Poisonous plants and duck access - my garden or the ducks?

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by newbyduckmom, Feb 9, 2012.

  1. newbyduckmom

    newbyduckmom Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 18, 2011
    Snohomish County, WA
    Went to a class on chickens the other day, and the speaker said something that I have been told several times, poultry will general avoid things that are poisonous as long as they have an adequate food choice. She did say that they may tend to eat things that are poisonous if they have nothing else (acceptable plant material) available. For example, it you unknowingly give them something that is poisonous. So while they may stay away from onions, potatoes, rhubarb, etc normally, they might munch on it if there isn't another choice.

    Our duck run is around six 4 ft raised beds where I normally grow rhubarb, potatoes, garlic, lettuce, lilies, peonies. The ducks have pretty much "picked the run area clean" that is, the rest of the foliage in the 35 X 30 area around the 4 Ft beds this winter. It was very weedy at the end of last summer, now it is just dirt/mud. (Note: This was not my choice for where to put the duck run since I knew the plants I normally planted can be toxic, but I got out voted so to speak). The beds will be fenced once the potatoes are planted (unless I panic and decide I cannot chance even planting them close) and the rhubarb sprouts (if it does since the ducks have pretty much noodled their way through the entire bed). I planned on furnishing mesclun in planters and chicken forage on the ground in the area of the duck run to provide them a suitable forage material, but after seeing how they have cleaned the area totally of plant material, am concerned that this will not be sufficient. (if it is even allowed to establish adequately).

    The ducks do get out to free range forage when I am available to be out there with them, but time has been drastically reduced due to weather and increased work schedule. So I am more concerned than ever about our choice of location for the duck run. Either the gardens go or the ducks?
  2. veronicasmom

    veronicasmom Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 31, 2009
    I don't want to scare you unnecessarily, but I had a problem with VERY well fed ducks eating deadly nightshade plants. I lost two of them due to that.
    They have a huge area, and are allowed to free range for a number of hours each day. We had one section that had the DN in it, unbeknownst to me. Once got sick first, and the vet didn't know what was wrong. Treated her for a while, and it did not help. We chalked it up to something else, and I opted for having her euthanized before she suffered. Broke my heart.
    Then a month later another one of them got very sick very quickly, with the same issues, but much more severe. I rushed her to the vet and ended up having her euthanized too. I was devastated. Had a necropsy done and saw the plant matter in her stomach. I did some sleuthing and found the toxic plants.
    I still have not forgiven myself for not knowing it was there. I never expected that to have happened. My ducks had grain down all day, year round, got peas and veggies 2-3 times daily and had A LOT of grasses, bugs, leaves, etc to eat. But they chose the poisonous plants. I still don't get it...........
    Was told that about horses too, but I know someone who had horses, well fed horses, with grazing and they ate red maple leaves, colicked and both died.
    It can happen.
    Hope this helps you make a decision.
  3. newbyduckmom

    newbyduckmom Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 18, 2011
    Snohomish County, WA
    Thanks, veronicasmom. That is why we had the "this is a bad idea" discussion before the decision was made to put the ducks there. You didn't tell me anything I didn't already know. This has been bugging me ever since we put the run there. Not likely to win on moving the ducks, so guessing the garden will go. But that won't go over well either!

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