Ducks on duty
Good Organic Gardening|Good Organic Gardening 12.4
BUSY, VIGILANT, HARD ON GARDEN PESTS AND GENEROUS LAYERS — YOU’VE GOTTA LOVE A DUCK!
Megg Miller

THERE IS AN ADVANTAGE TO THEIR ANXIOUS NATURE: THEY TEAM UP TOGETHER AND ARE EASY TO HERD BACK TO THEIR YARD. THEY BEAT CHOOKS HANDS DOWN HERE!

Ducks are a gardener’s best friend. They’re energetic, inquisitive and very resourceful. And they can eat as many slugs and snails as they like without adverse effects, a luxury denied to fowls, as gastropods are an intermediate host of tapeworms in chooks.

There’s no searching for eggs with ducks; laying is usually done and dusted before 9am! The egg supply often continues over winter, which is a real bonus.

When you keep ducks you have a crew of active watchdogs and, being insomniacs (because they can see at night), they’ll alert you when kids sneak in late or there’s an intruder around.

All this could be code for noisy. There is often much loud quacking at night and the noise travels far on clear evenings. Trouble may result if neighbours don’t share your love of ducks.

The females are the troublemakers. They quack loudly and frequently; the drakes are quiet by comparison. It’s only Ms Muscovy that doesn’t quack loudly, so if you’re a townie and desperate to keep ducks, this is your most appropriate choice.

If you’re not familiar with the different breeds, decisions can be difficult but we have a couple of suggestions we’ll discuss later.

DUCKY DIFFERENCES

Ducks differ from chooks. Gender differentiation is one example. Drakes have a curl in their tail which females lack, but the vocalising is a handy clue, too: ducks quack, while drakes emit a soft throaty sound.

Ducks are active and noisy at night and like to eat and drink. But shadows freak them out and they are resistant to entering a shed that’s darker than outside.

And ducks have webbed feet made for swimming, not walking, so their environment needs to be free of obstacles like branches and rocks. Don’t expect them to jump up to doorways — a ramp is necessary.

Aside from the Muscovy, ducks are nervous and flighty. They will be easily disturbed by loud or unexpected noises and by the presence of stray dogs.

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