Country Ducks - living off the land

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by enriquec, Oct 8, 2014.

  1. enriquec

    enriquec Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hey guys,

    I've noticed this this might be a controversial subject. It seems the majority of BYC (and google) feel it's cruel to release a domesticated duck into the wild. A small minority, including myself, don't believe it *has* to be. What I'm doing may, or may not, be viewed in that way.

    When I first got my eggs, the plan was always to release them on my lake. I'd done so as a child, and as it turns out, my neighbors did the same thing with Mallards, not Rouens. After posting about it here, I was informed domestic duck breeds wont do well.

    What I've decided to do is hybrid. They have a home, open during the day, closed and secure at night. And they'll be fed year around but it wont be their primary food source. Sunset feeding only as they get older.

    They've been living outside in the greenhouse for less than a week. I've completely eliminated morning food. During the day I take them exploring around plants and bugs I think they'd like. And of course, on the lake, swimming or once on boat.

    I "left them alone" (secretly semi-watching) for 40 mins on Sunday. They did well. Kinda didn't do much. Started peeping and it broke my heart, but I didn't come. They did return to greenhouse tho :) Monday, longer periods in spurts, and outside (including greenhouse) vast majority of the day. Tuesday, all day. Again, sometimes a foot away, sometimes farther. Today is the first day they've really gone around exploring on their own. Normally they wont travel much distance without me unless its back towards house.

    My ultimate plan, is to have ducks that can survive on their own should anything ever happen to me. One difference is greenhouse. I was convinced here that lack of flight makes them vulnerable. To backup the risks, I found out over many years, the Mallards eventually were gone..

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    I hope no one thinks this is cruel. I have a lot of ducks, and my un-fenced backyard is on a lake. I have no intention of having them locked up while I'm working. Right now I have lots of extra free-time. During tax season, I'm lucky to only work 40hrs on some weeks.

    They just turned a month old. I'd like to know if anyone has experience in this area and can provide some advise, maybe a timeline of goals, etc. I want to make sure they're on a good pace, and learning a lot of what their parents would teach them.

    Also, I've noticed they're getting brave around my little dog and will go after him. They're of course afraid of pretty much everything still. Should I teach them to fear and flee from other animals? Or attack them? lol sounds funny but I've seen both happen naturally and they're both effective, I'm just not sure which is best.

    Again, they will have a safe secure place at night and daily food. I want them safe, but I also want neighborhood ducks that are survivors without humans.

    Oh, and when is it likely they're safe from birds of prey? Not gonna lie, I cant stop worrying about them for even a minute every time I leave them.
     
  2. Amykins

    Amykins Overrun With Chickens

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    What you plan to do is illegal, if permanent. I honestly have no idea why you want to hybridize, or hatch at all, if you're just gonna dump them. They will NEVER be safe from birds of prey or other predators. Especially if they're only half-mallard.

    Furthermore, when winter comes they'll need food and warmth. They were raised in captivity, so they won't know to go south. You say they're terrified of everything, I'd say that's pretty telling.
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2014
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  3. Beer can

    Beer can Overrun With Chickens

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    I had ducks for a few years when we moved to the house we are at now, when didn't have any chickens. I raised them in our chicken coop, and when they were big enough let them loose.(baby ducks without a mother do not have a protective layer of (duck oil?) on their feathers and shouldn't be introduced to water until they are bigger, I've had young ducklings go right into our pond following their mother with no problems. I've been told the (duck oil?) rubs onto them from their mother). Once they discovered our pond they would only occasionally come back to our house to eat. Sometimes once a day, sometimes every few days. In the winter our 30'x50' or so shallow pond froze over, so they hung out in our neighbors two acre pond where the water flowed into the pond it would keep a probably 15'x30' section water, the rest froze over. They could have went back into our chicken coop if they wanted, and we tried to get them to. They were happier outside. In the winter I would walk over daily (even in three feet of snow, it sucked) to feed them. I don't know if it was the best of feed but I feed them cheap dog food in the winter, it's mostly grain and high in protein and fat which they probably needed in the winter, plus it floated. They were fruitful and multiplied. Then the little ones were getting eatin one after another by snapping turtles, and almost every time a duck would start sitting on eggs they would get eatin by a fox or who knows. I lost at least one to a hawk or owl not sure. Before I lost them all I gave them away. But boy do I miss them!
    I started with a pekins (ate some of them myself) mallard and khaki campbells, then had crosses of them all. They did well 'wild' until they started getting ate up.
     
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  4. Beer can

    Beer can Overrun With Chickens

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    I didn't actually release them into the 'wild', just let them do their own thing, which was I guess, be ducks.
     
