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Ducks on a pond...

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

I have about an acre pond, and I was thinking about getting a few ducks here in Northern CT.   There is always some open water on one end of the pond where there are springs and a small creek.   I am not sure what kind of ducks, maybe muscovys or Khaki Campells.  I wanted to experiment with them about controlling pests in the garden.  I might use them for some meat and eggs as well, though I have chickens for eggs.   If they "free range" on the pond:

1.  What kind of housing, if any, might they need.  Could they survive without housing?
2.  What might they need in the way of feed?

post #2 of 15

1. They may survive, but they will thrive best with shelter from the elements. How they will do also depends on what kind of predators you have (which you may not know until your ducks start disappearing), and their own survival instincts. If you want to keep ducks strictly on a pond without predator protection, a good breed would be muscovies, as they can fly, tend to roost up high, and are closer to their wild ancestors than many other breeds. They are still safer if you have a predator-proof enclosure for them at night.

2. Especially in winter, but for best results all year, supplemental feed is required for healthy ducks. Simple chicken feed (unmedicated) is sufficient.

Muscovies are probably a great breed for you because they are friendly, self-sufficient, and great foragers, which means they'll help a great deal with pest control (all breeds will help some, but some are more active and better than others for this purpose).

Good luck! Ducks are awesome. smile

Look what the cat dragged in: Curiosity Cat's Urban Unschooling Homestead

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Look what the cat dragged in: Curiosity Cat's Urban Unschooling Homestead

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post #3 of 15
Thread Starter 

Thanks. Muscovies sound great.  What kind of housing would you recommend for, say, six ducks.  I have every kind of predator.  How do they know to come in at night.

post #4 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by DVTO2 

Thanks. Muscovies sound great.  What kind of housing would you recommend for, say, six ducks.  I have every kind of predator.  How do they know to come in at night.


Any shed type structure or a lean to structure that can be locked and that has a solid floor will work.  Also, be sure to have some ventilation holes at the peak (covered with 1/2 " hardware cloth that is screwed to the wood with washers and not stapled) to keep out predators.  If you're going to free range them during the day you should expect losses but if you decide to not free range them they should have 4 sq feet or more per duck for both housing and "run" area. Some sites suggest less space but if you want healthy, happier ducks the more confined space you can give them, the better. 

I have 6 full sized ducks that live in a 10' x 17' (170 sq ft) run with a covered roof which allows 28.33 sq ft per duck.  For the winter, they are confined to this area quite a bit of the time (and all night long) but they do have the opportunity to go out into the big back yard as the weather allows.  Personally, I can not imagine putting my girls into any smaller area than this.  They mess this area up pretty darn quick!

Here's a link for you to peruse which has lots of info on housing and management:
http://www.google.com/#hl=en&expIds=17259&sugexp=ldymls&xhr=t&q=duck+housing&cp=9&pf=p&sclient=psy&rlz=1R2GGLL_en&aq=0&aqi=&aql=&oq=duck+housing&gs_rfai=&pbx=1&fp=7b989c6c17f79c85

The best way to "encourage" them to go in at night is to only feed them at night.  They will learn pretty quick when they hear the "jingle" of the food scoop that dinner is served lol and believe me they will come-a-runnin'!


Edited by sianara - 12/26/10 at 2:16pm

I LOVE my chickens and ducks and geese!  Life just wouldn't be the same without some animals in it...

 

www.thegildednesteggs.com

 

https://www.facebook.com/TheGildedNestEggs

 

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6-f7dNLVwI4H8lMgKimcwg

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I LOVE my chickens and ducks and geese!  Life just wouldn't be the same without some animals in it...

 

www.thegildednesteggs.com

 

https://www.facebook.com/TheGildedNestEggs

 

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6-f7dNLVwI4H8lMgKimcwg

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post #5 of 15

Great advice above. I do free range during the day, and I do experience daytime losses occasionally--roughly two or three ducks a year (out of 20+ ducks). But most losses will occur at night if they are not protected. Also, mine cannot fly and most daytime losses are related to domestic dogs (grrr) from neighbors, so you may have much better luck than I.

