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Sasha's Mom
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So now that we've embraced the Border Collie Way and moved to the country, we've been thinking about jobs for the dogs, planting a big garden, etc. I've never lived in a rural area, but we are loving it so far. My new job starts Tuesday, and I will have a lot more time and cash flow than I've had in years. (I'm finally done with all my schooling. So back to jobs for dogs... and thoughts on small farms.

 

I can't believe I just wrote that. We've just 5 acres, and no, no sheep! (Although we have tree frogs that sound like sheep and goats. It's a running joke that there are sheep in my peach tree.) But we managed to join the local Farm Bureau (just happened to pick them for insurance) and BAM we get all these farm and agriculture mailings.

 

:rolleyes:

 

Anyway, we'e been discussing ducks for a couple of months as a potential hobby. I've done quite a bit of research and seem to have settled on Silver Appleyards. It's an heirloom breed, a big duck, good for both eggs and table meat. (If I can do that part.) We are mostly thinking eggs at this point. There's a pseudo chicken coop on the property that could be converted to a duck home. I think I've found a supplier for duck feed, and have been learning all about their needs. It's getting late in the season, so I need to decide if we're going to go for it this year... and I think we're going to take the plunge. So I guess I'd love to hear some duck stories. I'm also looking for recommendations for a basic incubator - I'm leaning towards the Hovabator basic models with egg turners (too late to get ducklings, so might as well recreate that elementary school hatching experience). And it would buy us a little more time without having to skip this year.

 

Also, any thoughts on introducing the dogs to said ducks? I'm not tooooo worried about it, but the best laid plans...

 

Thanks!

Danielle

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My great aunt used to raise ducks for eggs - from what my mom says and we read, they are richer than the chicken eggs you buy at the store, not to mention bigger. And yes, they taste different, but we hear people rave about them. I figure we'll just get used to it.

 

Thought about chickens, but the ducks will forage for weeds and bugs. (I've done a lot more reading about ducks than chickens, so convince me.) We also have a pond. And can you train BCs to drive chickens back to the coop? Like I said, this is a multipurpose thing, and ducks seem a little different than the standard small farm flock. Or maybe not. That's why I'm asking. :rolleyes:

 

Danielle

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Chickens aren't for herding although my girls get in the pen sometimes and "work" them for a brief time. I'm not experienced with ducks at all. My BC trainer's hubby doesn't eat their eggs because they are too strong for him so when we have extras we give her a dozen. Again, JMO.

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Forgot to add our chickens don't leave the pen so dogs don't drive them back. Sometimes they do get out (when DH and I leave the door open and dogs do drive them back then. When we first got the chickens we used to have our lunch outside just to watch them. We save our table scraps for them and any excess garden produce. They are very entertaining but we do think the feed prices are outrageous. Lay mash is over $13 for 40 lbs at the local feed store and there is a lot of waste. The pen isn't too tight so other birds get in as well. JMO

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We love our ducks. I have Rouens this time. They have not yet started laying, but they are supposed to be moderately good layers so I'm looking forward to some eggs. I love duck eggs, and anytime we raise ducks we have way more than we can use, even when making them a part of the dog's meals. If they primarily forage, the taste is reasonably mild. The only people I've heard with strong objections to duck eggs were people who kept them penned or only ranging in a small area. Mine have unlimited range.

 

Obviously that means anytime we need them gathered, the dogs get involved. Another nice thing is that the ducks are extremely well acclimated to the heat, and duck herding takes place on a much smaller scale - so I can train in all weather with neither ducks nor dogs getting even tired, much less overheated. I work dogs five minutes here and there during the day - the ducks work about six times altogether, and still spend a great deal of the day walking all over a four or five acre area hunting bugs.

 

One thing, if you are just starting out, consider getting a more common breed your first time around. Also, I strongly suggest raising day-olds rather than hatching eggs (this will also give you a few weeks head start). The information I've read suggests that artificially incubated eggs have about a 40% or lower hatch rate, even with experienced handling. I've never had anything less than 110% success rate with day olds - the extra percent is because they put extras in he box when you get babies in the mail, and I've never had in transit deaths, nor have lost the extras.

 

With regard to management. Once ducks are grown out, they will only require a coop for safety's sake. Also, if you will be collecting eggs later, cooping them untiil abot 9:00 am will increase your odds that they will lay them in the house instead of out on the dirt somewhere. Ducks are not at all choosy about where they lay.

 

Otherwise, ducks with mature feathers only need shelter to get under in case of driving rain or hail, and clean deep natural bedding somewhere, in freezing weather. Most of the time they will walk around even in snow, without needing special treatment, but when they sleep in freezing weather they either want water or deep straw. Ducks are rather messy and the coop area will get to be a high-maintenence one very quickly. I used a moveable pen this year and love it. It's ten by ten for 17 large ducklings (the wire is 1x2 no climb fence fabric). When they had to be left in there, I opened the gate and added an extension using an x-pen.

