ducks or maybe chickens...........

Discussion in 'Breeding, Raising, Feeding and Caring for Animals' started by macey, Feb 24, 2011.

  1. macey

    macey Junior Member

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    Ducks or Chooks in a food forest............. Discuss!!
    (i'm really after some opinions and rationales I'm not just being a smart arse lol)
    regards
    Macey
     
  2. sun burn

    sun burn Junior Member

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    No its a very good question.

    I"ve got both though i don't have a food forest as yet so there is a degree of guesswork in my answer but mostly based on experience with them.

    In short between ducks and chickens, i'd suggest chickens would be better. You are probably going to have to feed them extra anyway i think and chickens eat about half as much as ducks so they will be cheaper to feed.

    They will both make messes in your garden that you'd rather they didn't. The chooks will scratch about and dig up plants and move all your mulch. The ducks will eat things you'd rather they didn't and flatfootedly eventually kill a lot of stuff. Although my chickens and ducks are free to range over one hectare of land, the ducks have created quite a bare patch around where the hen house is. I've probably made them lazier than necessary by feeding them too much or at the wrong times and so they do a lot of sitting around but they also seem to have weeded or trodden this patch bare and it seems to be growing. I think the chickens wander about much more and work much harder at foraging than the ducks do. Both of them will eat insects. The ducks love to hunt insects especially the little ones.

    I think chickens are nicer creatures to have around when there are no roosters so you might take that into consideration. They seem more calm and the whole place is less noisy. Male ducks are quite nice and certainly not noisy. Roosters are beautiful but not exactly nice. If i were you and keeping a rooster, I'd keep it quite separate from the free ranging hens except when you want them to breed. Although you can't have them living on their own as they would be lonely so perhaps you could work out some rotation program for them all. Better not to have any i think. Just borrow one if you want some babies.

    Whatever you have, it is best to keep them locked up at night.

    If you have ducks, it IS a good idea to have a nice bath for them. I think its a completely bad idea to deprive them of a bathing bath with daily fresh water.


    All that said, you can have both. But have more chickens and probably only about 5 ducks. The whole duck egg thing is tricky to manage i have found. I think chickens are easier in this regard. Ducks are fairly nervous creatures but lovely.

    I feed mine twice a day but i'm wondering if it would be better to feed them only once a day to get the ducks to forage more so i can feed them less bought food. I might ask what other people do in a new post.
     
  3. sun burn

    sun burn Junior Member

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    What's your chicken and/or duck feeding routine?

    I'm most interested in those who free range their chickens and ducks so can you note what you do in your thread if you reply?

    What time of day do you feed your birds? (Please be more explicit than morning and afternoon as that is not particularly informative.)
    When do you lock them up in their hen house?
    Do you feed them once or twice a day?
    How regular are you about it?


    What sort of behaviours do you birds exhibit in relation to your feeding regime?

    I am wondering if i am doing the best thing or am i making extra work for myself or making it worse for myself in some other way?
     
  4. macey

    macey Junior Member

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    I don't free range my chooks sun burn, i only have a small flock, working a small rotation system with 10m/sq beds....they currently put themselves away right on dusk and I head out and pull up the door to their coop (which is attached to a rope that i can pull up and tie off) at any time after that.
    This small flock may well end up free ranging in the food forest 3 months at a time unless I use them on a second rotation.
    I only feed them if they clear the whole bed prior to 2 weeks but having learnt my lesson no longer let them have grain......as i have 1 whole bed of green manure that should be annual vege's lol.
    I was thinking of ducks n the garden as I thought they may be less destructive??
     
  5. sun burn

    sun burn Junior Member

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    Can you explain that all again. Its not too clear to me what you are doing exactly?

    What are you feeding them? What is grwoing in the beds? If you wanted to tell someone how to set up your system, what are you instructions.

    Also if you are not feeding them grain, how do you go for eggs? Do you get an egg a day of each?
     
  6. macey

    macey Junior Member

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    Sorry sun burn..........
    The rotation is set up in much the same way as a mandala garden system with the chickens moving over a bed and staying there for 2 weeks before moving onto the next. The only difference is that I am using traditional long narrow raised beds and moving the 6 chickens along in a coop and then erecting a temporary fence around the bed using star pickets and chicken wire, with a bird netting rood draped over irrigation tubing which is fed through the wire to create a poly tunnel like shape. (clear as mud eh?)

