Ducks and Apples?

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by Ahab, Aug 28, 2010.

  1. Ahab

    Ahab Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 28, 2010
    Maine
    Our house is surrounded by what is known in Maine as "deer apples," meaning trees planted by deer--and tasting (for the most part) pretty much like their seeding vector. Years ago we kept sheep and ducks in the same pasture (where our house now sits), and the ducks were sometimes fast enough to snatch an apple or two from the small apple trees before the sheep got it--but not often. The sheep would stand beneath the trees with their mouths open, staring upward in anticipation.

    Now, with the small apple trees towering over the house and carpeting the ground with apples, we're going to start keeping ducks again in the spring, and I'm wondering just how many apples a duck can eat and live to tell about it--or, perhaps more accurately, how many can they eat and continue to thrive? I searched the forum and found apples a popular treat--I knew that--but has anyone had experience with apples as more than a treat? For at least a month, apples would, or could, form the bulk of the ducks' diet. If that's a bad thing nutritionally, they'd have to be excluded from the apple-overrun-area by a fence. But I remember the taste of those apple-fed lambs, and can only imagine the taste of an apple-fed Appleyard.

    So, can anyone with ducks and way too many apples comment?
     
  2. katharinad

    katharinad Overrun with chickens

    Have you ever thought about canning some for yourself? Those type of apples are usually more flavorful then what you get in the store. They are great in winter as a dessert.
    As for ducks overeating, I don't think it will happen. Plus ducks eat bugs and all kind of things to balance their diet. I would not worry about them eating the apples. Not sure, if they will catch up with the amount you have.
     
  3. Ahab

    Ahab Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 28, 2010
    Maine
    Quote:One of the trees isn't horrible, but most are woody tasting and bug-ridden. We've got all the apples two old people can eat from our "good" trees, a mid-19th-century orchard surrounding a cellar hole, far beyond duck ranging range at a distant corner of our property, that I keep pruned and fertilized. These keep us in apples (dried, canned, root-cellared) through the year. It's the constant rain of apples around the house that want eating. Ducks won't be so choosey.
     
  4. katharinad

    katharinad Overrun with chickens

    That's so true they turn really nasty once the trees are too old. Not only do they get smaller and woody, they are usually full of worms. Better for ducks I would say. Perhaps it is time to cut some of the nasty trees. The rotten fallen down apples only attract bees. I lived on a farm when I was a child and we had a couple of those nasty trees. We also had 3 pigs so there was never an issue with the apples laying on the ground. Goats are also a good solution. They are easier to keep then sheep.
     
  5. Ahab

    Ahab Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 28, 2010
    Maine
    Actually, it's our oldest trees that produce the decent apples. These date from an apple orchard planted in the 19th century, and were kept up until the 1950s when the farmhouse burned. I had some rejuvenation work to do on them starting in the '70s--pruning, fertilizing, basic orchard sanitation--but the four or five eating-apple trees are great; the cider trees would be fine for cider, if I made it.

    All the apple trees around the house (built in 1979) are deer apples--wild apples planted by apple seeds passed through a deer's digestive system. Unlike the old orchard, which has Black Oxfords, Jonathans, Northern Spies, Wolf Rivers, and other varieties grown specifically for taste (and often grafted onto wild rootstock)--the deer apples are just mongrels: tight and gnarly and bitter. What they do provide is shade for our passive-solar house, so cutting them isn't an option. Feeding their fruit to poultry (too old, too busy to mess with sheep again, and I've got enough problems without adding goats to the mix) certainly seems an option, though--as long as I'm not spending my days passing out Pepto-Bismol to dyspeptic waterfowl over-eating apples.

    All things in moderation, they say, but when we kept Khaki Campbells years ago (when these apple trees in question were barely head-high and produced only a half-bushel a year between the six of them), I never noticed moderation as part of their operating philosophy. Full-speed ahead, is what I remember. We'll be looking for a more restful breed of duck when we order come spring.
     
