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Ducks in orchard on wood mulch - advice welcome...

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
Looking for some advice from anyone with insight....

My plan this spring is to introduce 6 Welsh harlequin ducks into my 2 year old fruit tree orchard. It is heavily mulched with wood chips, is about 5,000 sf, and has a deer fence around it. My plan was to put a smaller electrified perimeter inside the deer fence and put their duck house inside of this. I would lock them up each night to keep the coons out. A few questions...

1) The wood mulch is 4-5 inches thick and has been down for a couple years. Any idea how much insect forage 6 ducks will get rooting around in this?

2) Good/bad idea to move my compost pile into the orchard (so they can eat the flies)?

3) What forages could I plant for the ducks to eat? I was thinking clover/comfrey...

4) Any duck-specific house/coop designs you would recommend?

5) I was considering a floorless mobile house/coop design that I moved around the orchard to encourage direct contact between the nitrogen-rich manure and the carbonaceous wood chips (with less cleanup). Any issue with letting them bed down right on the wood chips if I give them protection from the wind/snow? It does get below freezing consistently in the winter but I hear ducks are pretty hardy.

6) Any ways to encourage certain insects ducks particularly like to eat?

Thank you!!!
post #2 of 4
I'd love to hear anyone's thoughts on this. Especially what they like to forage on. My ducks eggs definitely taste better when they eat less feed. Last summer I rarely had to feed them and now the lazy things only want the layer pellets!
post #3 of 4
i think that sounds like a nice set-up. I have a similar set-up in the spring when I want my ducks to clean my veggie garden. All I use for housing is one of those "dog-loos" set directly on the ground. They usually don't go in there except to lay eggs.

My ducks don't tend to eat too much greenery unless they run short on bugs and slugs. Then they eat mostly leafy greens such as lettuce, spinach, etc. you could think about dividing your orchard into 2 or 3 parts (you'd only need a 2-foot rabbit fence, and you could just use temporary stakes), and seed one side with cover crop, lettuce, kale, spinach, while they graze and clean up the other side. Just feed a little pellet feed at night, or when they run out of forage.
post #4 of 4

I've started a baby orchard with 20 trees and 3 blueberry bushes last year  before I got my  first ducklings.

 

By the time the ducks were adults (June/July) I was walking them around the orchard .  They love love loved  sifting through the mulch.  There were some earthworms but mostly sow bugs/pill bugs (depending on what your area calls them) and probably some slugs.  Even in the winter they loved to go through the mulch for yummy bits.

 

My ducks actually enjoy catching bees/ bumble bees and eating them.  It isn't a problem for my orchard yet because I'm not allowing the trees to bear fruit yet. But you may have problems with the ducks eating your pollinators.

 

I would caution you to use bird netting  or aviary netting to cover the area if you're going to  keep them fenced in inside the orchard.

 

Dogloos are perfect for ducks. My 4 cayugas (1 XL, 1 L and 2 smalls fit perfectly in the 90 lb  dogloo).  They're cooler in summer and warmer in winter.

 

For reasons we probably wont ever understand, the previous owners turned the entire yard into various parking,  driveways & turning circles.  I had some patches of grass but mostly  moss, bare dirt or pebbly soil everywhere else.

 

The grass the previous owners sowed is mostly tall fescue pasture grass.

 

I overseeded with mini clover and a clover blend.  The ducks really didn't eat much of the clover.  They do eat the fescue but only because its the only green.

 

This spring I'm sowing an actual  livestock  forage blend of bluegrass, timothy, and orchard grass on the recommendation of a pasture raising  poultry farmer at my farmer's market.  All of her poultry (chickens/ducks/geese) do amazingly well on it.

 

My girls like to eat kale, baby kale and lettuce.  If you're in to permaculture,  you could probably find some  plants to plant as part of y our tree guilds that benefit the trees and also  provide extra noms for the ducks.  I'm not at  home now so I can't  get the list of plants from my permaculture book.

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