    For example the chickens went onto bed 2 on 21st Jan and stayed there until the 3rd feb, during the first week they cleared up what was left on the bed after most stuff had been harvested but this included various legumes, tomato plants, parsley, what was left of the sweet corn some lettuce and silver beet and a few weeds which had crept in there as well as whatever they turned up foraging.
    They had mostly cleared this by the end of the first week so at that point I started throwing them approximately 1 handful of 'feed' when I let them out in the morning, which could be any time depending on when I arose lol. If they looked like they needed it or if they seemed to be going off the lay I chuck another handful each in an hour or so before they roost for the night....As I said they put themselves away bang on dusk.
    I have a drawbridge like assembly on the coop which is about 5 foot high stood on legs that straddle the vegetable bed so that the chooks can get underneath it to scratch and manure the whole bed, I let the drawbridge down in the morning and pull it up any time after dusk, the coop has an access door on the back so that I can get in for eggs without needing to climb into the bed and they mostly lay in the coop.
    I have gone over to layers pellets rather than grain due to the accidental green manure crop I have on 1 bed and find that I normaly get 1 egg a day off each chook!
    hope this clears up what I meant above?
    PS if anyone has any more suggestions regarding whether chickens or ducks are a better proposition in a food forest please let me know!!!
     
  7. sun burn

    sun burn Junior Member

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    Perhaps people don't have anything further to add. I am sure they would have if they've seen your thread.

    So you've currently got this rotation tractor system as per Linda Woodrow (which i now understand thanks for the expl.) and do you want to continue to use this in your "food forest" I can't reallly see how it will work in a proper food forest.

    Sorry if I'm not really getting it. But if i had a food forest, I'd continue pretty much as i am. I'd have chickens and ducks and just try to get them back in their coop of an evening. But if i had to choose between chickens and ducks, I'd say chooks might be easier to manage. They are more inclined to lay their eggs in the coop boxes whereas my ducks prefer to lay outside. They always get broody at the end of the laying set and i have to do a bit of battle with them to get them to stop trying to stay on the nest. But i do love my ducks other than that.
     
  8. purplepear

    purplepear Junior Member

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    Why not both to greater and lesser degrees macey.
    Chooks can be quite destructive but do plenty by way of insect elimination, manuring and weed control. Times will vary from one set up to another but something like two day a week - let the chickens into the food forest or divide it into sections and give the chooks a go in each. Ducks are great for other critters like snail and slugs and are more gentle than chickens. Depends again on the set-up but a couple of ducks full time in the food forest would be ideal.

    If you really can have just one I would go for ducks but don't ask me why - just call it intuition.
     
  9. macey

    macey Junior Member

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    Thanks Mark......No reason I can't have both, I could definitely have some full time ducks in there. The 6 chickens I have working currently will need to go somewhere for 3 months if I don't get round to making a further 6 beds for them to go over, so I was considering them in the FF. In the short term I'll probably use them to clear some areas of grass in the current orchard (slowly turning into food forest) area in order to be able to plant and mulch.
    sun burn i was thinking of allowing the chooks to free range in the FF when they weren't in the tractor rotation, i'd just move the tractor into the FF and let them free range during the day, because they are used to roosting and laying in the coop I assume they will still tend to return to it for these activities even if they have access to a free range area.
    The 6 chooks I am using now may not be needed in a rotation soon, as I am planning a new larger tractor system that will probably call for a new larger flock rather than trying to add to the current one, with all the fights that leads to. So they may well end up permanently in the FF anyway.

    My PS in my earlier post was in hope that I may get some pros vs cons and explanation of the habits of the 2 different birds in a food forest environment as Mark has done.
    I was not sure whether chooks would eat too much of the lower growing plants and berries that I would incorporate into the system or even decimate the herbs etc.?