 

Water is the biggest thing with ducks. Many people don't do ducks because they make a terrible mess around their water.

 

If you are serious about ducks, I'd forget about the incubator idea, and instead consider spending the money on a duckproof watering system. There would be a basin that can be cleaned often, and underneath a platform that is dabble-proof, as far out as any splashing will go. That's how you keep grass in a duck water area. I have a kiddie pool set on our concrete sidewalk (in the back yard).

 

Twice a day we dump the pool, then run the water in it until it runs over, and let it go for a few minutes. Ducks love running water more than anything. They "dabble" on the concrete, work up all the weeds in the cracks and for an inch on either side of the walk, and the water fertilizes the lawn.. It worked so well that I will do this for any future ducks I raise. For a tractor or moveable coop situation, one could set the water on a hardware cloth lined frame.

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We love our ducks. I have Rouens this time. They have not yet started laying, but they are supposed to be moderately good layers so I'm looking forward to some eggs. I love duck eggs, and anytime we raise ducks we have way more than we can use, even when making them a part of the dog's meals. If they primarily forage, the taste is reasonably mild. The only people I've heard with strong objections to duck eggs were people who kept them penned or only ranging in a small area. Mine have unlimited range.

 

The duck eggs are part of the eventual dogs-eat-raw plan that I am toying with... and we were planning to let them forage the 5 acres. There's a perimeter fence, although small ones could get through it. (Another reason I'm looking at big ducks like the appleyards rather than small ones like khaki campbells.)

 

Obviously that means anytime we need them gathered, the dogs get involved. Another nice thing is that the ducks are extremely well acclimated to the heat, and duck herding takes place on a much smaller scale - so I can train in all weather with neither ducks nor dogs getting even tired, much less overheated. I work dogs five minutes here and there during the day - the ducks work about six times altogether, and still spend a great deal of the day walking all over a four or five acre area hunting bugs.

 

One thing, if you are just starting out, consider getting a more common breed your first time around. Also, I strongly suggest raising day-olds rather than hatching eggs (this will also give you a few weeks head start). The information I've read suggests that artificially incubated eggs have about a 40% or lower hatch rate, even with experienced handling. I've never had anything less than 110% success rate with day olds - the extra percent is because they put extras in he box when you get babies in the mail, and I've never had in transit deaths, nor have lost the extras.

 

I don't want a huge flock, and figured that by hatching, I'd lose 50% of the eggs... sort of a cull by nature. So if I got 12 eggs, and only 4 hatched out, that would be ok. Even just one or two - like I said, I'd rather start small. Where have you ordered from? Maybe that's the way to go, although it is getting awfully late in the season for day-old ducklings. Seems like a lot of places only offer minimum orders, and I really don't need all that many.

 

With regard to management. Once ducks are grown out, they will only require a coop for safety's sake. Also, if you will be collecting eggs later, cooping them untiil abot 9:00 am will increase your odds that they will lay them in the house instead of out on the dirt somewhere. Ducks are not at all choosy about where they lay.

 

Otherwise, ducks with mature feathers only need shelter to get under in case of driving rain or hail, and clean deep natural bedding somewhere, in freezing weather. Most of the time they will walk around even in snow, without needing special treatment, but when they sleep in freezing weather they either want water or deep straw. Ducks are rather messy and the coop area will get to be a high-maintenence one very quickly. I used a moveable pen this year and love it. It's ten by ten for 17 large ducklings (the wire is 1x2 no climb fence fabric). When they had to be left in there, I opened the gate and added an extension using an x-pen.

 

It had better not snow here! (I'm in central Florida) It doesn't freeze often, either.

 

The "coop structure" in the backyard is about 200 yards from the house. If not more. There is a water spigot right there, so I thought a kiddie pool right there might be an option. There is no grass in that particular part of the yard - the soil is very sandy and between the dogs and the gopher tortises, it would be far more work that it was worth to get grass to grow there. Most of the back 2 acres is scrub with oak trees - the lawn area has sprinklers, although it's awfully crunchy from the dry season. Now that it's the rainy season, the grass is coming back.

 

I have a heavy wire puppy pen that husband thought would be a good moveable pen - at least at first.

 

Water is the biggest thing with ducks. Many people don't do ducks because they make a terrible mess around their water.

 

If you are serious about ducks, I'd forget about the incubator idea, and instead consider spending the money on a duckproof watering system. There would be a basin that can be cleaned often, and underneath a platform that is dabble-proof, as far out as any splashing will go. That's how you keep grass in a duck water area. I have a kiddie pool set on our concrete sidewalk (in the back yard).

