Best Bedding for Ducks
Bedding is the material used on the ground inside an animal enclosure. My duck house is fully enclosed from predators, but still in the open air. One entire "wall" section is made from hardware cloth (1/2 inch square wire mesh), so the ground can still get wet inside.
Over the years, I've used several different kinds of bedding, but I haven't had a favorite until now. Here's the rundown:
Unfortunately, they poop pretty much anywhere and then walk over it with their flat feet, spreading it and there goes the clean house. The other beddings work well for chickens because they constantly till the ground. The ducks are the opposite. They flatten everything like a 10-layer cake.
We hosted a some family events over the summer, so the farmette had to look as close to Better Homes & Gardens as possible. I opted to try wood pellets, the same kind you use for a pellet stove or smoker BBQ. I got five bags and was able to spread them evenly. My little quackers were confused. "Is this food?"
Two months later, some of the pellets have broken down. They look like sawdust now. There is still no smell and the pellets miraculously absorb the poop. I try to keep the pellets as dry as possible and that's it! It's a miracle! I think pellets keep the animals happy too, because no one wants to live in a dirty house. It's unsanitary and can make them sick.
When I do my BIG fall clean-up and clean out the garden bed, I'll also put some fresh pellets into the duck house. Don't tell my chickens though; wouldn't want them to get jealous.
With winter in full swing, our runner ducks are happy in the gurgling stream which runs directly through their enclosure and makes me the the laziest (and happiest) of water fowl owners.
My minor obsession with goats has gone full boer (that's a goat joke) and I may or may not be researching electric fencing and secretly hoarding building materials.
The chickens are pecking their way through a variety of the 55+ pumpkins that exploded from the garden over the summer.
So, all's well on the farmette.
Spoiled, Rotten Ducks
My property is only two acres in size, but it has a very unique topography.
It is slightly sloped and has several tiny springs that flow freely in the fall and winter, but dry up in the summer.
This spot, Dirt Lovers, is where I built a home for quite possibly, the world's most spoiled rotten Runner Ducks.
During the summer, the ladies float in an antique pedestal tub (below right) that drains into the pond on the left. They are fully enclosed most of the time, but when I'm gardening the little buggers are allowed to roam freely in the yard to collect slugs and search for watering holes.
They wont run away because they know where they live and where their own watering hole is. If a predator were to chase them, they would scatter. They are very fast, but not faster than a bobcat.
My advice to future Runner Duck owners is to have natural water on your property. This animal is not for the average back yard farm due to the vast amount of water they need and how much water it takes to keep their space clean.
Ducks grab dirt and shake their bills out in the water to capture delicious bugs and greens. The dirt ends up in their water, along with their poop. Dirty animals.
More duck care tips:
So, why have ducks? They're funny!! They quack at us when they're running low on food. They quack at me, and make direct eye contact when their favorite spot is dirty. They're very bossy.
They lay delicious eggs.
And no, I don't eat my ducks.
A Case for Pygmy Goats
Being a blindly optimistic, yet practical person, I've done the goat math to determine that yes, ownership could be possible... barring the fact that farm animals are super not okay in my neighborhood (incessantly barking dogs are welcome, however).
Goat math went a lot like this. If 60 goats can eat through 10 acres in one month, than 10 goats can eat through 1 acre in a year. So, I could, technically get 10. I want 3-4... or maybe three and a Babydoll sheep, or maybe a Juliana Pig.
I did some research and found that the President of the National Pygmy Goat Association is right in my backyard! (Ok, one county over, but close enough.) I went to see her.
I found her house, off a country road. I didn't see any goats. I didn't hear any goats. Was I even in the right place?
She greeted me and we talked. She thinks sheep are dumb. She had dogs, but no chickens or farmy animals. Where were the goats?
The stranger I met on the internet led me to a large barn and slowly slid the door open. Then, I saw heaven.
I tried to play it cool, but I probably failed. I scratched their heads and chins and said hello for as long as I could.
That was almost a year ago and still I don't have goats because I don't have:
So, while I certainly have the space, lots of delicious Himalayan blackberries, supportive neighbors (seriously, I asked them), goats just aren't meant to be... yet.
We lost a mature duck this spring and it was alarming. She was in the enclosure, but we found her in the tub, not alive.
My guess is that as she gained weight over the winter, she was unable to flap from within the tub, to the edge and get out. I think she exhausted herself and drowned. It was very sad.
