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Keeping ducks in an urban garden  RSS feed

 
Charli Wilson
Posts: 312
Location: Derbyshire, UK
9
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I would love ducks- they make amazing noises, they're adorable and I have many slugs I would like them to eat! But, can I keep them in an urban garden without them smelling awful or wrecking the entire place? I think I am mostly worried about them smelling and making my garden unpleasant (I spend a lot of time in it), or annoying the neighbours (who put up with a lot from me!). I've pretty much convinced myself it will be ok.. but I don't know how much of that is based on fact, and how much is on the fact that I just like ducks!

In a nutshell..... my garden is about 7000sq feet- but that includes my veggie beds, a patio and two greenhouses! My climate is wet- 30 inches of rain and high humidity all year. And never very cold, temps above freezing all year.  I already keep chickens- 6 hens. They have a 12m2 pen that resembles a moonscape- full of dust baths. And they free range about half of daylight hours, getting to range the whole garden other than actual beds growing veg. They don't really eat slugs though- I've tried the 'chopping them up' thing, but they won't play along- they were raised commercially and only recognised pellets as food when we got them.

I would make another 12m2 or so pen for two ducks to live in- I was thinking to keep two males as I don't need more eggs, and they'd get the same free range privileges as the chickens as long as everyone gets along. I was thinking a kiddie pool or baby bath for water, that i can dump out on a part of the garden daily and refill (ample rain storage).

Who keeps small numbers of ducks and can advise? Thanks.
 
Deb Rebel
garden master
Posts: 1802
Location: Zone 6b
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Double check your zoning and ordinances immediately. There may be limits on how many and what kind. It takes just one disgruntled neighbor to get called upon too. (here you may have four hens, or up to four fowl, hens and ducks mixed, nothing else. Also no roosters in town, and a distance to other houses rule that mostly excludes everyone from having them. I do have enough land I have a spot I can keep them....)

From neighborhood experience things can smell and get noisy fairly quickly and not endear you to those that live around you. Neighbors that say no-problem may change their minds a few months later. Free eggs only go so far.

Be very careful of your numbers, hens can lay eggs without roosters (who if they are doing their job will usually make noise all day long), and the handling of manure/bedding to keep smell down will be important. Muscovy ducks are a little less water needful than other varieties, but. They can be great natural bug abatement.

What seems fine now, may indeed get to smelling 2-4 months down the road, and it may be that the wind blows it away from you to someone else. Here a lot of people use swamp coolers and sucking that into an evaporative cooler and spitting it into the house doesn't make for goodwill.

This neighborhood has had a lot of urban fowl issues over the past decade or so. In order of noise issues (descending): Gander, goose, rooster, ducks, chickens. If you take 1-2 chickens as One, ducks are about a Three if you have two and don't encourage them to quack. Four to Five if you have mixed sex and are encouraging to quack (had a neighbor that thought that his four making noise all day long was great, it wasn't). Rooster, Four to Six. His voice will carry too. Goose, if she gets riled up, about Five to Six. Gander, Eight easily. And they never shut up (experience here on one that ran the neighborhood for a month, long story). Guinea Fowl, when riled up, Ten. They are keen bug-scarfers. I wanted some for tick control but they can be SO noisy.

Two drakes may compete, two females will probably be a lot quieter, and they will lay eggs for you too. Ducks are serious slug destroyers, I agree there. Last place I lived the slugs were terrible, but zoned for no urban fowl. I actually asked around for a rural person that had a few ducks if they'd be willing to loan me one for a day (for rent $$$) to help clean up my issues. Didn't find one, sigh. Above all, good luck in your attempt. I have not kept ducks in town but that is the experience I've had from living with neighbors who have tried to keep them....
 