As for nighttime protection--mine have never voluntarily gone to bed at night. But the tip above works great for me--they get fed at night only, and in the day they are either shut out of their pen or the food is pulled out so that they never have access to it except at bedtime. They will still choose to sleep on the water sometimes when it's going to freeze overnight--and they are reasonably safe as long as they stay on the water. Not much I can do about it, anyway, if they won't come in even for dinner.

Look what the cat dragged in: Curiosity Cat's Urban Unschooling Homestead

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Look what the cat dragged in: Curiosity Cat's Urban Unschooling Homestead

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post #6 of 15

Another GREAT breed of duck is Mallards they fly and there fun! I'm getting my 3 male mallard ducklings this Weds. From metzerfarms. Look at my coop at my BYC page this style of the coop can hold and sleep 3 inside and can happliy have the 3 of them in the run all day *if needed*



                                                                                        wee !!!HAVE FUN!!! wee

post #7 of 15

DVT02, 
This was my first year to have ducks and I had the same questions you have.  Muscovies are the only breed I have.  I bought them for meat but they have become my wife's pets (she thought I was nuts to want them, but now, if we had to choose between all our animals, the muscovies would be the ones she would keep). tongue  And the ducks love to 'work' the garden with my wife.

We have two ponds, both smaller than yours, that our ducks stay on.  We have no shelter or pen and have lost 6 to predators. We started with 12, however, two of the 6 we lost had contracted Avian Botulism, or "limber neck", which made them easy prey (I had them quarentined in a cage but a bobcat tore through the chicken wire...hard lessons learned)  When we first got our ducks, they were young and still flightless.  They made themselves at home quickly but would not go on the water for the first few weeks...thats when we lost 3 to the bobcat.  After that, they began sleeping on the water through the summer months and all was well.  Recently, when the tempertatures started dipping into the twenties at night, they started sleeping on the banks again and we lost one of our two drakes to a raccoon (the bobcat is no longer with us).  Since then, the ducks have started staying the night on my neighbors pond...it is in the middle of a cow pasture and the predators can't ambush them as easily.  I am currently building a loft in our barn that I hope to ecourage them to use on those extreme nights and also for nesting.   It will be protected from climbing predators by a hot wire.  If all goes well, they will come and go as they please and still have some protection.

All this doesn't answer your questions, I know, because I still don't know myself if I would do it differently.  My remaining ducks seem to have matured and have learned to protect themselves, though we did suffer some losses.  Sometimes I wish we had built a coop and pen, but then that would add to our daily time/work involved.  We will see if our ducks continue to survive and increase.

The only advice I can give is if you go without pens etc., expect some losses.  If you decide to provide some form of protection, prepare it BEFORE you get the ducks...and don't depend on chicken wire to provide that protection.  You can make changes as you go, but, as in my case, once your ducks have complete freedom, it will be a bear trying to go to a cooped flock. 

Either way, you will love muscovies, their comical personalities, and you will get a thrill every time those large birds fly overhead, then come eat from your hand. wink

Mikey

EDIT to add:  Our ducks love whole corn, we give them a handful every evening.  They also like chicken scratch and a little chicken feed now and then.


Edited by MikeyLikesIt - 12/27/10 at 9:38am
post #8 of 15

I don't know if someone mentioned it but have you considered building a dock? A floating dock with some sort of shelter (dog house, a box with small door, a dog or cat crate, etc...) it would float out in the middle of the pond. your ducks MUST be inclosed at night or on a dock. theres a reason the term is "sitting DUCKS" smile Dock training takes a few weeks but after that it takes very little effort. they will swim out to the dock on their own at night. (A duck is only safe when on the water or inclosed in a pen, when they are sleeping on the waters edge they can easily be eaten.
Muscovys would be a good choice but i also recomend something like a mallard or a call, natural camoflage is important when free ranging. After all a large flightless white pekin wont fair nearly as well outdoors as a small quick moving mallard that blends in. I have heard from many muscovy owners that they dont spend much time swimming, after all they arent water proof. Cold weather swimming is a no-no! This would make them a less then idea pond duck, but the lack of quacking is a wonderful benifit for those who dont find the non-stop chatter nearly as endearing as others. wink
Enjoy your new buddies! and what ever breed you choose you'll be sure to love them! (after all, who doesnt love a good duck!) big_smile
Emily

post #9 of 15
Thread Starter 

Mikeylikesit:   How old might you put your Muscovys out on the pond.   Will they stay there?  How does your wife bring them to the garden and how well do they do there?  Will they naturally roost in trees once the pond freezes?

