At one stage we want to get some ducks. We have chicken yet but we want to put them in another area. I read that ducks can free range. Is that true? Our veggie garden will be enclosed at one stage, but our property is not exactly fenced. Do they stay? Do they fly and do you cut their wings or do you let them fly around. Foxes are an issue here and they must be locked in at night. A neigbour says that he had ducks but they didn't come back at night so the fox got them one by one. Do ducks lay eggs in winter? How destructive are they on small plants? I think we would have to free range them at least partly because of the slugs and snails.
Ducks will free-range all right. Sometimes quite a bit farther than any chicken!
As your neighbor found out, unlike chickens, ducks will often not come back to the coop every night.
A couple of duck breeds are actually better layers than most chicken breeds, I don't know whether they will continue to lay through the winter.
Carole Deppe, in The Resilient Gardener, says that ducks do better in wetter parts of the country, but that chickens do better in a confinement situation. She has a lot to say on the comparison between chickens and ducks, derived from her direct experience.
Yes, they laid eggs in the winter (better when the winters are mild and/or they have a warm barn to escape the cold in). When my chicken's ease up on laying my ducks kick into it just after the fall molting - perfect.
Foxes can be a problem - if there is brush and the ducks venture past the people stomping ground, foxes in your area will learn to hunt them by day. Solution: get a dog, raise it with the ducks - in the barn at night with them and feed it out in the pasture where your ducks are hanging out. Donkey's can also be a good guardian in some situations.
To keep a flock healthy and disease free, depending on where you live, you should supplement your ducks with minerals like that which can be found in kelp or kefir, added to some non-GMO seed. Check with your local extension office for the lacking minerals in your native soils and plant life.
I highly recommend both birds as they have different strengths, and benefits for the homestead.
I'm very tempted by ducks - the lovely white Jemimah Puddleducks and also the Indian Runners. Call Ducks are cute too but I've heard that they can fly off all too easily.
I'm only hanging back because we have 4 hens and 6 geese all of which do a good run in eggs and I'm sometimes egged-out. I guess we could always feed the excess to the pigs. Plus I'm worried that the ducks will eat my cherished water lillies - I'd love it if they ate the hideous pond weed though. Do they need a pond as ours goes to almost nothing in the summer?
Alison Freeth-Thomas "heninfrance" wrote: Do they need a pond as ours goes to almost nothing in the summer?
They need enough water to cover their head in, they clean out their nostrils and eyes in water as well as drinking, but for happiness a very small kiddy pool of water dumped on your lawn, moved and refilled in the summer is a super idea. With two uses for the same water, it makes everyone happy.
And if you have some delicious plants they will eat them, so maybe you could harvest the pond weed and feed it to them keeping them away from the lilies, or maybe they will have so many other things they won't touch your lilies.
Having just finished Carol Deppe's book, I wish we had read it earlier. We are zone 5 in NY State and the ducks are pretty miserable this time of year. This is our 1st winter with 15 of them. We haven't seen an egg in weeks, but alot of that had to do with a mink that killed one of the hens. Pretty spooked for a while. They get their grain, but I can tell they really miss their green stuff. We seem to have some luck running over hay with a lawn mower, and feeding them that. There is a 2 foot fence that surrounds their pond, and we have never had one fly off. Also have Rhode Island Reds which are still giving almost an egg a day. I can feed them what's left over after we cut our micros, but the ducks don't seem to like those either. We are all looking forward to spring. If I had to do it over again, we would still have the ducks, we love them, but winter is really tough for them. Ed http://luckydogfarm.wordpress.com/
Ed, maybe next spring you could make them a shelter near their pond. You could even make a quick one now - by making a square igloo out of hay bales, where they enter through a narrow opening and lay their eggs out of wind and snow. You can include access for you at the back to collect eggs, but leave a couple to keep the ducks producing. Cold winters are hard on ducks, but you should be able to help them with a bit of shelter.
There is a post here with a link (and pictures I think) for the straw bale housing - it is for chickens in the cold mid-west I believe. You may want to look that up.