Originally Posted by Nigellas
I've been wanting to get ducks pretty much forever. Every spring I manage to hold out and not get a few babies, though my resolve is quite low this year, lol. However, as much as I want them, I want to be sure it's a good fit.
I have had chickens for 4 years now, but ducks intimidate me a little. Mostly the water thing. I don't have a pond and we do have freezing winters - Do people really defrost and refill a baby pool every day in the winter?
If I let them range my yard with the chickens is it going to be super gross? Like geese-poop all over the park gross, or not that bad?
How do people get them to bed at night? I love that my hens can put themselves to sleep at night - I can't imagine herding in a pair of ducks EVERY night. Am I missing something, or is that really what you have to do? (That actually might be my breaking point, since I often can't get to lock up my chickens until dark, and hunting down ducks at night doesn't sound fun, lol)
How loud are they? I know Muscovies are mute and Calls and Pekins are rowdy, but other than that how chatty are they? On par with a chicken egg song, or worse?
Thanks for your help! :)
(PS: In the interset of full disclosure, my husband hopes you will talk me out of this idea, lol)
Nigellas, welcome to the threshold of Duckdom!
You are wise to think about water management. I have found that once I worked it out, it became a relative snap. The relative part is during power outages or blizzards. But even then, since we have been prepared, it has mostly been a case of needing a little more time to do the routines.
Ducks do not need a pond and sometimes ponds are a liability due to predators.
I use concrete mixing pans year 'round, and a doggie kiddie pool I was given during the summer. The mixing pans are black, and help thaw ice quickly in the winter and keep the water a little warmer. For that reason, the light blue pool (about 3.5 ft diameter) works best in summer.
The big management trick for me is to drain the hose after each use in the winter. If I do that, we are golden.
If you get ducklings, water management is an adventure till you figure it out. Please search BYC using such terms as duckling brooder water and you'll find abundant good advice. For a couple of ducklings, I liked Wifezilla's setup. Gryeyes has great ideas, duckyfromoz raises a bunch of runners, and I hope the many others who have superb brooder setups forgive me for not mentioning them by name. Was it 70%cocoa who used the rabbit hutch with hardware cloth bottom covered with old towels?
Depending on the number of ducks and size of yard, you could get a muddy mess. Again, search the forum because you need to set up something that works for your specific area. Pea gravel comes in handy (putting special fabric underneath it helps prevent mud from pumping up, but it still needs maintenance due to poop buildup). Some run their chickens and ducks together, but there are reasons not to, such as drakes attempting to breed with chickens, which can be deadly for the chickens.
My ducks know when it's time to come in. They LOVE routines and will stick with them. Especially routines involving treats. Many ducks like peas. I buy frozen peas and thaw them and they are greatly appreciated (understatement here).
Loudness is relative and depends on the ducks. Yes, I think the range is between Muscovy and Call. My Runners can be loud, but the neighbors tell me only when they hear my car coming down the street, or if I am in the house and have not visited with them in about an hour. If I come out and check on them once an hour, they tend to be pretty quiet. They are all girls, by the way. I have nine Runners and two Buffs. The Buffs seem much quieter in general, but Romy can fuss pretty loudly, usually when I am herding them. She gets annoyed about being herded.
My gut feeling, no research besides countless hours observing my flock to back me up, is that when the ducks are content, with food, fresh water (another relative term), and a sense of safety, they are quiet. Right now I am sitting outside with them in the garden which is fenced but not netted on top, and they are quietly chatting, kind of a hum/chirp noise. If I go out of sight for more than a few minutes, Zehn (the spokesduck) starts hollering, and Zwei and some others soon chime in. When they are in the Day Pen, which has fence across the top, they are quieter when I leave them. I am guessing it is because they know that they cannot be attacked from above in the Day Pen.
Ducks are rather susceptible to predators. With the exception of Muscovy and non-domestics like wood ducks, they do not roost. Raccoons are literally murder on ducks. Our ducks sleep either in the walkout basement pen (my basement has become the barn and it does not stink at all because I keep it freshed up) or in Little Fort Knox (do a BYC search for pics and explanation if you wish).
Ducks are some work, I cannot compare them to chickens, but mine have been a source of joy for two years. Depending on how you raise them they can be quite friendly or rather independent. There are good reasons for either method.
Take a look at Storey's Guide to Raising Ducks, or Majestic Waterfowl's pet duck book, both of which I love. Storey's seems to me to be slightly more slanted toward either show ducks or utilitarian approach, and Majestic's book written by Kim Link is all about keeping ducks as pets.
There are my thoughts. Enjoy the research!