    Being as the thread had gone somewhat off topic straight off the bat ..... thought I'd try again with the question ;)
     
  10. purplepear

    purplepear Junior Member

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    Herb decimation will occur if the chooks are confined to a small area and in parts of a large area. In a say half acre FF six chooks may do minimal damage. We have six chooks free ranging daily in a nut grove of about a half acre and the damage they do overall is slight but in areas they choose to dust bath or such are denuded. So if you can abide some pockets of devastation then go for it and yes they will continue to roost in familar housing after free ranging - especially if they get a bit of scratch grain in the evening within the housing.
     
  11. purplepear

    purplepear Junior Member

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    A bit of netting will protect sensitive areas within the food forest while the chooks are in there.
     
  12. sun burn

    sun burn Junior Member

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    I believe i also responded with their habits in mind. I don't think ducks are less destructive than chickens particularly. They eat more plants than chickens i think. the thing is it all comes down to how much room you give per bird and how hungry they are. If you are feeding them grain they may not eat so many of your plants. If they have to survive on what they find in the ff the more destructive they will be and that goes for both. When i first got my ducks they ate the pumpkin leaves. They have destroyed a number of other plants and I had to dig them up and bring them back to life and leaf in a sectioned off area. And i thought i was feeding them enough pellets. And not to mention who their big feet have tramped down a large area so that nothing is growing there now where as before it was full of weeds and grass. I think you should try both and let us know how you get on. Chooks make such trouble because they dig for worms and grubs. Ducks dig where there are puddles. Dig with their beaks that is. If you don't " over stock" the ff might handle it ok. I think the ducks will eat any succulent low growing thing. I had to section off my bananas as they were eating all the leaves.

    Or you could try an alternative like guinea fowl who eat grass.


    Maybe what you could do to minimise damage is to have an area of just nice mulch for your chickens. Then when they dig it all up, they won't be ruining anything.
     
  13. macey

    macey Junior Member

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    thanks sun burn, thats really helpful...... over stocking wold be easy to do, I'm only talking about a total of maybe 450 - 550 sq/m
    Guinea fowl eh? thats got me thinking!
     
  14. pippimac

    pippimac Junior Member

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    I'm pretty sure guineas are insectivores, which makes them more desirable, in my opinion!
     
  15. sun burn

    sun burn Junior Member

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    I"ve just a found a local guy who i can buy guinea fowl from. Someone told me they may tend to wander down the road from their home in search of food so again, you may need to take measures to keep them faithful to your patch. I won't be testing all this out till later in the year as we decided that because I am going away leaving dad in charge, it might not be the best thing. They guy recommended locking up my new birds birds up for the first week at nights at the very least so they know where home is. It will be tricky to keep them from eating the ducks and chickens food, as it means keeping them away when i am feeding the them. I might have to provide another house for them.

    This guy has let all his birds live out freely and he noticed that the snakes got many of the babies so now they keep the babies locked up at nights. It has stuck in my mind how he calls the babies golf balls.
     
  16. sun burn

    sun burn Junior Member

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  17. SueUSA

    SueUSA Junior Member

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    If you go with guineas, absolutely DO NOT raise them near the house!

    I loitered in the local feed store while listening to a woman describing her disaster with raising a batch of guinea keets on her back porch. Apparently, they quickly learned to associate people and the house with food. They might be a hundred meters away in the field, but at least one of them would be 'on duty' watching the house. When they saw someone come out, or just pass a window, the cry would go up and they would instantly converge on the porch. They found it a nuisance to have the birds underfoot all the time, and guests found it truly unnerving to have the horde of screeching birds aiming for them.

    The single benefit was that they also took aim at the local Mormon and Jehovah's Witness 'missionaries' that periodically came through the neighborhood, which was fun to watch.

    Sue
     
  18. macey

    macey Junior Member

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    Thanks for the link sun burn!
    I didn't realize Linda Woodrow had that site.....
    I think I get what she's doing with that system but I don't think it would fit my planned system. Have to say she's quite ingenious in her response to challenges!

    Sue, thank you for your input as well,
    I have been moving away from the Guinea Fowl idea, they seem to be too noisy to keep me in favour with my neighbours and their flightiness makes me nervous (lots of dogs, cats and foxes around here, at least chickens won't fly over my 6 foot fence around the planned FF area and into the neighbouring blocks).
     

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