 

Twice a day we dump the pool, then run the water in it until it runs over, and let it go for a few minutes. Ducks love running water more than anything. They "dabble" on the concrete, work up all the weeds in the cracks and for an inch on either side of the walk, and the water fertilizes the lawn.. It worked so well that I will do this for any future ducks I raise. For a tractor or moveable coop situation, one could set the water on a hardware cloth lined frame.

 

Hm, hadn't thought of building a contraption to haul around like that. We do have a tractor now... :rolleyes:

Thanks for the ideas and input!

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If you want ducks primarily for the eggs get runners. Some strains lay all year long.

They are also the breed most people use if they want them for training dogs. Appleyards

are nice but they are heavy and will tire too fast if you use them for the dogs. I think

duck eggs are a little strong myself but they are wonderful for baking. Take your excess

to work and you'll become very popular. :rolleyes: Appleyards are beautiful ducks. Post some

picture if get some!

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Becca's ducks are really pretty ducks, and they seem to be a good choice for the dogs, as they stay grouped pretty nicely, and they look like a pretty heavy duck, but not quite as big as say the Peking, which have a tendancy to grow to fast and break legs and have health problems because of thier size. Mona makes a good point about the heavier breeds, and I too have heard the eggs are wonderful for use in baking, but never tried them. I allowed my motley crew to sit their nests, (what the foxes didnt get) and hatch out their babies. Sooooo cute to watch the family grow up. I used a plastic pool too, and they loved it. They really are pretty weather resistant, Id seen mind in the dead of a Utah mountain winter, snow blowing to beat the band, standing in their kiddie pool in a blizzard, and loving it! I kept thinking one morning Im going to wake up and their going to be trapped/ frozen in the water.

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Hm... you've almost convinced me to skip the eggs and go with ducklings...but there are so many choices! Runners, eh? And where to order from? As I mentioned, I don't need a huge flock.

 

I was toying with the idea of Muscovies... they seem more self-reliant. But I've never done this before.

 

Sigh. The more answers I get, the more questions I have. Thanks for all your input!

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Runners are light weight, easily kept in good condition and lay eggs about 300 days of the year. My dogs love their half of a boiled egg, and the shells go back to the ducks. Never heard of the eggs being too strong, since friends feel privileged to get them, especially for baking.

 

Make sure you have a predator proof pen for night.

 

Lots of info at www.poultryconnection.com - click on waterfowl

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I love my Muscovies....I don't eat meat so we just eat the eggs which are absolutely wonderful. Also, Muscovies don't require a pond for swimming but do need lots of fresh water. It gets to -40C here sometimes and my ducks only needed the protection of a well insulated (with hay) duck house. I even managed to have one duckling hatch!

My dogs learned fairly quickly that I wouldn't tolerate 'running the ducks' so it has been fairly peaceful. Mine free range until dusk then I put them in their duckhouse for security.

I like the fact that they are fairly quiet too :rolleyes:

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  • 3 months later...
Hm... you've almost convinced me to skip the eggs and go with ducklings...but there are so many choices! Runners, eh? And where to order from? As I mentioned, I don't need a huge flock.

 

Sigh. The more answers I get, the more questions I have. Thanks for all your input!

 

Don't know if you've found your duckies yet, but I can highly recommend Holderreads --- they wrote the book --- literally!...the Storey Publication "Raising Ducks" (also highly recommended.) I believe ten is the minimum order of day old ducklings and they add an extra too. This is to keep them warm during shipping. Now is the best time to order, but they won't ship until early next year (February through April?) Website: www.holderreadfarm.com

 

 

I have a love/hate relationship with my ducks. I have Runners and Magpies and they free range. They are funny and have individual personalities. They will follow you around to see what you are up to, but will turn and run too. Girls are much louder and more talkative than boys. Boys have nicer plumage and size. All are very messy, pooping everywhere, and it's a sticky, smelly poop too...almost impossible to get off your shoes. We have two kiddie pools for them. They LOVE water and will swim, splash, breed, poop and dibble/dabble mud in the pool. We had a water garden, but had to close it because the ducks made it super smelly and choked with muck. They will definitely eat weeds, bugs, slugs/snails, and turn your compost pile for you. They will also eat your vegetable and herb seedlings, hostas, sedums, lawn grasses and various other garden plants. Chickens scratch and peck, ducks wet things down and get under the roots with their bills, moving from side to side until things come up.

 

If you have or get sheep, they will also "fowl" the stock tanks on a daily basis with mud and poop. Anywhere you have water, they will find it...unless it is three feet off the ground. They also go through molts so you can collect down if you like. The yard will look like a pillow factory explosion twice a year. Our ducks hide their eggs, but do not set on them. I haven't seen an egg or hatchling all year.

 

~ Tru

Laingcroft

www.freewebs.com/laingcroft

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