Duck composting - a different way to look at duck living arrangements

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by billw, Feb 17, 2013.

  1. billw

    billw Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Two years ago, we built a large outdoor duck enclosure and we've spent the time since learning about all the things that we did wrong. We've found that our biggest errors centered around expectations of what is comfortable for ducks. We read that you need to be careful with managing water, since ducks will use it to turn their environment into the equivalent of a muddy bank. The thing is, we get about 8 and a half feet of rain here in a year, so water management is difficult.

    Even with a large run, it was a mud pit in no time. Applications of pea gravel helped a bit, but the ducks dug it in much more quickly than I expected and it became a mud pit again in a matter of months.

    Watching the ducks was interesting. They have a small shelter with hay, but almost never go in there. They prefer to stand outside even in pouring, cold rain. They would spend all night poking around in the muck, which was part dirt and part duck poop. Gross. Worse, they would walk right past clean water sources to drink out of nasty, muddy gutters. I concluded that ducks are incredibly tough creatures. I can't think of another animal that would happily and healthily live in such conditions, but the ducks manage to.

    The question was: is there anything we can do to make things more pleasant, even if only for us? Donning rubber boots to wade through the 3-4 deep smelly muck was not all that pleasant for us, even if the ducks didn't mind it.

    I started to scatter garden waste on the ground every day. We have a big enough spread that we always have weeds and debris going on the compost pile. I started with the green stuff - clumps of weeds with soil - brassica remains - leaves - whatever. The ducks *loved* it. They would spend all day looking through the weeds for tasty bits and eventually trample what they didn't want into the muck. That served to reinforce the muck and eliminate some of the smell, which was nice.

    Well, we continued and soon realized that we were no longer using the compost pile. Instead, everything is going in the duck pen. We put the woodiest stuff around the pond, since it stays muddy even when the weather dries out. This has eliminated bad odors and the unsightliness of ducks wallowing in their own excrement and has a nice side effect. I took out eight wheelbarrows of very rich compost today (not completely finished but sufficient for my needs) from about a quarter of the enclosure. The ducks break down the waste much faster than the compost pile, probably due to the greater surface area, ducks working their bills down into the earth and aerating everything, and the constant supply of new nitrogen.

    So, now our duck run is our compost pile. It saves effort and makes for a more pleasant environment (for us anyway; I'm not sure that the ducks really care.)
     
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  2. Going Quackers

    Going Quackers Overrun With Chickens

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    Sounds like you've found a decent solution to the issue. We mainly free range ours, that way there really isn't a concentration of area being beat up, this is why i say ducks need quite a large area due to their general behaviour and the mess that ensues.
     
  3. billw

    billw Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Yeah, ours get to free range in the garden during the day, most days, but even with a 600 square foot pen, they would destroy it at night. It might not be as big a problem is drier places, but it is almost always wet here.
     
  4. Amiga

    Amiga Overrun with Runners Premium Member

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    It gets plenty wet, here, and we do have duck composting going on. Part of the reason is their comfort, and I had thought ahead a little bit about providing forage for them in their pen . . . worms.

    Oak leaves are great for keeping down odors around the swim pans.

    It's not seamless yet, as the dry oak leaves are not available year 'round.

    But your solution is excellent, and I appreciate you sharing this so others will implement some of the ideas as they can.
     
  5. Going Quackers

    Going Quackers Overrun With Chickens

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    Mine don't have access to outside at night, the fenced in area around the duck barn is 1/3 of acre, but by the pools and the main walking area gets real fun in early spring/fall, mind you we get quite a dry period in late summer.

    It's always a challenge to meet the needs of the ducks with maintaining a reasonable level of cleanliness. [​IMG]
     

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