  6. katharinad

    katharinad Overrun with chickens

    I know what you mean with old age. I have arthritis and I'm only 45. Some days I can barely move, and can no longer go hiking, something I enjoyed so much in my life. Worst is that I cannot take pain meds that are classified as NSAID (like Motrin), due to a stomach surgery I had. At times it stinks! I still take care of my ducks on a daily basis just to keep moving. I love my Saxony ducks, they are large and really sweet. They eat pretty much anything. Yesterday I watched them going for the sweet clover, which is about 7 feet tall. They actually worked as a team. Jumping up and pulling it down, just to get to the seeds.
     
  7. Ahab

    Ahab Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 28, 2010
    Maine
    Hmmmm. Saxony is a breed on my short list to consider (along with Appleyards and Welsh harlequins). We don't eat a lot of eggs--they disagree with our 60something-year-old stomachs, beyond a few a week--but there's nothing we like better than duck.

    Do your Saxonies go broody? I prefer a self-perpetuating breed for our particular backyard; buying chicks every year gets expensive (though, of course, nowhere near as expensive as store-bought duck).

    Sorry about your arthritis. I have it, but other than taking glucosamine and an occasional Naproxen, I've mostly tried to pretend it's not happening. Kind of my approach to aging itself. It's not a strategy, but it's at least a tactic.
     
  8. katharinad

    katharinad Overrun with chickens

    They fall right in line with the other duck breeds you where looking at when it comes to taken care of their babies etc. Egg laying capacities not so much. I'm not looking for many eggs either. They have become an excellent weed and bug patrol. Plus their size works well with my 4 dogs and 1 cat. My ducks hang around with my 4 dogs and we don't have any issues at all. They lay together on the deck and go together for walks in the meadow. One big mixed pack of animals. What I really like on my Saxonies is that they go into their duck house all by themselves in the evening and I only have to close the door. Below is a chart of the breeds you have mentioned.

    Eggs/year weight mothering foraging
    Khaki Campbell 250-340 4-4.5 lbs poor-good excellent
    Appleyards 200-270 8-9 fair-good good
    Welsh harlequins 240-330 5-5.5 poor-good excellent
    Saxony 190-240 8-9 fair-good good
     
  9. Ahab

    Ahab Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 28, 2010
    Maine
    I have an earlier version of that chart in Holderread's 1978 iteration of his duck book (pre Appleyard, pre Welsh harlequin). I believe he's publishing a third revision due out in December or January, and I was holding out for the update before deciding which box to check on the Holderread order form.

    Never had one of our Campbells go broody in five years of keeping them, but they hung around with the sheep all the time and apparently considered themselves part of the flock--or perhaps the other way around. But they were wicked nervous birds--like tweaker versions of Leghorns. I'm glad to hear the Saxonies are more reposeful, and know when bedtime is (we often had to round up the Campbells at dusk: they were powerfully attracted to a neighbor's core-of-the-sun security light, and would have moved down there permanently if they had their druthers.) They were marvelous slug slayers, though; it took five years after a change of career made us abandon livestock before the slimy little buggers became a problem again.
     
  10. katharinad

    katharinad Overrun with chickens

    I have to say my Saxonies are really laid back birds and don't freak out much. We were interacting a fair amount with them the first 8 weeks. That and lots of peas and watermelon. They have become quite good a begging for treats. They have also learned the words "who wants peas", which makes them run to us. They usually get watermelon in the afternoon, which means they can come out of their daytime fenced in area (1 acres large) over to our back yard. At that time they already wait at the gate ready for their treat time. Once in our yard they hang around with the dogs waiting for watermelon. They snack and then rest on the deck. A little bit later they have to go back to their yard for a couple more house. Then at 7 they can come back into our yard, which has a connection to their duck house. They are in the duck house when it gets dark, plus their is food and water in the duck house, which they like as well. We don't keep them all day in our yard, because they love to eat my flowers and make a mess when the inground sprinklers come on. A little bit of time works out well because they do eat the bugs and weeds. It's when they get bored that they get into trouble. We also have a large 10 acre meadow, but it is dry this year because we did not get enough snow pack last winter. That is also their foraging area when the stream runs.
     

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