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Old 03/25/10, 08:55 AM
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Keeping ducks safe

Hello! I'm new to the forum and will soon be new to ducks. I live on a shared acre w/our landlady, and was fortunate enough to inherit a lovely organic garden and greenhouse that I've been voraciously bringing back to life and planting in this spring.

I plan on getting 2 ducklings this spring to raise as pets (we're vegan, so we won't even want eggs) and as pest patrol in the garden. Slugs and bugs are a huge issue, and I've done a lot of research on ducks as great assistance in keeping pests at bay.

My question is this: The garden is entirely fenced, with wire fencing in squares, like this-
(hopefully that's visible enough, they're about 4 inches per side of the square)

We will have a secure coop in the garden for the ducks at night, but will allow them to free range in the space during the day, veggie plants well protected until they're big enough. I've noticed small footprints in some of my beds this week, and that could either be a cat or raccoon. Should I be worried about letting the ducks free range during the day, in terms of predators? The garden doesn't have an enclosure over the top of it, so raccoons could easily climb the fence if they wanted to.

I don't want to get into this endeavor blindly, and I can't afford to cover the entire garden or even build an aviary of sorts to have the ducks in.

ALSO, has anyone had any experience with this hatchery? http://www.metzerfarms.com/index.cfm?CustID=53268 I feel so bad having ducklings shipped, but I have a real ethical concern with buying babies from a place where the mamas are in cages all day doing nothing but producing, and apparently these birds are indoors, but in a large, well ventilated space. I'm afraid if I buy them from my local feed store, they will be coming from birds in poor conditions.

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  #2  
Old 03/25/10, 09:08 AM
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I haven't dealt with that hatchery but I've had a coon pull a young duck through 2x4 wire and eat its head off. So they need to be completely safe at night and not near wire. Until they get bigger and maybe even then they will be able to escape from that wire. One of my chickens got out through the littlest place yesterday. WE knew they were getting out someplace but never thought a full grown hen could squeeze through that spot.

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Old 03/25/10, 09:10 AM
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My ducks live in my goat pen that is fenced with the same field fence. I do not have any problems with predators getting in and having a duck snack. Then again, they are full grown white pekins, so are pretty large. The goats will walk right over the ducks if they are in their way, so I don't think there is any protection going on.

If you wish to have the ducks as pets, I recommend handling them daily and in excess. I had some kids raise my ducks hoping they would be friendly, but despite being handled daily, they are not interested in being my friend. They are aware that I feed them, but that is the extent of our relationship

Another friendly tip, I would recommend getting 3 or 4 ducklings incase you lose one. Ducks truly love the company of other ducks (which may be why mine don't have time for my companionship).

Good job researching ducks as pest control. They are truly awesome eaters! I saw on TV (national geographic or something) that ducks are one of the only critters that can shake a stick at grasshoppers/locust. They eat, and eat, and eat, and eat!

You will enjoy ducks, they are funny critters. We have a kiddy pool that we position on the uphill side of the garden. The ducks can dirty the water in 15 minutes. We dump the pool daily and let it flood the garden. Good fertilizer, we figure.

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Old 03/25/10, 09:36 AM
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Thanks for the responses!

I may end up putting some wire/plastic fencing around the base of the exterior garden fence until they're fully grown, just so there's no chance they can escape. I'm interested in bigger bred ducks, like the Cayuga and Welsh Harlequin, so they definitely won't fit once full grown. They will be in their coop at all times after dusk-period I had planned on putting the coop along the perimeter of the fence because that's what works best space wise, but I may need to re-think that now.

I absolutely plan on handling them every day once I get them. We need to get them acclimated to our three dogs and vice versa, and I'd like them to be pretty tame both because I love my animals and because I want to be able to handle them in case medical situations arise.

I've read about getting 3 ducks, I might just do that I do need to be conscious about noise, as my landlady shares the property, but that's why I'm leaning toward breeds known for being "calm."

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  #5  
Old 03/25/10, 09:48 AM
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My Welsh Harlequin might well be able to just walk right through a 4" by 4" wire. That certainly won't hold them until they are grown, day olds walk through a 1.5" spacing. I would look into Premier fencing for electrified mesh to keep ducks in and predators out. It's not that expensive, flexible, easy and effective.

You won't be able to order less than about 10 ducklings to be shipped - they need the body warmth of the other ducklings to ship well. I'd go ahead and consider your local feed store, they will likely be buying from the same hatchery you would, but can get in the quantity needed for shipping and sell you just a couple of them. I'd also get 3-4, so that if anything happens to one, you won't have a lone duckling. They are very strongly flock oriented. Another possibility for getting what you want (most feed stores won't have the less common breeds) is to check your local Craig's list in farm and garden. Also check bulletin boards at feed stores, etc. You may well be able to find someone in your area that is hatching ducklings from their own flock - that would be the best way to get a couple of babies. I found a full grown, show quality Saxony drake on Craig's list! He's a beauty and rather a rare breed.

I would suggest for garden cleanup that you consider Runner ducks too. They are hilarious and bred to go forage in rice paddies. I like Cayugas, though I've never had one, they seem very cool. My favorite personal duck is a Welsh Harlequin, she is my weeding buddy and looks for worms under my fingers when I'm weeding. I haven't spent hours making her a pet and she wasn't so much when she was little, but at about two she became just my baby anyways. Now I have to be careful not to walk on her ducky feet at dinner time.

http://www.premier1supplies.com/c/poultry_supplies/ Looks like a couple hundred dollars would keep your babies pretty safe and could be used to pasture them anywhere on your property if you want to move them around when the garden is growing.

