Homestead Animals

Homestead Ducks

“Ducks are messy, loud and they smell.  Are you sure you want them?”

This from man who posted an ad on Craigslist last summer advertising Indian Runner ducklings for sale.  Interesting sales technique.

“I’ll take three; one of each color,” I replied.  The daughter and I had trekked to his small homestead and ogled the pens of various breeds of ducks, geese, and chickens, as well as his goats.  By the time we arrived back home with the new additions, I could verify that he was correct on two of three accounts.

My interest in this new-to-me variety of poultry stemmed from a youtube video.  Ducks who keep the insects and pests under control at a winery.  Actually, maybe my interest was initially in the winery, but ducks were fascinating.  Have you seen this?

http:/www.youtube.com/watch?v=ya3Rk0BSmqg

Aren’t they amazing?

Our ducklings were raised initially outside in a moveable pen with our late summer batch of meat chickens.  The ducks seem closely bonded with chickens now.  Those meat chickens moved on to freezer camp long ago, but the ducks seamlessly blended into the flock of layers.  I have read much conflicting information about the pros and cons of keeping chickens and ducks together.  But, here on the One Hour Homestead, we need simple and efficient.  We have had no problems housing them together.  The poultry free range during the day and are locked in a coop at night.  Sadly, one night this winter, the ducks were being a bit stubborn about going into the coop, and we lost one to a predator.

Just a few weeks ago, I found the first duck egg in the coop.  The chickens had just doubled their egg laying the exact same weekend.  Curious, I checked the weather app on my phone and noted that it was the weekend that daylight had increased to 11 hours per day.  Chickens drastically reduce or stop laying eggs in the low daylight hours in our northern area.  About two days after the first duck egg, there were two duck eggs laid neatly in the nesting box.  These runner ducks are laying machines!  I have had one egg per day from each duck since they started laying.  Stayed tuned for future posts about how we use our duck eggs.

Indian runner ducks are unique with their upright running gait.  They don’t waddle like a typical duck…their movement more resembles a penguin.  These lightweight birds do not fly.  They are terrific foragers, thriving on tall pastures, and eating slugs (which our chickens avoid).  They are prolific egg layers, with more productive years of egg laying than a typical chicken.  Although I pictured that they would spend their days loafing about in our pond, they have yet to take even a quick dip.  Instead, they are contentedly integrated into the flock of free-ranging chickens.

So far, they have proven a valuable addition to our little homestead.  Their rich eggs are terrific in baked goods and custard desserts.  Their care adds very little time to the homestead chores.  They eat the same layer food as the chickens, so no extra time or work is needed for feeding.  Ducks are not able to drink from typical chicken waterers due to the size and shape of their bills.  The simple solution I have come up with is to replace the chicken waterer with a bucket…all of the poultry drink from the bucket with no issues.  This winter, we are using a heated bucket which has worked out very well.

Now, as far as ducks being messy and smelly.  I believe this notion is due to their habit of splashing water about, as they drink and clean their heads and bills.  After a couple of weeks of messy water sloshed about in the chicken coop, this situation was remedied by moving the heated bucket to just outside of the coop.  I empty the bucket each evening (ducks turn a clean bucket of water into mud by the end of the day) and refill with fresh water in the morning.

I have also modified the bedding in the coop since adding ducks.  Previously, wasted hay from was used as bedding before being raked up and added to the compost pile.  With the ducks residing on the floor of the coop, I have found that pine shaving work better.  I add a fresh layer each week, keeping the coop smelling as pleasant as can be during these winter months.  A $5 bale of pine shavings seems to last about 6 weeks with this system.

Although my ducklings were purchased locally, check our the Indian Runners and other ducklings at Meyer Hatchery.  They have great service and I have ordered all of our meat and layer chickens from them for years.

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