Nicole Alderman
garden master
Posts: 1714
Location: Pacific Northwest
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Male ducks (drakes) will literally rape chickens to death if they don't enough female ducks around. Drakes have giant, long, corkscrew-shaped penis. Chickens are not equipped to receive an object of such...magnitude. Here's a good article on it: https://www.nwedible.com/aggressive-duck-sex/. And here's a fun video about ducks:



Drakes are quieter than female ducks, but females really aren't that loud, unless they are really ticked off or scared. Mine only get that loud about 2-3 times a day, and also if they are separated from their fellows. I think two or three female ducks would do great with your chickens. I have a flock of ducks that vary in number between 5 and 15. Sometimes I have one chicken along with them. I find that the ducks get along well with the chicken. Sometimes the chicken would pick on the ducks, but as long as the ducks had room to get away from her, there were no problems. The ducks are also less damaging in general to the garden, and easier to keep out of beds. Just put up a two foot tall fence, or have the beds raised about two feet, and the ducks will generally avoid them as long as there are enough other places to explore. And, if they get in your garden, they'll cause a lot less devastation in a lot less time. A chicken gets in a garden and she can/will till the the whole bed up in like 30 minutes. If a duck got in there, she'd eat all your slugs and legume seeds and grain seeds and nibble a lot of your young leaves, and it'd take her three hours to do all that.

My ducks often free range over an acre for a few hours a day, but sometimes for months on end they confined to their run...which is 1,700sqft. It's taken them three years to do damage to that amount of area...and it wouldn't be a problem if I just fenced off some areas for a month so that the grass can regrow.

As for stink, as long as you change out their water daily, and do something like a deep litter method in their house, there won't be much smell at all. For water, I use oil pan-sized trays. They're about 2-3 inches deep, 1.5 feet wide and 2.5 feet long, as well as a foot tall pail for their duck house. I change the water every day. I usually put their water tray next to a fruit tree so I can water/fertilize the tree while dumping the water. After a few days by a tree, I move it to another one. This also encourages them to spread out their slug/weed/grass eating, as they like to stay by their water.  

I hope that helps!
 
William Bronson
Posts: 1492
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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Cool thread, I certianly covet Muscovy ducks  for my yarden
I was recently bit by our  citys requirement that any accessory building intended to house animals to be 20 feet from every property line.
My lot is only 30 feet across....so I built a wheeled coop that my daughter dubbed "The Chook Wagon".

Chickens with deep bedding in the coop seem to take little or no effort to care for.
The ability of ducks to soil water probably exceeds the work I'm willing to put in.
 
Denise Kersting
Posts: 87
Location: South Central PA
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While I don't "have" ducks, they visit my yard daily, along with swans and geese. I live in a standard city lot of less than a 1/4 acre, but my property ends at a park with a small lake. We kept ducks for a month or so while our momma duck hatched her babies. (She had them in my potato patch, and then they weren't fairing so well (numbers rapidly dwindling) when she moved them to the lake) I moved them into a fairly large pen that I would move every morning & evening to a new spot in the lawn like a chicken tractor. They (babies and momma) needed full penning due to all the raptures in our area. The pen had a small "pond" for them and a shaded corner that I kept a straw nest for them; every day the area I moved them off of was a muddy, smelly, mess. They all did well, and grew up to be fine ducks and were released back to the pond when the babies weren't easy pickings, but they or their fully wild raised mother & father have never bothered with slugs. I keep hearing all these wonderful stories of slug control with ducks, but have yet to see it in action, I've also seen videos of swans eating weeds, my visitors just eat my lawn, sigh. In a yard that is already being well-used, and with all the chickens, I would be hesitant to bring in ducks, they really need clean water, and trying to keep that sanitary & fresh might be difficult. Best of luck if you do add ducks to your home, and I hope you keep us posted!
 
Charli Wilson
Posts: 312
Location: Derbyshire, UK
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Thank you for your replies so far!

I have no zoning issues, no ordinances here- I can keep whatever I like! Though I said urban.. it really is semi-rural, but in the UK fashion that means no matter how rural you are you will still have a tiny garden. I can't realistically keep cockerels, as I imagine eventually I would annoy someone, but that is about it. I don't think duck-noise would be an issue- my neighbours aren't that close and from your experiences it doesn't seem that ducks are too much noisier than chickens.

Mu ducks would get a separate pen and house to the chickens, and would only ever meet when ranging the garden. However they don't have to meet- if I kept drakes I could keep them separate easily enough (the garden is all fenced off into pens- so they'd just have to range is separate pens and be rotated).


 
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