Thoughts on Yard Destruction?

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by PotatoWaffles, Jan 14, 2016.

  1. PotatoWaffles

    PotatoWaffles Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 10, 2014
    Northwest Ohio
    It's a bit premature to be posting this, but maybe some of you have thoughts? Here's the situation:

    My husband and I have 14 ducks. Five males and 9 females. They are currently kept in a 20x25 ft (ish) enclosure. That gives them about 500 square feet to roam, plus their 10x8 ft shed. Seems like a lot, but it's not really. They've completely decimated the grass. It's all mud. On nice evenings in the summer, we let them free range for a short amount of time. But it always must be supervised because we are on the edge of town with neighbors (in particular, a cranky neighbor with a lovely pond that the ducks would be magnetically drawn to if they ever discovered.

    We want to move across the street this year. Good things: the house is newer, nicer, bigger and doesn't have a leaky roof or drafty windows and bad plumbing and isn't constantly breaking all the time like our current 105 year old house. And it's just outside the corporation limit, so no zoning codes, yay! My ducks don't have to be a semi secret anymore lol. Bad things: the yard isn't as big and the neighbors are closer.

    All that aside, I want to give my ducks more space to roam. We would still have the shed and enclosure, but I want to fence off the whole backyard with tall chicken wire, which would give them maybe 1/4 or 1/3 acre to roam.

    Sounds great, right? I just have a couple concerns I've been playing around with in my head. Main concern: chicken wire will keep my fat ducks (pekin, Cayuga, WH) in fine, what what about the lighter ones and bantams? We clip the wings of the mallards and runners, but they can still get a bit of air (especially those pesky flighty mallards, yeesh!). I'm concerned they could get out and bothering the neighbors, going on the road, discovering the pond...

    Next concern: chicken wire isn't nearly as formidable as chain link against predators. We haven't had any problem with predators keeping them in the chain link enclosure so far, partly due to the fact we are inn the edge of town, which is too busy for shy predators. But there are tons of cats around, and I have seen foxes near by. Some dogs in down are loose too. Getting a heavier expensive fence just isn't an option. Buying the house will kind of drain our money reserves. Maybe let them out in the daytime only? Put them back in the smaller chain link enclosure at night? I dunno about this one...

    Last concern: how bad will they destroy the back yard. I wish I could give them more room but that's all we could fence off. I do NOT want my backyard turning into a mud slop like their current enclosure. We are definitely culling two males in the spring, maybe three. But that would still be a dozen ducks drilling holes and playing in mud. And we know a corner of that backyard floods with every heavy rain. I would hate to get rid of more ducks but I just don't know.

    Anyway, those are my concerns. Are they safe, will they escape and will they destroy my yard to bits. Just wondering if anyone has thoughts to share to help me muse over options. Either way I can't wait to move. I want out of our falling apart house. It's so damp and musty and is causing problems with my asthma.
  2. cayugaducklady

    cayugaducklady Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 20, 2015
    New England USA
    I use movable electrified poultry netting to make a forage area for my four hens. They stay in the area up to 8 hours at a time while we're outside doing chores. I move the forage pen around so we can be near them.

    I don't electrify the fence mostly for my own safety ;)

    They prefer to have fresh pasture every day.

    My girls only drill holes in yard if water spills out of their pools/ drinking pan or if its rained enough to make the ground mushy.

    My girls DO eat down grass and their fat ducky feet flatten it pretty good. Their activities cut down on the mowing we needed to do. I'd say I probably needed to cut the grass only 3 or 4 times over the summer versus once a week.

    You mileage my vary. My girls were still ravenous growing ducklings when I started turning them out. They haven't been adult birds on pasture yet.

    If you get movable livestock fencing make sure you get poultry fencing. My hearty girls are able to squeeze through the smallest holes of regular livestock fence.

    I'd recommend at least 48 inches tall for ducks. My first set of movable fencing was only 4 feet and my largest hen could fly over it if she was motivated enough (usually meant I didn't move fast enough to let them out for true free foraging).

    I have aviary netting that I can put over the movable pens to keep raptors away from them. We have a large number of aerial predators large enough to carry off a 8-10 lb duck.

