them and they love it! I wish I had a useful answer for you on lining ponds. In all the zoos I worked in, the ponds were lined in textured concrete so they would be easy to clean when necessary. That's probably not what you'd want to go for here. I would think a flexible plastic pond lining would work out just fine. But keep in mind that ducks appreciate a shallow/muddy margin area where they can do their thing. Try to make at least one part of the pond's shore gradually slope into "dry land" so you have some shallow parts. Not only do the ducks like it, but that helps other wildlife avoid drowning if they fall in.

I have two ponds, soon to be three and expanding. I guess I should also rotate their ponds uh? and pond sqft/ duck is?


If you're rotating the ducks off the pond (putting them out to forage in a poultry net during the day, or whatever) you don't necessarily need to have more than one pond. But if you like ponds, add more! They're important habitats for many different species and they can be very useful for other functions around the farm/garden (bouncing light and heat up onto difficult-to-warm plants, for example...or holding gray water from your house that you can divert to your garden when it gets hot and dry...)

It's hard to say how many square feet per duck. Much of that depends on the breed and number of birds, and what other resources are available to them (preferred shelter/nesting areas, feeding areas, toys and distractions for them to pick at.) My rule of thumb has always been: if the birds start picking on each other or start looking depressed or anxious, there are too many birds for some resource or another. They need more space or more food or more water or more nests... you get it. It will require observing your birds and your situation and making adjustments little by little until everybody seems optimally happy and healthy.
 
Nicole Alderman
garden master
Posts: 1707
Location: Pacific Northwest
263
cat duck forest garden hugelkultur cooking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Libbie Hawker wrote:

In my experience, ducks appreciate tall grass for nesting in and they'll forage in it for bugs to eat, so they would be attracted to tall-grass areas. But I can't say whether it would help mitigate duck damage. It might be worth experimenting with! Let us know how it goes for you.



I remember reading somewhere that ducks don't like tall grass because predators can hide in it. My ducks rarely go up my hill, that has tall grass, unless I'm there luring them. And the hill is right next to their yard. Meanwhile, they'll explore a long way downhill, where we mow, and even cross the street onto my nieghbor's yard if i'm not vigilent. When the grass is short on the hill, though, they do venture up there more Whether this is because they're eating the clippings and the slugs/bugs hiding in the clippings, or to eat the tender new grass growth, or because it's less scary, I don't know.

Talking about grass, earlier I had said my ducks leave the mat of grass alone and can't get through it to destroy the roots/dig in the soil. I was wrong! I was looking out there today and due to our crazy (even for the Pacific Northwest) amount of rain, my ground is super soggy, and the ducks are sticking their bills through the roots and prying up areas of grass. So, if there's a tone of rain, and less grass growth due to it being winter, the ducks can do a number on your lawn.
 
Maureen Atsali
pollinator
Posts: 363
Location: Western Kenya
31
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think I would ask what type of duck you have.  I have muscovies, and I find them much easier than ducks from the mallard family.  They do not make mudholes or dibble in the soil.  They do not require a pond, or even a kiddie pool.  I leave them out a basin of water.  They jump in, have a splash and roll, wash their nostrils, and jump out again.  At the end of the day I dump the soiled water on a tree.  Its easy to move the basin to a fresh spot, so there is never any mud.  They are home bodies, and don't wander far.  However, I clip their wings.  They will eat sprouts, and once I saw a flock of juveniles denude a whole pumpkin patch, but mostly they leave established plants alone.  They are quiet, they whisper and hiss and use a lot of body language.  If you hear them quack then something is seriously wrong.  Because my ducks free range, there is no issue with soil compaction.  I love my ducks.  I like them better than my chickens. 

And on a side note... My understanding is that you won't need to worry about sealing you duck pond, the ducks will do it for you.
 
