Wednesday, 26 June 2013

And so there were ducks!

Living here in Spain, for 5 years now (wow time does fly.) We have never once seen duck eggs for sale. Finding a duck here in the supermarket is hard going too. We both love duck meat and so the natural progression from chickens to turkeys! to ducks just happened in early April of this year.
We haven't had the ducks long enough for me to say we are massively knowledgeable about duck husbandry but I just wanted to give you a run down of our journey so far!

In March 2013 we decide to build a duck pond. We knew that we wanted to keep ducks for meat and eggs, for our own consumption. We had also read that all ducks (except the Muscovy) need water to breed. Since we wanted them for meat, we obviously want them to produce babies and building a duck pond was the initial step. We spent a couple of days planning the pond, using what we had available, and then started work.

The shepherd had given us a water container and we decided to use this cut in half to make a basic pond. We decided on 2 levels with a little water fall connecting the two halves. We would install a solar pump to enable the water to be moved from the bottom tank to the top tank and so stop the water going stagnant.

 The water container
 Cut in half
 Digging the hole for the container
 First one in place
 Placing rocks around it
 Second half...we wanted this higher than the first
 second half sunk
Building the rocks up around the outside.

In 3 days we had the basis for our pond. We just needed to build in the water fall to connect the two containers and install the pump.
A week later the little garden center shop in the local village had some ducklings in. Kev went down to get some chicken feed and came back with 4 ducklings! So now we had to make them a house and fast!

The outside of the water container was metal. We decided to use this as the duck house. A problem with it was it had a big hole in the top and would let the rain in.  We set about trying to fix this problem as this container would make a perfect size duck house.

 We used a water butt lid
Put a pallet on top with this plastic cover

We then had to think about a run for them until they got used to where their new home would be. We took the end off of the rabbit run and pushed it up to the opening. The ducklings had their own water bowl and more importantly the chickens couldn't get to their food.

The ducklings settled in well and within 2 or 3 weeks had grown and changed. We could see after a few days they were putting themselves to bed, so after a week we started to let them out on the land during the day and putting them back in their pen at feeding time.

After about 4 weeks we started to feed them with the chickens. They were now out foraging all day and going back to their house at night. We had the pond almost finished but we need to source a solar pump to enable the water to be moved from one side to the other. The ducks use the pond and love it but we didn't realize how messy they were. They poop every where. So the pond water is now very green and dirty but they still seem to love it.

The ducks grew very fast and soon were as big as the chickens, although they were still wary of them and would move it a chicken came up to investigate. 
We wanted the ducks to be a wild as we could keep them and this is what has happened. We have not tried to pet them and they will move if we go to close to them but at feeding time they will allow us to touch them so we can check on their health. We wanted them wild as I had read that when they get to maturity if they see you as one of the flock they will become aggressive, asserting dominance over you. 

About a month ago a friend rang saying he had 2 ducks that were so noisy he didn't want them anymore, did we want them? So we gained another 2 ducks and then there were 6!
These 2 ducks were very, very wary of us in the beginning. They wouldn't even come at feeding time. After about 3 days they began to understand the routine and were in there with the others at feeding time.

We had real problems with the feeding, ensuring all the animals got their fair share. The chickens are boss and will chase off the ducks if they think they have something the chickens don't. We had to separate them at feeding times to make sure the ducks got their food. Kev built another make shift feeder from drain pipe and flooring sheets. It is fantastic and within 2 days the ducks knew which feeder was theirs. Unfortunately the chickens are not so accommodating!

Even now we have to stand guard at feeding times to fight off the chickens and allow the ducks to eat in peace.
These are the six ducks today, having a rest after their breakfast. They normally stick together, safety in numbers and all that. They seem very happy and we have even set them to work in the garden clearing out the millions of snails this year. They love snails and relished the challenge we set them.  We are hoping next year that they will start laying and raise some ducklings so that duck will be added to the menu in our house.