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Last edited by GrannyCarol; 03/25/10 at 09:51 AM. Reason: Add link
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Old 03/25/10, 10:26 AM
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The hatchery I noted above will ship with orders of two babies or more. I think I'm learning toward at least 3. I've also done some reading of articles they've posted and they're quite transparent about their processes, and I like that they sell/donate the duck shavings back to local farmers/gardeners. I actually have and continue to check bulletin boards at the feed stores, and the Craigslist where I live is pretty under used. I check that daily as well. I also check the Craigslist in the largest metro area closest to me (the SF Bay Area).

I plan on keeping my babies inside until they're at least 4 weeks old, and then their outside time will be limited and supervised.

I do like what I've read about the Runners, but I've read that they're easily excitable and I really am concerned about noise level/action because of my landlady.

And I've e-mailed the community listserv up here (wayyy more used than CL) about ducklings and have gotten no response.

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Old 03/25/10, 10:27 AM
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Harlequins really arent very big. They are in the lightweight class of ducks. But they are still wonderful birds! (hint hint)

It's true that three would be better. In my experience, ducks are more active if there are more of them. Plus, this way you can remove one from the group one at a time if needed. Whenever I have ducks in pairs, and take one away, even for just a few minutes, the one left behind gets really agitated! Also, if you have three and one gets killed, you wont have to worry about getting a replacement right away like you would if you only had two.

I'm not sure where you live, but raccoons can be a huge problem. You cant have a pen secure enough! If you think its fine, add more just to be sure. It's better safe than sorry.

Good luck, and have fun!

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Old 03/25/10, 11:03 AM
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If you don't want noise or eggs get a couple drakes. Drakes cannot quack loudly like the hens who can drive you insane. You could probably find some drakes for free if you advertise you are looking for them.

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Old 03/25/10, 11:46 AM
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A pair or so of drakes would be a great idea. If they are together without the girls, they will be good buddies and are definitely quieter. However, most hatcheries send ducklings straight run, see what that one does.

You'll find your babies will benefit from going out supervised from the time they are a couple of days old. They love being in the fresh grass (they need the greens too) and having access to a pan with water in it in the sunshine is heaven for baby ducks. Just be sure they don't get water logged or chilled. I take my little ones out the first nice day after they hatch for an hour or so and just sit with them and watch them. At that age, of course, they would be prey for a cat or a hawk or anything, so I don't leave them for a moment and I make a pen out of cardboard to keep them from running off.

By four weeks, they will be pretty big. You will probably want them out of your house by then - ducklings are messy and smelly. I recommend brooding them in a plastic wading pool, which they can use for a bath tub when they grow up. At about two weeks they will be able to escape it however and you will have to find a way to make higher sides on it (I use cardboard brooding rings from Eggcartons.com for that). Ducklings tend to be hardy and robust and easy to raise. You may want to get or check out from the library Storey's Guide to Raising Ducks, which I still read and check up on things regularly.

I'm not expert on predators, I have my ducks in town, but we do have coyotes that come by the area. I have one house/pen that is covered with chicken wire where my babies go at about two weeks of age. They have a heat lamp in the house and are gradually given run of the pen. I would expect you'll need some sort of smaller pen which would be more secure for when you are not around to keep an eye on them and I'd still recommend a tighter fence for the garden.

My ducks eat a lot of vegetation as well as bugs, slugs, etc. I would not allow them access to my vegetable garden during growing season, but I have a lot more than two ducks too. They love tomatoes and will eat anything that has a stem smaller than my thumb and anything they can reach. My apple trees no longer have suckers where the ducks roam, nor leaves below about 18". I do have about 20 ducks though. They range over about 100' square during the day and keep the grass back a bit and most of the weeds out. They're a bit hard on some flowers, like lilies for instance. They haven't bothered my Irises or my ornamental grass and ate all the skeleton weed last summer (yay!).

During the day they stay in my 3' fence just fine (2" by 4" welded wire) and at night in my old chain link kennels. Containing the ducks isn't that hard, but protecting them is important. Are you on Freecycle? You might be able to get some more fencing there as an idea. Have fun! Ducklings are adorable and very funny.

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  #10  
Old 03/25/10, 11:55 AM
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GrannyCarol, you're a wealth of knowledge, thanks!

The Metzer Farm folks will actually sex them for you and send you your preference, which is nice.

Great idea about using the baby pool as the brooder; I hadn't thought of that. I knew I"' wanted to get a pool for them, but this saves a step.

I actually ordered Storey's Guide to Raising Ducks on Amazon this month and have been reading thru it.

I'm actually growing my tomatoes strictly in my greenhouse, and will be keeping all my greens/other seedlings hidden under reemay until they're big enough to withstand ducks. I do have raiser beds, but they aren't THAT raised.

I am on Freecycle, but the board like Freecycle and CL are so...dead where I live. It's funny.

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Old 03/25/10, 03:33 PM
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Metzer is a good hatchery. I've ordered from them several times.

If you don't want eggs and you want a larger duck, look at the Blue Swedes. They are more seasonal layers than runners or Welsh. Metzer's are very nice.

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