Laurent Voulzy
Posts: 49
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
"sealing duck pond" - no lining needed thanks to gooey duck poop? what's a way to prevent duck poo saturation? fish? @Redhawk
I recognize 3 Rouens, two are black and 3 are gray with a white chest. I don't even know how many males I have, it'll be interesting The gray ones scare easily, the Rouens are trusting and the black ones are the most daring.
The soiled water from ducks we call that duck juice, I didn't know it was good for trees. In fact I avoided putting it on the newly planted trees by fear that it would be too rich.
We have 2 ponds right now, a big and a growing one. the big one is their fav spot, it's surrounded by large bushy excelsas

I have been observing and experimenting a lot and found this out:

- they are super social and need others nearby or will freak out
- they learn from each others, one will dare move in on something, the others observe then follow
- they go to their pen at night but sometimes don't leave their coop in the morning, lazy bums
- some do not like being handled AT ALL, and will associate that with fear or pain. When they were young I put them back in their coop... never again
- they have long memory
- ducks will compact soil into dense mud unless they move around enough. this should not be a problem on a vast land except that...
- they stay around natural ponds and don't move much. Whenever I corral them to other parts which also have ponds they will recoil to thri spot like a spring, within 30 minutes. because...
- they are creature of habit and these take effort to change. this can be difficult to motivate them because...
- when they don't care about food, good luck luring them in. I don't feed them much because...
- they can feed off mud somehow. They didn't touch their feed and didn't care about the treats, today.
- they tend to go towards other ducks and move in pack, unless a dog is near them. My dog had the great idea of playing with them one day and the trauma hasn't faded away
- they will go towards loud speaking more than soft speaking
- they love short grass and chill out for hours in those areas, they feed in tall grass when there is mud
- they have zero awareness of open space = danger, they migrated to my neighbor, turning ponds into duck ponds here and there. every now and then a bald eagle checks them out from real close and they don't even see it. I remember the wild ducks freaking out at the sight of an eagle, I think they learn from their social nest.
- some have great spacial sense and can orient themselves amazingly well for one monthers, others are challenged and will instead stay in the nearby stable hearing their mates but unable to go around to reach the coop
 
Manisha Holm
Posts: 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We had 3 ducks for about 18 months and loved every minute of it. We had to give them away due to a rogue, daytime raccoon and I really do miss them. They'd wander around our 2.4 acres, spend lots of time in their pond, and were a delight whenever they wandered by. Ours would NOT go into their house at night. We'd have to go out every night at twilight, give them some grain to lure them close to their house, then as soon as we spread our arms in a herding gesture, they'd turn and walk into their house. But they would not go in on their own.

They dabbled in the mud everywhere during really rainy days, but then confined themselves to dabbling along the stream and in their pond. They had lots of room to wander, so their poop enriched rather than burned. Our soil is high in clay, so unless it was raining, they couldn't dabble to the point of damage. They're very social and always stayed together in one, wandering troop.

If we had some way to protect them from raccoons, we'd get more ducks in a heart beat. They're the best!
 
Ben Zumeta
Posts: 202
Location: Redwood Country, Zone 9, 60" rain/yr,
9
dog duck hugelkultur
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
From what I've read duck manure has the highest ratio of phosphorus of any common farm animal.
 
Travis Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 1362
149
books cat chicken duck rabbit transportation trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Since posting last, we have found out here it seems pond construction makes a huge difference. We always used a kiddie pool and while it was fine, the ducks left a slime on it in a very short amount of time.Now we have an accidental "pond" that was made after some earth work about the same size as a kiddie pool, but has a soil bottom. It is MUCH MUCH better for the ducks. They prefer it and so do we. After that accidental learning experience I know we will always have a natural pond for them now
 
Tim Bermaw
Posts: 37
Location: Mediterranean-Temperate transition zone
8
cat chicken forest garden greening the desert hugelkultur solar trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Even a small amount of ducks will over nitrify a decent pond in a relatively short period of time.  If you end up with algal blooms in summer then you know you have too many ducks for your pond area.  The fact that everything is covered in a black, sticky layer of muck is also a dead giveaway.  To get nitrogen, phosphorus and the like out of the pond, consider a floating mesh raft with duckweed inside.  Any duckweed that escapes will be eaten by the ducks, but you can also harvest the duckweed inside the raft and feed it to your chickens or use it in your garden as a fertiliser.

Also, try keep your male population down to (no more than) 1-in-15 or you'll end up with an excessive number of over-mated females and injuries (usually leg/hip problems).  Continual access to ponds offsets this as most ducks prefer to mate in water, but if you have to lock them up in a barn with a hard floor for extended periods of time due to weather or predators...
 
Acetylsalicylic acid is aspirin. This could be handy too:
Mike Oehler's Low-Cost Underground House Workshop & Survival Shelter Seminar - 3 DVD+2 Books Deal
https://permies.com/wiki/48625/digital-market/digital-market/Mike-Oehler-Cost-Underground-House
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!