Reader Question: About the Ducks?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply! 

John asks: I read with interest your recent article about “renewable food” and – like you – have chickens but not ducks and was wondering what the downsides, if any, are to duck ownership?

My reply: I can think of two, one of which may not apply to you!

The first – which does apply – is that ducks are messier than chickens. The poo constantly, everywhere. If you let them roam freely, there will be poo everywhere. No more walking barefoot in the grass! This can, of course, be avoided by restricting the beasts to a “run” area, such as a fenced-in portion of your yard.

I prefer to let my birds have free run of my yard as it serves two purposes, poo aside. One, it keeps them from having to live in what would otherwise be a muddy mess, as they’ll strip all vegetation from a restricted area in short order. Two, it is healthier for them to have access to more grass/bugs and so on – which means healthier eggs and so on.

The second thing – which may not apply to you – is that ducks like to swim. If you have an ornamental pond, as I do, then (as OJ used to say) look out! The birds will find it and will jump in it and will muck up the water and possibly kill/eat any koi/goldfish you have in the pond.

I built a stone wall around my pond for exactly this reason.

Otherwise, ducks are groovy! They have fun mannerisms, lay eggs and taste delicious!


. . .

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  1. Having 3 ducks, I second Eric’s reply. Ducks are awesome, have real personality, and the eggs are out of this world (we only have lady eggers.) However, where I live the lots are smaller and free ranging is harder. We tried it in the morning and evening, supervised, but they instinctively roam and “dabble”, meaning chew at and remove the roots or grasses and plants (especially when it’s wet or muddy to begin with), wherever they go, including where you don’t want them to go, like a neighbor’s yard. We’ve taken to fencing off 500 sq foot area for them, which includes their 5’ diameter doggie/kiddie pool (that we change the water out of daily for sanitation) and is adjacent to their 100 sq foot nighttime double fenced, fence roofed, and ground matted “citadel” (includes a locking off ground coop) to protect against nighttime predators like raccoons. Even though they have some forage, we feed them Mazuri waterfowl maintenance feed daily and go through 50 lbs every 6 weeks or so (around $75 per bag). We are currently working on strategies to beautify their area because mud is in these birds DNA but overall have been very happy with 3 big duck eggs every morning since Sept. (got hatchlings from Metzer Farms via USPS in April.).

    • Excellent, Zek!

      On my list of Things to Do is borrow my buddy’s backhoe to dig out a small – but big enough – pond for the ducks that will not require water changes and (ideally) will keep filled (mostly) via rain water and runoff. I’m thinking about 20×20 and about two feet deep, lined with Bentonite to prevent the water from disappearing. I may build a small island in the middle for the ducks, which affords them safety via the moat all around it plus it looks nice and I’m a genteel redneck! But first things first. I’m getting ready to start on the new coop, which will be much-improved over the current digs. I will post details about this once I get rolling!

      • The pond idea sounds good in your situation. I’ve seen some things online where folks integrate the pond with certain plants that create forage for the ducks, thus creating a circular “biodynamic” environment. Think about a bubbler or pump because stagnant water with effluent will create algae blooms in summer.


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