A guest post from our workcamper, Jo!
Farm life requires a certain amount of flexibility. If you are working on a limited budget, it is important to find multiple uses for everything, including the farmhouse. We realized that there was an unmet demand for local duck eggs. We already have two ducks, Duckie and Dee Dee, who were dropped off by some local college students after the landlord enforced a no duck policy. Poor Duckie and Dee Dee are a little unusual, probably as a result of their frathouse duckling-hood. It seemed best to purchase the new ducklings from a more traditional source.
If you are not overly engaged in poultry, you might be surprised to learn that there are a number of hatcheries that will ship you live ducks or chicks. You can choose the sex or let the chicks fall where they may. We chose to order ten girls since our primary objective is eggs. Additionally we went with Pekin ducks because they are good layers and are large enough (when fully grown) to deter hawk attacks.
As previously mentioned, there is never a dull day on the farm. Between the goats, ducks, chickens and our constant projects, something is always popping. Todays adventure was waiting in line at the post office listening to the chirping of my little ducklings in their box. As I slowly trudged forward I couldnt help but wonder what the other customers thought was doing all the cackling on the other side of the post office counter.
I scooped up the ducklings and rushed home without opening the box (I had visions of ducklings hopping all over the car). We had already decided to keep the little girls in the bathtub for a week or two, until they have grown enough to move outside. Now, if you are not a farm person, this may seem odd to you. However a bathtub is a great place to keep duckies warm and safe until they grow up a bit. We can control the heat better inside the house and we are blessed with a separate shower, so we can still bathe too!
Once the tub was full of hay, we gently opened the box. I was so excited to see 10 healthy and active ducklings roll out of that box. This company did a great job, and the shipping was half that of some of their competitors! So now the garden tub is full of hay and ducklings. They will stay there for a couple of weeks, while their new permanent home is completed. As you are probably aware, birds are relatively fragile creatures when they are freshly hatched, so it is important to protect them until they grow up a bit.
I did learn a lot while preparing for the new arrivals. Here are a few things to consider if you are interested in raising ducks:
1. Ducks are not chickens. They dont roost like chickens. So a traditional chicken coop is not necessary. Ducks nest on the ground. While they do need some protection from the elements, a fancy coop is not necessary.
2. Protection from predators, particularly at night, is necessary. Domestic ducks really cant defend themselves from raccoons, bobcats and other predators. They require a secure area at night. This might be a house or just a secure run. However the fence must extend 1 – 2 feet under ground so that predators cant dig under.
3. We chose the Pekin ducks because they were big enough to deter most hawks and because they are generally good layers. There are plenty of other breeds out there. It would be wise to research which breed is best for you.
4. Ducks require a lot of ventilation in their living space. Additionally duck poop is very messy. If you are keeping them inside a building, it might be best to have a removable or lineoleum floor for cleaning. We are constructing a covered run with a grass and dirt floor for this reason. I shovel enough goat poop. I would prefer not to shovel up duck poo if I can avoid it.
5. They require water at all times. This doesnt mean they need a pool at night, but they must have access to water. Also they only mate in open water.
6. Because they don’t nest like chickens, you might want to keep them confined at night if you want to collect their eggs. Unless, of course, you have time to wander around looking for them every day.
7. Did I mention ducklings are messy in the house? Beyond words…
After doing our research we decided, as mentioned above, to build our own shelter. Largely because there wasnt anything premade that suited our needs. Chicken coops didnt work because ducks need space horizontally, not vertically. We briefly considered converting a dog run. However that was expensive and didnt really fit in the chosen location. So we built our own pen which is a saga I will cover in another post. As usual, in the end I was glad we built it. I learned a lot, but building it had its difficult moments.
The ducks will be free to wander the fenced back yard during the day. The pen was built largely to provide protection at night and to contain their eggs. Therefore the ducks required a transitional area, where we could place them for a few hours a day until they are old enough to be outside. We solved this simply and quickly by making a corral out of hay bales. This gives them access to outside grass for a few hours a day and keeps them safe.
We also dug a small 7ft by 9ft pond for the ducks to play in. This was my first pond and another learning opportunity. Since I am determined to avoid anything to our already outrageous electric bill, we bought a solar pond pump kit from amazon. We haven’t really decided yet if the solar pump meets our needs. Time will tell.
Hopefull our little ducklings will grow up to be happy ducks and good egg layers. I’ll keep you updated as to how things go.