Saturday, 8 November 2014

Duck Endevours

Well, yes, I know, I did a very poor job of keeping the blog up to date this season. A good part of this blog is to for my own reference on what I found successful and what I learnt, hard way or easily.

So one of my grand plans this year, was to add a few ducks and birds to my garden to try close that permaculture like circle of sustainability further. Ducks would control insects, while offering manure and eggs. I chose the Indian Runner ducks as they are predominately land ducks, smaller, good for eggs, and were bred for insect eating. Oh yes and they hilarious to watch.  They very excitable ducks, squawking and going nuts running around and chasing each-other at the smallest thing. That said they skittish as well, and not overly friendly. That said, Omlette, Duck Down (DD) and Yolk have worked their way into children and adult alike in the the neighbourhood.
Worms, lettuce and peas in a silver platter

Now my duck mistakes are in the dozens. Were do I start?

  1. Ducks Eat Greens - I came home one day to find my entire Pac Choy crop eaten to the ground. Rabbit? The next day I came home to find 8 young Chinese cabbage missing. There went my plans for Kimchi. Now I was on to the ducks as culprits as I caught them standing in the garden. Day 3 I lost most of my speckled lettuce. The result was I had to hastily put up a 2 foot fence around my main flower beds. I have still not really made this permanent, but suspect I will do that now.
  2.  Ducks Need Constant Water - Regardless of if the supply is 1 litre or 50 litres, they use all that is available. Hence I quickly learnt that smaller amounts more frequently was far better than larger amounts less frequently. I ended up using a smaller plastic tub on the lawn than the bath tub pond,  which could be emptied and filled every day. Forget large bowels or extended supply systems, I resorted to a pump that pumps a 1 litre ever 3 hours from a large reservoir to a smaller bowel for them to drink from. I currently trying ideas on how to prevent this watering system from freezing in winter that wont take a ton of electricity to keep heated. 
  3. Ducks have Enemies - I lost one duck just at dusk right at the start of summer. I had gone out and tried to get them to go into their house at dusk, but they were not interested, and so had gone into the house to do something and came out 30 minutes later to find the remaining 3 hiding in hostas. When its dark, they just seem to lay down. I guess it must have being a raccoon, but my neighbours have also all seen skunks and opossums and even a fox. This means they need to be safely locked up before sunset. I have also seen to hawks watching them, but so far, they just sit in the tree and watch. I just bought a solar electric pet fence from an amazing couple, Miranda and Chris for bargain of the century.  They showed me their  incredible Japanese garden they had built, which they have another fence to keep he raccoons out of. I currently trying to design a system now that hopefully work should I not be able to be home at dusk.
  4. Duck Houses - Since I wanted the ducks to range freely, I originally built and elaborate, cedar, insulated, duck-house - much like a large kennel with a door. This was large enough for them to spend the night, but not large enough to stay in. This worked well for summer months, but now that winter approaches, I realized that something nearer the house, that could leverage some of the house heat and larger to enable them to stay in doors would be better. The result was a I built a second 4 x 10 foot lean two against the side of the house. This I left with some venting higher, but well protected from wind and with a large clear poly "window" for light and heat. I laid down 4-6 inches of pea gravel for drainage and bought some straw bails to keep the floor covered. The straw can be raked up and put in the garden during winter. A full size door allow me to go in to collect eggs and top up feed and water. I am now wondering if I need to pump water from inside the house or if a reservoir in the shed would work.
I am certain I will learn a dozen things more before my next post. But keeping ducks has being both educational and rewarding. Not if you looking for a pet that you can stroke and play fetch with, but totally fitting to the outdoors and somehow make the escape to the back garden so much more of a escape. A little like teens, you never know what you see them up to when you spy them out of the window. How do the eggs taste? Well more like eggs. They have a bigger, brighter yolk - although how much of this is because they free range I have no idea. 
From left, Omelette Yolk (male), and DD