    They'll very quickly devour any dandelions and thistles growing in the yard. You won't need roundup or other weed killers.

    Mine also looooved hostas. They left them alone til the fall then they systematically marched through two hosta patches we wanted to get rid of any way.

    I think because I move them frequently I don't see any negative effects in the yard. I think we have some members with nicely manicured landscaping and yards that may be able to provide better feed back.

    We have a park view yard that was neglected ( and also had much of it converted to gravel driveway) for many years before we purchased the property. They really can't hurt anything here except for leaving squirts behind on the patios.
  3. lomine

    lomine Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 7, 2015
    Peyton, CO
    First off, it would probably be better to cull 3 males. And do it before mating season starts. Your girls will be much happier.

    For the fence, I'd say get the best fence you can afford. The higher the better. You should defiantly put them in a secure enclosure at night though. A fox can easily get through chicken wire and get over a chain link fence. The ducks would probably be safer in their shed at night. I don't having advice about the ducks getting over the fence. Mine can only get about 5 inches off the ground. That's with a running start and a good up draft. [​IMG]

    As for the yard, I would suggest putting down wood mulch in the areas that flood. My yard it mostly mulch and the ducks are just fine on it. They love to root around in it, especially when I leave the hose running to water the bushes and trees. They will make their little holes and then move on when the water is turned off. Then I come back and move the mulch back into place. They haven't done any damage to the grass either. I'm actually surprised how little damage they have done in the yard since I read they would wreak it. Some plants were eaten down to the root but a little temporary fencing and poopy duck water brought them right back.
  4. Tevyes Dad

    Tevyes Dad Leader of the Quack

    Apr 22, 2014
    At 4' x 50' (tallest I could find) poultry netting is $43.97 and 4' x 50' 11.5 gauge chain link is $57 so the difference is about $13 per 50' or about 30% more. Especially if you know there are foxes and loose dogs, I would opt for just chain link before just chicken wire. (I would guess that all critters getting through the perimeter is worse than raccoons reaching through the fence and this becomes more true the larger the enclosure is) Also it is easy to weave chain link together so you could start with a small pen in the corner of your property (I would go with 6' tall a determined dog can clear 4' easily) and a 50' roll could make a 12' square pen (I am just starting with the cheapest.) And as you can afford it you could make it bigger. I would cement in posts on the property perimeter and use T posts for temporary posts that will be moved. As you progress from "NEED to expand" the pen to "NICE to expand" the pen, you can wait longer and then do bigger upgrades. (See below.) Eventually you might want to put in a 2' - 3' skirt of chicken wire / hardware cloth to keep critters from reaching in and ducks from poking out, but I think a dog or any other predator would plow right through chicken wire. As far as the yard... Mine looks like the surface of the moon... [​IMG] I can't help you. [​IMG]

    Of course I have no idea of your actual layout, but this is just a general idea. I saw cayugaducklady's idea come in while I was typing this and I think having a lightweight mobile poultry netting inside the fenced area (once it is large enough to subdivide) would be great to control the duck damage since then its only job would be to keep the ducks in and not keep predators out.
  5. Vosh Sahaal

    Vosh Sahaal Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 1, 2015
    You can use the used straw of their ages to help the gras recover. Just spread it thin over the mud. Works for me.
  6. PotatoWaffles

