Deep Layer Method for Ducks?

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by ambrose, Mar 26, 2012.

  1. ambrose

    ambrose Out Of The Brooder

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    I know the chicken folk are all over this. But how about duck folk? seems like there's a little mention of it over here but not much. Is it the water/pool issue that makes it trickier? Are ducks just too messy for this to be feasible or do some of you do it? Pros? Cons?

    Is it for just the pen or the house or both?

    And if you're going to do DLM how do you have to design your house/pen to accomodate it?

    (anyhow, yeah i've been lurking and now I'm suddenly question girl!)
     
  2. 70%cocoa

    70%cocoa Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi Ambrose,

    I am using 'deep litter' in one duck pen and it is working very well. This pen in the pics is about 55 sq feet and has three large ducks living in it. I'd happily put four ducks in it (but no more than that). In the top pic it just has a black tub for water but in the bottom pic you can see that I have added a 'pond' to the end. The pond has a drain made from 19mm black poly pipe and plumbing fittings.

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    The pen has a mixture of sugar cane mulch and rice hulls in it. The rice hulls are expecially good as they don't break down fast and kind of stay 'springy'. It's a few inches deep. I dig it over with a cultivator every day - but I find that I usually only need to dig the area round the pond which is where they spend most of their time. The chickens get in here (when everyone is out in the yard) and dig it over sometimes, which is helpful. Another thing that helps is that the soil underneath drains well and the trees near the pen also suck up moisture. I think that that is important with this kind of system - having good drainage. I find that it does not get boggy at all. Or smelly - it smells absolutely fine. You can put a handful up to your nise and inhale deeply and it just smells earthy. All the good bacteria help to break down poop. Plus the litter gets earthworms in it (which the ducks eat). The ONLY downside of this pen is that the drain for the pond gets a bit clogged with litter so I have to squirt the hose down it when I want to drain it. If I had a wider diameter drain (or a tub that I could just tip out) that would not be a problem.

    My other two pens have a deep sand base. If I did it all over again with those two pens I'd use deep litter, no question. I'd change the sand pens to deep litter if it didn't mean shovelling out two tonnes of sand!!

    So - as long as (a) your soil drains well and (b) you do not have too many ducks for the size of pen and (c) you use a litter that will not easily turn mushy and soggy then I would recommend giving it a try.
     
  3. Amiga

    Amiga Overrun with Runners Premium Member

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    I use deep litter and it works well.

    In the duck house (Little Fort Knox), there is currently about a foot and a half of wood shavings. That gets stirred every day or two, and I add about one part peat moss to ten parts shavings to keep the pH elevated enough to discourage ammonia from forming, as it sometimes does in humid New England. The floor of the duck house is linoleum, which goes up the walls several inches and has a 1"x3" furring strip across the top to keep poop from getting under the linoleum.

    I put a few inches of straw on top for the ducks to nustle into, and to make nests with. I pull the straw out every few days and put it on the garden or compost.

    The veranda, an attached porch, has a half inch hardware cloth bottom with an inch or two of sand on top. I use sawdust pellets there, since that is where the water and food are (not in the house). I use a cultivator to fluff that sawdust, and it smells good and earthy. After a week or two (depending on weather), I dig that out, compost it or mulch with it, and replace sawdust pellets.

    The Day Pen also has a relatively deep litter bottom. The pen itself has coated chain link underneath for security. On top of that I have been using straw, and sometimes some coir or dry leaves. Over the last couple of years, all that has broken down quite nicely, so there is a cushy, composting material. Worms come into that, giving the ducks something to forage for. I occasionally turn it (with the ducks right there with me), and sometimes I pull some out for gardening. I toss fresh straw in there occasionally, too.

    It took a few months at least for the composting process to really get started but now that it has, the system seems to stay in a nice balance and I have worms for the ducks, more compost, and less maintenance than I did at first.
     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2012
  4. 70%cocoa

    70%cocoa Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Yeah, I did find that too. It took a few weeks to really start the decomposing/composting cycle. It was a little whiffy up until that point but, as I said, not at all now.

    Amiga, it is good to know that deep litter can work well with an impervious layer underneath, like the linoleum. Guess you might not get the earthworms that way but it's the 'good', aerobic bacteria that really do all the work.

    I have only had my system going for about 2 months but haven't taken any litter out yet. I just keep adding litter as the old stuff breaks down. Eventually I will put it on the garden.

    I should also say that I have heavy duty welded mesh panels under the litter to stop predators digging in.
     
  5. Amiga

    Amiga Overrun with Runners Premium Member

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    70%cocoa,

    I like being able to compare notes with someone else doing this.

    The veranda and Day Pen definitely compost. The duck house litter stays so very dry, I don't think there is much biological activity there yet. And that is fine. I reckon it will change over time. There is a little bioactivity, as I discovered just a little whiff of ammonia once (I stick my face down quite close to the bedding to sniff it, in order to catch stuff like this before it is a problem for the ducks). My composting training taught me that high pH will cause ammonia to form, so that's when I began adding peat moss, which is a bit acid, to counteract that process. It seems to have worked.
     
  6. ambrose

    ambrose Out Of The Brooder

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    Anyone in the pacific northwest? i worry about the draining soil bit. The spot I have in mind is the highest part of a sloped yard, but still...
     
  7. Amiga

    Amiga Overrun with Runners Premium Member

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    MIght you consider a "test drive" with a bottomless "box" with the material you want to use for bedding? Wet it down and watch it for a day or two, see how it goes. I lived in the northwest for a while, and it can be temperate rainforest, full of fungi. If you choose something that has some strength to it, that doesn't moosh down, that should help, too.
     
  8. ambrose

    ambrose Out Of The Brooder

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    Good idea Amiga! Thanks.

    Also I'll probably have some sort of roof over the run, so that should help matters.

    What would be some good materials that are springy and won't moosh down?
     
  9. Amiga

    Amiga Overrun with Runners Premium Member

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    I have used straw sometimes . . . and I understand the warning about straw getting moldy. But once the composting process began, that hasn't happened.

    Coconut coir has a fairly springy feel to it, and I put a layer of that in one corner of the pen with good result. Someone fretted that there is too much salt in it, but for the amount I used, it did not seem to hurt the compost structure or process.

    One thing I tried that I would not try again in the Day Pen - that doesn't have a roof - is sawdust pellets, because the pen can get too wet for extended rainy periods (sounds like the Pacific Northwest a bit, eh?) and it would become an anaerobic dense mat. No air. And it would be brownish on top, but once I cut into it, yes cut, it was bright orange. So I chopped it up and turned it with some straw and coir and it is mostly just a memory. Now, in the covered Veranda, which does get a little damp from splash, I happily use the sawdust. But I use the cultivator to fluff that up at least once a week, and it breaks down just dandy.

    The pine shavings work well in the house, but they got kind of musty out in the Day Pen. Again, adding a little peat moss may have helped.

    Oak leaves are nice, too, they deodorize the area around the swim pans in the heat of summer. I put them on top of the pea gravel.

    End of autumn stems from things like goldenrod might make a nice firm base for other softer material, too.
     
  10. ambrose

    ambrose Out Of The Brooder

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    thanks. I'll have a supply of oaks leaves in the fall. How about buckwheat hulls? Anyone use those --I'm fond of them for some reason (though i don't even know how much they coast.
     

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