Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Duck Season! Chicken Season!


We just found out why the salad bed looks like it has had ducks foraging in it. It's because ducks have been foraging in it! They found a way to squeeze through the remesh pea trellis and have their way with the chard and the lettuces. Everything else they leave alone- collards, romanesco, broccoli, kales, onions, mustards, tatsoi, arugula, mizuna, cilantro, cabbages, sugar snap peas.... What a quacking commenced when they realized they'd been found out! It clearly translated to "It wasn't me! I swear!". They were then put back to work on the outside of the drift fence surrounding the 'off limits' bed to gobble up sow bugs, earwigs, slugs and snails.

With the exception of this incursion we have throughly enjoyed this breed of backyard duck. Khaki Campbells seem to be a perfect size for the urban homestead. They are happy with a tub of fresh water to bathe in, a pan of chicken mash and scratch with crushed oyster shell to nibble on and free range of the entire backyard. They put themselves to bed at night in an old dog house outfitted with nest boxes and dry hay for bedding. We lock the dog house door each night for their safety. They are a whole lot less work than the chickens who have to be confined (bunch of teenagers that they are) because they'll trash the place otherwise.

I came out to the yard the other day to find the chickens had been let out. "Oh Great!" I thought, "What have they destroyed now?". I found that my neighbor had enlisted the chickens and the ducks to work the compost into the garden bed he had just amended for winter. The chickens were scratching and the ducks were dabbling. They were just doing what they do naturally.

Even though the days are getting shorter the ducks keep laying their eggs right on schedule. The chicken eggs are petering out slowly. The two Araucanas and the Barred Rock are taking turns slacking off. One day it will be two blue eggs (Araucana) and no brown (Barred Rock ). Then, the next day it will be one brown and no blues. With the abundance of wonderful 'weeds' now growing everywhere we've been able to provide the chickens with lots and lots of greens in addition to their grain and alfalfa hay. The color of their egg yolks has been spectacular lately. A boost in nutrition for all of us. Soon, the neighbors will start bringing snails over and we'll step it up another level. We have a neighborhood e-mail list on which I recently sent out a request for snails. Since we got the ducks we are virtually snail-free. Now, if we can teach them to eat voles and gophers....

Don't get me wrong we love the chickens and their eggs. We're just trying to simplify the system around here.

7 comments:

Weedgardener said...

What a great site!

Couple of questions: Can ducks be shared among households? That is, a week at one household to eat up the snails, then a week at another one to eat their snails while the first household goes on vacation?

Can ducks be left unattended for a few days? or do they need daily "maintenance"?

Urban Homesteaders said...

That's a great urban farming idea. I know that Kevin Bayuk in San Francisco has a gate to the neighbor's yard through which his ducks pass to work next door when needed.

Our neighbors have certainly expressed interest!

The ducks would probably want to return each night to sleep in their usual spot. So, if they could return or be brought home that would be best. If not, they would need to be put away at night where they can be safe from predators wherever they are working. In the urban jungle those predators could be rats, raccoons, dogs, coyotes, etc.

They would need a source of fresh water for drinking and rinsing their eyes and noses. A deep bowl or small plastic tub would do. We use a galvanized bucket changed daily for this purpose. And, they would want something they could swim or at least bathe in to keep their waterproofing up.

For a few days if there are plenty of bugs and greens available they would probably be fine. Longer, and they would need some extra food.

Good luck. Let us know how it goes!

Weedgardener said...

Thanks. I was thinking in terms of whether I could go on vacation and deliver my ducks--along with whatever they sleep in (what do ducks sleep in?)--to another household to "babysit" them--and also use their services. None of my immediate neighbors are interested in gardening.

Angelina said...

Your blog has hit me with a little nostalgia. My husband and I used to live in (and love) Petaluma. We lived on Wallace Ct. in a 1940's stucco house. When we were ready to buy a house we couldn't afford Petaluma and ended up in Santa Rosa which is where we got really interested in urban homesteading. Now we're in McMinnville Oregon.

Anyway, I hope you keep updating your blog, I love what I've read so far! My husband is very interested in getting ducks but our yard isn't safe enough for them yet to let them run around. (Other neighbors dogs can get in with no effort, especially if they smell something as tasty as a duck.)

Meagan said...

I live up in Santa Rosa and have a neighbor with Indian Runners, great little gals and very yummy eggs. After deciding to get some ducks for our quarter acre, I too did my research and think Khaki Campbells would be perfect. I have hit your wonderful blog several times on my net searches... can you tell me what feed store your Campbells came from?

Thank you for this great blog!

Urban Homesteaders said...

We got our girls at Rivertown Feed near the D Street bridge in downtown Petaluma. If you call them they can tell you when the next shipment of Khaki Campbell ducklings will be coming. Be sure to get only girls unless you intend to breed. Rivertown has them sexed so you know what you are getting. They sell out quick so you've got to get there the day they arrive. 707-762-4505.

Good luck!

Genie said...

Just discovered your site while trying to find out how many chickens I could keep in my downtown Petaluma backyard.

I put in a vegetable garden this year when my landlord cut down two large trees in front of the house. Now people walk by and say hello when they see me in the garden -- and stop to chat if they recognize what's growing. After a bountiful summer, the winter garden is now in. I'll be interested to see what comes up.

I share produce with my neighbor who replaced his front lawn with dwarf fruit trees 10 years ago. Last year I put up dozens of jars of applesauce, lums, pears, chutney, and other fruit treats from the bounty of my neighbor and Freecycle friends.

It's great to find like-minded souls in Petaluma town.