We have always had a very large garden, but it was just too big for us to take care of, so last year we decided to cut down the size of the garden. Actually we cut it in half and have been mowing one end of it. I know with all of the modern chemicals and additives they have now, makes gardening easier, but I absolutely refuse to use any herbicides or pesticides in or around our garden or my herb beds! If you have ever gardened, then you know it can be exhausting back breaking work to keep up with the grass, weeds harmful bugs, and feeding the plants in your garden! Even though we did cut down the size, it was getting to be more than I could keep up with….So I had an idea!
Earlier this year, my Mom decided she didn’t want the two Rouen Ducks she had; ( they didn’t get along with her chickens) so guess what? Yep I took them. What can I say I like Ducks, and I had heard that they are sometimes used in the garden to help control insects and grass. So I did some research and with the help of my Grandsons we put up a fence around the end of the garden that we had been mowing and lined the outside fence with chicken wire. I put the two Rouen Ducks that Momma had given me at that end and they got busy, but it was still too large of an area for only the two Ducks to take care of. So I jumped off into the deep end and ordered Fifteen more Ducks! (By the way, my husband thought I had lost my mind!) I got fifteen baby Runner Ducks from the Hatchery. They were one day old, and thus the Garden Duck Project started!
If any of you have raised Ducks I would love to hear from you! Even though I was raised on the farm and ranch all of my life, we never had Ducks. So I’m learning and can use all of the help I can get!
The Runner Ducks are now Two Days Old 3-23-2017
I had no experience with ducks and my Mom only had limited experience with the two Rouen Ducks, so I asked the Hatchery to send me some info, and of course I went to Pinterest. The Hatchery recommended non-medicated Chick starter to feed them. *(Be aware that the feed does contain Gluten, so you may need to wear gloves and a mask)* Ducks cannot have any kind of medicated feed. Simply because they eat so much they will overdose themselves on the medication. Believe me they do love to eat!!! I gave them free choice as much as they wanted, and those 15 babies were going through A LOT of feed!
Ducks do grow much faster than chickens, but they still need heat like a baby chick. Since we didn’t have a chicken house or Duck house yet, and both barns are open, so I had to use the shop to put them in. Since we have predators,( coyotes, raccoons, owls, etc.) roaming around at night then I had to put them in a secure place. I rounded up an old stock tank with holes in the bottom, and lined it with newspaper, and drug it into the shop. Then found some heat lamps and put at each end of the stock tank. The ducks loved it! I had to change the newspaper out daily because they do like to splash their water and they do poop a lot. But that’s fine. That is exactly what ducks are supposed to do. (They will also help fertilize the garden.)
The Ducks are now Seven Days old 3-28-2017!
Ducks really have such a different personality than any other farm animals we have ever had. Notice the little smarty on the right!
While the ducks are small you have to keep them warm and hopefully dry. That is not an easy thing to do with ducks! They really like to climb into their feed and water. At first I just spread feed on the newspaper and tried to water them in a shallow pan. Well they soon started climbing into their water pan splashing water everywhere! Also one of them flipped over on his back in the water pan and needed help getting out. The pan was very shallow with less than two inches of water, but still I didn’t want any of them to drown. So of course I went back to Pinterest and started looking for a low cost way to water them. Someone used plastic ice cube trays to water, but I knew they would tip them over so I taped a plastic knife to the bottom at each end of them for stability. It worked great! ( Oh and yes I did use Duct tape.)
The Ducks are now 2 Weeks old 4/4/2017
They are growing so fast and since it is getting warmer and I’m pulling weeds anyway, I thought I’d try giving them some Chickweed grass. They loved it! It was so funny they ran to the grass and just burrowed down into it while eating around themselves. I’m still feeding them Chick starter and a lot of water! They are up to almost a gallon of water a day. It is very important to keep water out for ducks, because they need it before they can swallow their food. I’ve seen them eat a lot of chick feed and hold it in the side of their throat then run to the waterer and stick their head all the way under water, then they stick their little beaks straight up in the air then swallow. LOL, then the lump on the side of their little neck will disappear.
Since they are drinking so much water, I’m also trying a new water system. They still climb up into the ice cube trays, so in order to keep them from splashing so much water out I used a 3 inch deep rubber tub with wire over the top so maybe they won’t climb into it. We will see if it works?
The Ducks are now 3 Weeks old 4-11-2017, and they are outgrowing their area in the shop very quickly! Since we are having some warm days, I made a temporary day time pen for them outside the shop. The task of moving 15 ducks from one location to another is not easy though. I found the little wagon I had used for my Grandson’s when they were little and a plastic half barrel and put each duck into the barrel. They did not like it at all! In case you didn’t know, baby ducks do not quack. They peep and if you put them in a barrel they squawk! Loudly! And it gets even louder when you start pulling the wagon and the barrel slips to one side, nearly dumping them on the ground. We recovered quickly though and made it to the pen. Once I put them out onto the grass, they loved it! The Ducks immediately started picking bugs out of the grass and were very content. I also took the wire off of their waterer and they soon made a swimming pool out of it.
The Ducks are now 4 Weeks old, 4-19-17 and it is unbelievable how fast they are growing! I’m finding out that Runner Ducks are very hard to catch even in a small pen, and until they lose all of their down and get their regular feathers, we will have to keep them warm and in the shop at night. So I had to find a better system of moving them outside during the day, than the wobbly half barrel. Ta! Da! The Duck Wagon was invented! I found a pet carrier that fit perfectly on the little wagon and connected a board and plastic fencing with zip ties to make a little loading ramp. I’m finding out that Ducks learn very fast! I sprinkled a little feed in the bottom of the carrier and put them in. It only took a couple of times and they were running to get in. We have graduated from the stock tank in the shop, to a small pen. So no more chasing them around to catch them! This is great!
The Ducks are now 5 weeks old 4-25-17 and they have lost a lot of their down feathers now. Their new feathers are much darker and so pretty!
Now that they load themselves in the Duck wagon, we are going to the garden every day. I set up a pen away from the Rouen Ducks, so that the Runners could eat grass and bugs. The above photo is just a few days before I started putting them in, this photo is after they have grazed on the grass and weeds only for 2 days. For very young ducks I think they did very well! Of course they go back to the shop every evening. We still haven’t gotten the Duck house built yet and they are no longer under the Heat lamp, but it is still too cool at night and they are too young to be out all of the time.