DuckyMom:  Interesting about the mallards and I have no experience with the breeds to know any better.  Are domestic mallards legal in every state?  Will they be as tame as other ducks and work in the garden?  I had seen mention of the floating shelter idea, which might be ok for 9 months of the year but we usually get a good freeze for 3 months, so that wouldn't work out too well in the winter.  Also, how would I collect eggs (if I had a mind to) and clean it out, which sound like a necessity for ducks. 


Let me say that I have a pretty nice self-contained system for the chickens with about 4 square feet of coop and 11 square feet of covered run, all of which is tractorable.  I have an automatic door for the coop, so it's all very convenient.  I am sure I would have lost birds if I let them free range, as the neighbors around me who free range all have.   I would like to have some kind of garden fowl that would help with insect control.


Edited by DVTO2 - 12/27/10 at 12:48pm
post #10 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by DVTO2 

Mikeylikesit:   How old might you put your Muscovys out on the pond.   Will they stay there?  How does your wife bring them to the garden and how well do they do there?  Will they naturally roost in trees once the pond freezes?

DuckyMom:  Interesting about the mallards and I have no experience with the breeds to know any better.  Are domestic mallards legal in every state?  Will they be as tame as other ducks and work in the garden?  I had seen mention of the floating shelter idea, which might be ok for 9 months of the year but we usually get a good freeze for 3 months, so that wouldn't work out too well in the winter.  Also, how would I collect eggs (if I had a mind to) and clean it out, which sound like a necessity for ducks. 


Let me say that I have a pretty nice self-contained system for the chickens with about 4 square feet of coop and 11 square feet of covered run, all of which is tractorable.  I have an automatic door for the coop, so it's all very convenient.  I am sure I would have lost birds if I let them free range, as the neighbors around me who free range all have.   I would like to have some kind of garden fowl that would help with insect control.


My ducks were 8 weeks old when we got them and as stated earlier, they were reluctant to go on the water for a few weeks...I don't know why.  They were raised by free range ducks on a pond and I'm not sure how ducklings raised in a pen would do.  When we got them they were flightless so we weren't concerned about them "flying the coop".  I put up a temporary fence that I kept them in the first 48 hrs and they showed no sign of trying to escape.  They got used to us very quickly and when I would rattle some corn in a can and call them, they come running.  Our garden is close to the pond and when my wife would go work the garden they would, out of curiosity, go check things out.  Of course, my wife would toss a grasshopper or two in their direction and now they 'work' the garden with her and sometimes by themselves.  My wife loves their company, and I can't help but smile when I look down at the garden and see my wife talking to the ducks and see them wagging their tails.  Be warned, though ducks are nowhere near as destructive to your garden as chickens, ducks do love greens so some plants may have to be screened to keep them from indulging.

I may try raising some muscovies for meat in some tractorable pen...of course I would have to keep my wife away from them...and maybe I wouldn't get too attached either.  roll  I have no problem butchering any of my chickens but the thought of killing one of my 'scovies...well, let's just say it aint' gonna happen.

Forgive me, I re-read  your post and realize now that we do not have the extreme weather that you do.  Our ponds don't freeze over often and seldom for more than a few days at a time.  My muscovies will roost in trees but I have not observed them doing so at night.  I think in your case you would be better served cooping them at night and if you start them that way they will train easily.  A little corn or some other snack does wonders. 

Something else you may consider...build a garden coop!  Muscovies are as happy on land as on water, as long as they have a tub or something to bathe in.  You can clip their wings and fence them in, but I don't think that would be needed.  They will come and go but won't go away. 

Anyway, whatever route you decide to take or breed of duck you choose, I think you'll be pleased.  My wife and I have enjoyed our 'scovies and our homestead will never be without them.

Mikey

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