In the latest issue of ‘RIPPLES- a revolutionary journal of seasonal delight’ published by Daily Acts (www.dailyacts.org) our backyard duck Dabbles is described as a “slug-eating Permaculture pet extraordinaire”. Bill Mollison once said something like, “You don’t have a snail problem. You have a dearth of ducks”. Well, he’s certainly correct. Our neighbors are now bringing us their snails and asking if they can borrow our ducks for a day. Even the kids at the local elementary school garden collect snails for us. It’s a family event to come through our back gate and feed the ducks what they’ve gathered.
We”ve learned a bit since we invited Dabbles and his mate Dee Dee into our backyard. We had not done any research on which duck breeds are best suited to backyard life and more importantly who lays the most eggs. We are an urban homestead so we have to stack functions as much as possible. The ducks eat slugs and snails, fertilize the garden, entertain us, and lay eggs! What could be better?
It was all going great until Spring rolled around and our male Pekin (Dabbles) started feeling his oats. The ducks and the chicken were all peacefully coexisting until about March. Then, what we humans saw as charming- “Oh, look! He follows us around the yard!” turned into “Hey, stop chasing me around the yard!”. And, “Oh look, he really likes the chicken.” turned into “Get off the chicken and stop pulling out her feathers!”. Lessons learned: Pekins are really big, bred for meat, just o.k. egg layers, and male ducks in general can really be a pain especially if you have other poultry around. If you don’t care about eggs and you just want a pair of pet ducks Pekins are great. They are charming, beautiful and will eat all of the slugs and snails they can find. They look really good in the garden too. They just weren’t the right choice for us. So, Dabbles and his mate Dee Dee now live on a farm near here with a two acre pond and lots of other duck friends. It was not an easy choice for us but we have to utilize every inch of this place so there was no room to house a renegade duck and his girlfriend. Dabbles really liked his purple turtle kiddy pool but I’m thinking he’ll like the pond even better.
We’ve done our research and learned that Khaki Campbells and Indian Runners are the best egg layers and well suited to backyard life. Enter Ping and Pong our female Khaki Campbell ducklings. They arrived last week at the local feed store and have moved right into our hearts. We also added three chicken chicks to our flock. Two Americaunas and a Barred Rock. We had a close call with the resident Scrub Jays (who find chicks tasty) but everyone is doing fine.