To remedy the situation, I built a ramp that hooks onto the side of the tub and floats in the water. This way, the ducks can walk out of the tub whether there is water in the tub or not. Sometimes they fly into an empty tub and are unpleasantly surprised.
We decided to get a couple more ducklings, to give the remaining two some friends.
Like with children, you must snuggle with ducks when they're young. For some reason, it's just not as fun when they're in that awkward teen stage and they only worry about what their friends think.
I uploaded a tour of my chicken coop for a friend and while I was outside, I kept filming. So, here we are with four videos of my little farmette.
French Lop Rabbits
Thanks to some wonderful friends, we finally adopted two gigantic rabbits.
Grethe talked me into French Lops, after I had my mind made up about Flemish Giant rabbits.
It's true, I love over-sized, fuzzy animals.
Grethe is a Washington state rabbit breeder, nationally ranked and runs her own business.
We brought one male and female home in a bushel basket.
For babies, they were pretty big.
Now, they're even bigger; about 10 lbs.
The male is pretty grumpy. He hates hugs and head rubs, but loves apples and doing flips in his yard.
I love watching the rabbits do normal, rabbity things, like dig huge burrows (which I promptly bury), chase each other and flop down on top of each other in their yard. They seek shade in the summer and a good cave in the winter.
I got them fixed at the Humane Society. I have a double decker rabbit house, so they had to live separately while each of them healed.
As far as a low maintenance pet with good entertainment value, these rabbits are a solid 8 out of 10. If they were a little more personable, they would be a 10.
A local, public farm was looking for someone to adopt their baby goats. I did a ton of research and decided goats are a superb idea for my acre of blackberries.
Fortunately, the goats were adopted before I was ready to commit. Realistically, I need to build a goat house and clear enough blackberries to build a fence.
The farm will breed their goats again soon, so next time this year (fall 2015) we will have another opportunity to bring some of the little buggers home.
Baby Runner Ducks
Why ducks? Ew! They're messy, high maintenance and they need a pond! That's waaay too much work.
But they're cute and they eat slugs, so why not take baby steps to duck ownership and see how it goes?
I did a LOT of research. Maybe too much.
Then, I dug a pond and it held water... for three days.
I dug another pond but it doesn't cycle enough water with our ground fed spring, so it's a mosquito breeding ground in the making. Next option, kiddie pool, in-ground bathtub... there are options, but the solution must be cute and functional.
At the end of May, I got three little Runner Ducks from the last shipment of the season at The Grange Supply in Issaquah.
I've never tried duck eggs.
After 8 days of duck ownership, I'm becoming unhappy with the smell their wet bedding makes in the garage.
They get daily playtime outside in a pool and they're so fun to watch. We have three baby chicks as well, so the group of six baby birds makes for cheep entertainment.... sorry, had to.
Click here for more pics.
Over-Wintering the Chickens
It was touch-and-go for a couple weeks as our new, Barred Rock Bantams assimilated with the flock. Our Buff Orpingtons had to establish the pecking order. Fortunately, no one lost an eye, but there was some fowl play.
(Sorry, I had to go there : )
Now, a month later, coop life is good. The ladies enjoyed having a heat lamp over their water dish, to prevent ice. They started laying soon after the lamp went in and I'm not complaining. With eight birds, we're getting about 4 eggs per day. It's "warmed up" to the mid forties now, so the heat lamp is gone. I expect the Barred Rocks to begin laying in a month or so.
Today, I did my weekly coop check and noticed that the black and white checkered laminate flooring I have under the roost was tearing. Last summer, when I built the coop, I didn't want to pour a concrete floor, because I know myself. At some point, I may decide to move the entire coop 20 feet to the left. With a concrete floor, that would be difficult. I used laminate because it was cheap, it was easy to clean and it looked cute.
Today, I had to make a quick decision. I pulled up the laminate, grabbed 3 bags of 5/8 gravel I have saved for the water fountain installation and spread it in the coop.
The gravel fell through the hardware cloth, in between the pavers and bricks I used for the coop base. Then, I scraped up all the rocks that didn't fit through the chicken wire, and saved them for future projects.
I laid some new shavings down and welcomed the birds back into their newly renovated space.
Naturally, I used my rubber gloves, rather than my leather work gloves today, so my fingers are protesting.
My fingers, the unsung heros of the chicken coop.
Chickens. Because, why not?