    PotatoWaffles Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 10, 2014
    Northwest Ohio
    That's good about not having to use weed killer. I've always been careful about using it near the duck pen. And hostas?? Noooooo lol! I love my hostas! Did your hostas come back the next year? I know there is a tulip garden in the backyard I would probably want to put some hostas in...
    I know culling three would be better, and we probably will. It's just hard because they were hatched and hand raised by U.S. and imprinted on us and they all have names. I should have waited until I knew which were boys before getting attached to them :( As for the mulch, it's a good idea and would probably work in other places for other people. But not for this particular situation. Here's the thing. The corner of the yard that floods isn't so much of a large puddle as it is a flash flood river. It's considered to be a "natural waterway", and we aren't allowed by law to alter that part of that yard. We can't raise it or put anything on it like mulch, can't cultivate it. It just has to stay the way it is. I actually have to check and see if we would be allowed to put fence there, as it may catch debris and cause pileup, since the runoff is straight from a field. I forgot about that, sigh...
    Great pic! Chain link would be better, yes. And might be a more permanent thing to look into. But right at first, with moving everything, we will be so busy I doubt we would have enough time to install it, as it would need large posts driven into the ground to keep the straight runs of fence stable and sturdy. It's so far off in the future right now, maybe we would have time, I don't know. We will have to see.
    I've used straw before, and probably will if areas start to get damaged. Their current pen is too far gone for straw to fix, lol. Like it's just bare earth. And when it rains it's a slippery stinky mix of mud and poo. That's what I really don't want to happen across the street. I have to be careful too, because the neighbors are so close, and I don't want straw to be constantly blowing into their yards. Gotta stay in their good graces. Maybe some free duck eggs would help ;) All great ideas and thoughts! Thanks for helping me brainstorm :)
  7. Gone-Quackers

    Gone-Quackers Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 21, 2015
    Des Moines, IA
    No matter how big a pen you give them they will manage to kill all the grass. My guys get free run of the yard during the day, in a pen/duck house combo at night, and the yard stays in very good condition with just their favorite sleeping spot missing thick grass cover. I reseed in the spring and the ducks/dogs aren't allowed in the parts of the yard being reseeded for 3 weeks. First thing in the spring ducks don't have free run of the yard as the grass needs to grow a bit before they get to it. Of course, having said that my yard is mostly weeds. Weeds survive what grass cannot. [​IMG]
  8. PotatoWaffles

    PotatoWaffles Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 10, 2014
    Northwest Ohio
    Here are some pictures for reference. Below is unlabeled. See that huge bare spot in the field? That's what floods -__-

    Below is all labeled. The dotted red line is not part of the property, but we plan on purchasing it from the neighbor, as she technically owns half the driveway lol

    Below is a larger image of the propery we want to purchase, just flipped around. I should probably mention this is currently my husband's parent's rental property, so we are almost 100% sure to purchase it.

    ...I have too much free time at work lol
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2016
  9. PotatoWaffles

    PotatoWaffles Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 10, 2014
    Northwest Ohio

    That's kind of the plan I was imagining. Duck pen/shed enclosure at night, free range of the backyard during the day. The reseeding idea is great tho. And good to keep them off it In the spring. Great ideas :)
  10. cymbaline

    cymbaline Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 31, 2012
    central WV
    Your situation sounds pretty similar to mine. I have 8 ducks (3 males, 5 females) in a 12 x 24 pen, in which they have totally decimated all the grass. I hadn't fenced in my yard and everything had been fine up until last April, when one of my mallards flew out into the road and was killed (of all the dangers to ducks, that was about the last thing I ever thought would happen - they almost never even roamed out front). I clipped everyone's wings and drove 2x2 posts in the ground and stapled 4ft poultry netting to it. This has done a fantastic job of keep everyone in and keeping neighbor's dogs out. They roam about a half acre or so and I don't notice any damage to my lawn, really. I still only let them out when I'm home in the evenings and on weekends though and I check on them frequently. And at dusk they all go back in the pen, often without much prompting from me. They've also started to learn that if something scary is flying around they should run back to the pen too, I've noticed. Smart little critters!
    I'm still trying to figure out the solution to the stinky muddy mess in their pen. It's in a low spot in the yard which doesn't help. I've been putting down straw for the last month or so and that helps; I'm hoping it will help keep the dirt from being so compacted and let it drain better. I do have a large shrub in there now and it seems to stay drier around it, so I may try planting another one and see if that dries things up more.
    Also, your male/female ratio might not be as bad as people say. One of my girls had a rough time when it was 3 to 2 (she was the favorite), but after I added 3 more females, everyone has been fine. And you may end up only having one jerk to deal with - I'd say 70% of my problem was just one guy, the other two mated but not nearly as much and they were much kinder about it, although maybe just because they were older and not "horny teenagers" anymore, lol, because the year before that the youngest male was also kind of a jerk.

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