Thursday, March 6, 2014

Building Unity Farm - The Ducks

As the weather begins to improve (we’ve even had an afternoon above freezing - wahoo!), the ducks are beginning to wander farther from their duck house.   This week, they discovered the rain cistern that collects runoff from our farmhouse roof.

For hours, they’ll bathe, preen, and drink their fill of the circulating rainwater.  They’re very social and tend to travel in groups.  They’re calm and have learned to recognize us as helpful rather than threatening.

We have 10 ducks at the moment -
2 Chocolate Indian Runner ducks
2 Fawn Indian Runner ducks
2 Welsh Harlequin ducks
2 Swedish Blue ducks
2 Rouen ducks

They spend the day wandering the farm yard, finding insects in the compost pile, eating the tender sprouts of any greens they can find, and playing in puddles.   As dusk approaches, we walk near them and they know it’s time to return to their duck house, a 4x8 building with food, wind protected warmth, and hay bedding.   We keep their water sources outside the duck house to reduce the mess.   Ducks can turn any pasture into mud.

They have a heated 50 gallon stock pond and a 5 gallon waterer in the 14x10 foot pen built around the duck house, caged on 5 sides to prevent predators from reaching the ducks at night.    A duck house with 3 square feet per duck seems about the right density.

Our large pond is about 50 feet from the duck house and the surface is still covered with ice and snow.  It’s 6 feet deep so water is still circulating but the ducks cannot reach it.   We’re confident that with the arrival of Spring, the ducks are going to be spending all day in the large pond.

Each member of our poultry family - the chickens, the guinea fowl, and the ducks show mutual respect for each other.   All the species wander into each other’s spaces, huddle together for warmth, and get along.    About the only difference is that the ducks do not roost for the evening - they prefer an outdoor space to an indoor space and only seek the warmth of the duck house during snow and wind.    Rain is prime duck weather.

Duck care is easy - refill their water sources, provide them fresh greens (we make “duck soup” with lettuce, peas, and spinach in water), and fill their multi-flock crumble containers.   As a treat we feed them mealworms and scratch grains.  

At the moment, our 29 guinea fowl, 10 ducks, and 11 chickens - 50 birds in total, seems like an ideal number for our property.    All are disease free, uncrowded, and follow a highly predictable routine.   Unity farm has poultry living in unity.

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