  5. enriquec

    enriquec Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Our winters aren't bad here. Our average lows are in the 40s. Their aren't many days that go below freezing. Rouens don't fly south.

    They're not afraid of everything but definitely anything new. A healthy fear I'd say. Especially with other animals.

    I don't see what I'm doing as dumping. I'm with Beer can. I'm letting them do their own thing. They haven't been raised as pets. I minimized interaction the first few days to minimize imprinting. It worked. I have trouble getting them to follow me if there's anything else they'd rather do, including just sit there. They seem fully oiled. They've had a lot of outdoor and water exposure. As it is now, the majority of their food is coming from outdoors. They don't even finish the food I give them until the next morning. They're eating half the amount of feed they did last week.

    They keep an eye out for air predictors, and I take them to safety when I spot one. You're saying at no age they'll be safe?

    I have no intention of not feeding them, or having them sleep in the woods. I also have no intention of keeping them locked up. They like it outdoors. They're happier. When the sun starts going down, they're going back to the greenhouse on their own (which I modified to be safe). During the day, their are little to no predators on land. Besides someone walking their dog, I've seen 2 stray cats, and one fox during the day in the 4 years I've lived here. In water, I cant be sure.. But again, I have no intention of locking them up or blocking lake access.

    They're a month old. The first half of their lives they were mostly indoors, but went outside a lot. The second half of their lives have been mainly outdoors. Now they sleep outside. I don't think the transition I'm doing is super crazy or cruel. Uncommon perhaps? I'm sure its impossible to guarantee their safety, but they should have the same or better odds as wild ducks.

    I'm not releasing domesticated pets. I'm raising ducks on a lake and making sure they know how to survive in their environment. They're doing well already, but I want to continue to increase odds.

    I'm "living" with them outside and they're surviving, and happy. 16 hours of the day on grass and lake, 8 hours in greenhouse. Eventually, they'll live outside without me watching over them. I'm parenting. I'm not raising ducks that will be unable to depend on themselves.

    But I understand already this is a controversial topic and I'm not trying to change minds or hearts. I'm sorry if you think its horrible that I'm teaching self-reliance and letting them leave the nest. I'm not doing the same thing parents do on Easter.
     
  6. needlessjunk

    needlessjunk Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Every time I type out a long response my kids come by and push buttons and I have to start over. Basically I don't agree totally with what you are doing but it is possible to do. I think that your ducks are too young. When they have all their adult feathers and are adult size I think that would be better. They have lived inside up till a few days ago and you are all they know. You are not a duck and therefore cannot teach them what they need to know to survive at this age. They are going to be dependent on you because they are domestic and YOU raised them, a human. I also think they are too young to be on once a day feeding. Again how can a human teach them to eat enough? You also are leaving them alone more and more in hopes that they just figure it out. What you did as a child does not make it okay to do as an adult. You are now informed and you are responsible for those ducks. If you are going to raise ducks this way you are going to have to be okay with losing some or all to predators. As you said all the ones your released as a child all ended up dead and gone. And just because other people released ducks on this pond doesn't mean you need to.
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2014
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  7. Tracydr

    Tracydr Chillin' With My Peeps

    I'm doing the same thing, except with domestic mallards. Some days they hang out in my carport and don't want anything to do with the pond. Other days, now that they've learned to fly, they disappear for a few hours. They are still sort of afraid of the pond and only get in the "wading" part.
    I see nothing cruel with what you're doing, so long as you make sure they aren't starving. Some ducks overwinter even in Colorado. I've seen them swimming in the middle of the pond, in a small hole while the rest is completely frozen.
     
  8. Tracydr

    Tracydr Chillin' With My Peeps

    Also, my ducks are totally comfortable with my Doberman and Papillon but anything new or different really scares them. I'm sure yours will still recognize predators. I'm a little concerned that you picked a non-flying breed for this project but I've seen lots of white, domestic ducks living on city ponds, getting treats but no shelter.
     
  9. Tracydr

    Tracydr Chillin' With My Peeps

    Uh, Florida is pretty much south. They won't be too cold for sure.
     
  10. Miss Lydia

    Miss Lydia Running over with Blessings Premium Member

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    I have to agree with needlessjunk these "ducklings' are too young to be left alone with out your protection, they aren't even feathered in all the way yet. Plus they are snapping turtle bait at the age they are now. I'd give them more time to grow up before you attempt this. maybe 6-8 weeks? but I would not be able to just think they can make it on their own they have depended on you for their care and domestic ducks are not wild and are human dependent whether you want to admit it or not. If we only knew how many domestic ducks are released every year to "make it own their own" and didn't.
     

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