Started to post in the Duck vs. Chicken thread but this is too complex

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by Roark, Jan 1, 2012.

  1. Roark

    Roark Out Of The Brooder

    Thanks to my O.C.D.'ism our thrice redesigned coop won't be seeing any chickens til this Spring. Then I started readin' about these duck characters... and now you guys have me all screwed up.
    I'm mainly interested in eggs fer eatin' (and a few to bribe my neighbors into silence about any noise), but I would welcome the occasional duck dinner as well. Pets we've got - in abundance, but we also have lots of predators, so I feel like I'm right back to square one here.

    My coop has a covered run on one side that's basically a 10'H x 50'L x 24'W cable tensioned pipe frame, covered with chicken wire & hardware cloth, and containing rows of 4'x8' raised beds with trellised veggies, asparagus, grapes, berries, and miniature fruit trees. There's a wire covered tunnel of sorts that will also give the birds access to a fenced part of the yard where we have several ponds - but we have two Aussie's to chicken train hangin' out there as well. The coop's not finished yet, but it's intended to house 6-8 hens and no rooster, with all of the bells and whistles. I did finish a roll-around chicken tractor to help de-grub the rest of the yard, but my biggest day to day worry is our resident Red Tailed Hawk and cat population. They are omnipresent, hence the need for a covered run. I figured that the only time that I could risk lettin' the chickens "range" outside of the run would be when one of us was out there with them. The run was actually an attempt to deal with multiple other issues initially, and the idea of using it for poultry that might assist in insect control was something of an afterthought. Our local deer, coon, possum, bird and squirrel populations make trying to harvest any of our fruits a constant race that we usually loose, and at some point we wanted to maybe get a goat or two, so the multi-purposing of the enclosure just seemed to make good sense.

    So if I just add a few Runners or 300's, what am I lettin' myself in for? Since we're already pretty committed to the chickens I guess it's more likely that we'd just add 3 or 4 ducks at most, but that being said, the predation thing worries me the most - especially since ducks aren't exactly fleet of foot, and I've seen these hawks drop on a rabbit like a meteor. Also we've got all of the other threats; coyotes, foxes, feral cats, possums, coons, snakes, etc. So should I or could I let the duckies roam the same run as the chicks and maybe just add some sort of attached coop for them? We have a bunch of ornamental and food ponds around the yard, as well as a small one already in the run, so we're used to taking care of water inpoundments on a regular basis, and the fish pooh laden water is already a welcome tonic to our lower elevation veggie plots. We and several of our neighbors bake a lot too, so even a small supply of duck eggs would be a welcome addition, but we have some other concerns.

    Is it unreasonable to expect that we could keep the ducks out of the ornamental/food fish ponds without possibly harming them? We manage the heron and mammal intruders with hardware cloth surrounds, bird netting, motion activated lights and sprinklers. I can visualize the ducks just standing in the sprinklers til the city reservoir runs dry. If I let the ducks roam the fenced areas outside of the run am I going to have to worry that they'll spend all of their time trying to play with the koi and getting tangled in the netting, or can I count on keeping them distracted by giving them a pond of their own in the same area? And what about those hawks and neighbors' cats during the day, and the other critters at night? Am I best off creating the same kind of protected space for the ducks to hole up in at night and just keep them in the chicken run by day? We love the idea of adding some variety to the menagerie, but we want to make the animals as happy as possible at the same time. That said, I never really intended to risk letting the chickens out to range in the fenced but open air portion of the yard unless we were right there, but I know my wife, and she'll have chickens and ducks following her in and out of the house in no time (she could literally tame a shrew).

    So, different fowl eating and drinking and poopin' together... logistical and sanitation nightmare? Separate/same feeders and waterers, meds, wormers, etc.? The coop design should work great for the chickens, but was never intended for ducks - which is why I was thinking of trying to exclude the ducks and try to get them into a different shelter of some sort. Another issue is the ground in the raised beds and proposed run. Right now I mulch everything with bark and wood chips from my firewood and lumber cutting endeavors, and it works great - for people. What kind of hellish mess am I apt to see 8 hens and maybe 4 ducks wreak? They're welcome to the low lying berries, and I don't expect that they could do much damage to anything else growing in there since everything is essentially trained vertically or out of reach.

    Our topography looks something like Machu Picchu, since we're on a steep grade of alternating strata of clay and bank run mixed with liberal amounts of the most ignorant rounded quartz gravel I've ever seen. When dry, which is most of the time since nothing soaks in, anything less than a day long soaking rain just runs right off... it rivals concrete. Picks literally bounce off of it in a shower of sparks, and even my backhoe requires that you nearly lift the machine's weight over the bucket teeth to get a good bight. I personally have heard it actually laugh at me as I attempted the folly of stomping a shovel into it one day wearing an ill-chosen selection of footwear, and consequently doing significant bruising to my poor fallen arches. Suffice it to say that the road bed out front offers more friendly digging. This is why even after years of amending the soil and aeration, we still revert to raised beds where ever possible. If you do manage to get a hole in it, it does hold its shape extremely well, as we experienced with the ponds - as they almost need no liner at all - but I have more than a little skepticism about any bird's bill or beak making much of a dent in it. What I'm thinking/hoping is that the bugs and beetles in the mulch, and compost of the raised beds, will be enough to offer ample forage and exercise. The existing small ornamental pond (about 6' x 8' x 18" deep) that's in the run could probably be enlarged to about twice that size and depth, with a walk in shallow end, and an easy bottom drain that would run to daylight, since it already sits close to the edge of one of our many retaining walls. If need be I could also add maybe another 300 +/- sq. feet to the run if it sounds too confining. I sift plenty of washed pea gravel out of what passes for dirt here, and could lay a band a couple of feet wide around the entrance to the pond so that between the natural drainage, the impermeable soil, and some strategic landscaping I think I can minimize the mud field effect (hubris on my part no doubt).

