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Mountains of duck manure

Damp ducks

One week after moving the ducklings into a pasture, they had devastated the entire area (about 200 square feet) and had to be moved to a new spot.  For the sake of comparison, Flapping ducklingchicks of this age would have caused a lot less impact, but chicks of this size would have done about the same, only in different patterns.  (Our Ancona ducks grow a lot faster than Australorp chicks, thus the size and age distinction.)

While chickens peck and scratch, most of the impact of ducks seems to come in the form of wet manure.  Sure, our ducklings ate some of the greenery, but the real reason I moved them so quickly is because their little paddock was beginning to smell due to too much manure in one spot.

The worst of the manure buildup was in the open-bottomed brooder.  I ended up pulling the brooder to a new spot every day the way I do with a chicken tractor rather than trying to lay down fresh bedding because ducklings don't mind sleeping on the damp ground, and they make so much manure I'd be using up lots of straw or leaves to soak it up.  The only downside was that, after a few days, most of the pasture was piles of duck manure from where I'd moved the brooder over those spots.

Duck soup

The other spot duck manure lands is in their dabbling pond.  We put a little kiddie pool with some duckweed in it in the new location, and the ducks quickly turned the clear water into pea soup (or is that duck soup?).  This is a spot where I need to put on my permaculture thinking-cap since the high-nitrogen water in the duck pond would be a perfect fertilizer for the garden, but it takes quite a while to move that water one bucket at a time.  Maybe if we had a little pump (and if it hadn't rained two inches the night before I wanted to empty the pond), I could have utilized both the fertilizer value and the water more efficiently.

Duck pond

Pond inoculantThe photo above shows our ducklings enjoying the next pond in the rotation.  This one is tiny, barely big enough for nine growing ducklings to float in at the same time.  I scooped out a bit of duckweed and pond inoculant to seed the kiddie pool before turning the ducks loose in their new pond, but I'm already learning that it takes much more than a week or two for a pond to grow enough life that the ducks don't demolish it in the first five minutes.  I definitely need to build more sky ponds for the long-term cultivation of aquatic life if we want to keep ducks.

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I guess the ducks are lots more work. Reminds me of the "dozen diapers a day" myth.

You might need to scoop up the poop anad dry it out, as duck chips, and save it as fuel...? You also might need to fence off part of the creek on both sides, or move the whole duck operation down toy a paddock in the swamp?

Comment by adrianne Sat May 17 08:31:38 2014

Somehow this triggers a memory of a poem about a farmer who for want of X purchased Y and for want of Z for the Y purchased A and for want of D for the A purchased.

Replace purchased with "added to the farm" I dunno where I get that memory but somehow it is there without specifics. For want of Duckweed Anna made a skypond. For want of Fertilizer

we should have a modern version showing the links between the resources on your farm, properly illustrated as a children's version of farming these days with integrated systems.

Comment by c. Sat May 17 12:00:25 2014
Perhaps a transfer pump? You can get hand-cranked styles that can move a lot if water, fast, over wide distances and some slope.
Comment by Emily Sun May 18 09:32:18 2014
They are the most beautiful duck breed I've seen. Why did you choose these vs. a breed that wouldn't need so much water?
Comment by TERRY Sun May 18 10:14:25 2014

Interesting thoughts from Mom, c., and Emily!

Terry --- Are there duck breeds that don't love open water? From the few books I've read on the topic, it seems like all ducks love it.... (None really need it, but that's another story.)

The more serious answer about duck breed selection is in this post.

Comment by anna Sun May 18 10:26:37 2014

I guess I was thinking of Indian Runners. Don't get me wrong, I love what you have there---I was just alarmed by the extensive amount of land "damaged," though I guess as long as they are moved, it will be a plus in the end.

"Indian Runners These ducks are perhaps the closest thing you can get to a walking wine bottle, voted Omlets\' favourite duck not because we like wine bottles but because they are so funny to watch running around. They are used by shepherds to train puppy sheep dogs because they act the same as a herd of sheep. Runner ducks lay between 150 and 300 eggs per year and aren\'t really a swimming duck so don\'t need very much water making them a good garden duck."

I guess I'm just surprised that they seem to be more work than chickens. I thought ducks were supposed to be easier---showing my ignorance here. But then, that should change as they get older.

I think what surprised me is to learn that they will NEED more pond space in order to not decimate the healthy growth/balance. But as you say, they are ducks! I shouldn't think of getting ducks without supplying what their nature requires.

Comment by Terry Sun May 18 10:43:10 2014

One very unique homestead, $1,500 per acre, the opportunity of a lifetime