Raising Ducks Helps Your Garden Patch

This wonderful species dines on garden slugs and lays delicious eggs.

| May/June 2009

  • Muscovy ducks
    These Muscovy ducks take the higher ground.
    David Cavagnaro
  • In the barnyard.
    These two appear to be having a heart-to-heart in the barnyard.
    David Cavagnaro
  • Momma Muscovy
    Momma Muscovy and her ducklings.
    John Daniels/Ardea
  • King of the field
    A regal-looking Muscovy looks over his field.
    John Daniels/Ardea
  • Brown duck says surprise
    Ferocious as they may seem at times, free-range ducks will benefit your vegetable patch.
    Terry Wild Stock

  • Muscovy ducks
  • In the barnyard.
  • Momma Muscovy
  • King of the field
  • Brown duck says surprise

I wasn’t interested in keeping ducks until a mallard duckling adopted me one weekend. We were creek fishing when this tiny ball of fluff zipped down with the fast-moving water, hit the bank and waddled up to my feet. I didn’t want to touch her since I figured the rest of her family would be along soon. Eventually, it became obvious she was on her own and ill-equipped to survive even one night in that predator-filled area, so we took her home.

My stepson named the duckling Little Peep Peep; she was a fixture around our place all summer. As she grew older, Peep Peep joined me in the garden, muddling in the post-precipitation soil and feasting on slugs, while I was weeding. It was then I realized how helpful these colorful little characters can be in the vegetable patch. 

Ducks relish garden pests

Peep Peep dined on myriad snails hiding beneath the broccoli and cabbage plants, enjoying them like haute cuisine that first year. Since it was practically impossible for me to keep up with the slimy little nuisances, I was grateful for her help.

I later discovered that ducks will eat just about any pest. Grasshoppers, which can decimate a garden in short order during heavy infestation years, are quickly gobbled up when in reach of a hungry duck and so are Japanese beetles, June bugs, grubs and even mice. Ducks will also chase and catch flies, and root their larvae out of fresh manure and decaying vegetables.



For a biological bug zapper, Kim Kimbrell of Cyngbaeld’s Keep Heritage Farms in Thrall, Texas, suggests keeping ducks penned near a garden at night, and hanging a light nearby. Kimbrell says, “Put a pan of water underneath the light, and you will get more bugs.” Having the ducks snack on them is much better than listening to an incessant electrical buzz throughout the evening.

It’s important to keep ducks out of a newly planted garden, or you may end up losing seedlings. Kimbrell says, “They will eat things like lettuce and young corn, and may pull up what they don’t eat.” Plus, they might inadvertently snuggle down on a young plant, so it’s best to keep them segregated until plants are well established.

Corinne
9/21/2010 8:22:16 PM

Having ducks sounds intriguing, and I have a friend that has some and loves them. I have an enclosure that measures 16 x 24 feet that we keep chickens (10 right now but 4 of them are banty's)in it now, and they have a nice 4 by 8 foot house that is 18 inches off of the ground. The house has nest boxes (6 total)at either end too. My question is can I keep ducks with my chickens? and are they okay alone? or maybe 2 hens together (with the chickens)? We have 12 feet of roost space and estimate we have room for 12 chickens which we intend to have in time. Thanks so much for your help ~ Corinne


Kelly_1
4/24/2009 7:25:49 AM

I have had ducks in my backyard for about 2 months now. They are relatively easy to take care of and I can't wait for the eggs! More folks should make them their pets. Almost better than dogs and cats! www.whatupduck.com







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