    Something that I haven't read anything about yet is how they might get along with/enjoy toads and frogs. Since we live near the bottom of a substantial hill laced with underground springs (which seems a paradox given the prevailing concrete-like soil), we get a lot of runoff, and consequently refer to our property as "Toad Hollow" throughout the Spring and Summer - that and intermittently West Nile Virus Drive. There are nights that walking out our back door and across the patio adjacent one of our bigger ponds, is almost Biblical (shades of the Mo and Pharaoh throw down). You literally have to shuffle your feet at times to keep from squashing the mating crazed amphibians. Everything from common toads to bull frogs and several species of tiny little tree frogs deposit millions of eggs into anything that'll hold water. I wouldn't mind a little more predation on that front, but I also don't want to have to console wifee and the kids when a favorite duck chokes to death trying to swallow Mr. Toad.

    Last but not least, our Aussies were introduced to a variety of other pets later in life without too much trouble. They leave my daughter's chinchilla cage alone, and no longer worry the larger fish in the ponds where they drink and occasionally splash. The parrot and canaries are just back ground noise to them now. They both learned a healthy respect for the claws of our new house cat, and we've watched a video on acclimating dogs and chickens that looks promising, but I'm still worried about how the ducks might take to being herded (the Aussies can't help it - they even do it to us occasionally).

    Love this place! Any and all comments or suggestions are welcome and appreciated. I'm much happier being told I'm an idiot by strangers BEFORE I screw up, rather than havin' da wife remind me every day to my face after the fact. [​IMG]
     
  2. Tivona

    Tivona Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 2, 2011
    Oregon
    Its great your doing the research before getting them. My set up is different and my weather wet so I am not sure on some of the points you asked about. Here is what I can tell you.

    Most of mine are the 300's and they are awesome egg producers out laying any chickens I had before. Very tasty eggs. I was seriously thinking of runners and khakis before getting these though.

    I have my ducks in my garden. I have low raised beds, about 6 inches high. I have to fence the beds I do not want the ducks in as they eat, trample, and dig up the vegetables. Mine love rain (your sprinklers will probably not deter them). I have 8 sources of water total for them in the garden and pens and they use all of them. One kiddie pool, 2- 70qt buckets, and a variety of others. They use all of them and get all of them muddy at various speeds. I have seen mine eat frogs. I had another pond...it had goldfish in it, it was fenced off from the ducks. That did not last, they got in and ate them. I doubt you count on keeping them distracted by giving them a pond of their own in the same area. They may like one pond better then another but in my experience they will use any and all or whatever they are closest to. When the time for me to change the water it goes to the plants but not to things like lettuce that are close to the ground and eaten raw.

    When they were young (about 1/2 grown) I let them out and supervised the introduction to my cats. It turns out that my ducks love chasing cats and biting them if they can get close enough. This includes a large number of neighborhood ferals. I have seen posts here though that mention cat attacks so it would depend on the individual ducks and the individual cats. I have hawks in my area and I have had no problem but I also have 2 geese that help out with that. Raccoons have gotten a few of my birds by breaking into my pen. Others in my area have had the opossums get their ducks. The coyotes haven't discovered my birds yet but I have made the edge of the pen hard to dig with boards and rock. Make sure you have a verrrry secure night time pen. If you let them out during the day keep an eye out and be prepared to lock them up if things start to look dangerous for your birds. Some night time predators will come in the day if that is when the tasty food is available. If your hawks like rabbits they might like ducks too.

    Hopefully others will be able to answer some of the other stuff. I love my ducks but they are more messy then the chickens I had before. Also do check out Wifezilla's amazing post on duck-ponics . I have seen other great tips here as well on ponds and clean water. A resent post about ducks and clean water is here You might be able to find more just looking through posts or searching. Mostly I just let mine get it muddy changing the various containers as needed making sure that they always have some fresh water each day. Hopefully some of this helps. [​IMG]
     
  3. Roark

    Roark Out Of The Brooder

    Thanks for the insights, just getting back after a bit of a health scare. Meanwhile we picked up a half dozen Reds from the local Tractor Supply and while there they had a tub of mixed mallards. Not what I wanted, but once da wife got a look it was all over but for the quacking. So we now have (3) mallards and I'm thinking of ordering (4) 300's and a couple of Pekins. I figure the Mallards will probably fly away, but since they are supposed to be good moms I might try a hang on to one if it turns out to be a she.

    Thanks a whole lot for the links. Much to read.
     

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