I have been the recipient of 4 soon to be 7 ducks over the past two months. I have a pond that is about 1/4 to 1/3 acre that they are in right now. They are basically ducks people got for their kids at Easter then are getting rid of them. Don't know the breeds but they were all purchased at Tractor Supply. They seem to be thriving up to this point in the pond. They get some fed but not much (former owners come by occasionally to feed them). Since I never planned to have ducks (heck I am still two months out from finishing building my house) I would prefer they naturalize as much as possible and not require too much maintenance. The question is what do I need to provide them other then food and I assume some shelter especially in the winter (I live in Tennessee the winters aren't too harsh) . I love animals but I also don't want to build a system that requires too much of my time. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Congrats on your farm animal acquisitions! Ducks are great. They are way more low maintence than other farm beasts. Ducks love the water so its great you have that pond. As they are farm ducks and not wild ducks they probably wont fly. Most tractor supply ducks are khaki cambell which were bred to lay eggs. For most of the year a duck will lay 5 out of 7 days and they will molt for a few months. Ducks lay eggs generally before 9 am.
I recommend creating a predator proof pen for night time sleeping. It might take them a few days to get the routine down to go in the pen, but they will figure it out - especially if you offer food. Most of the ducks we have ever lost have been to predators in the night. As these ducks are typically heavier than wild ducks they have trouble escaping predators. Thus the term sitting duck.
Aside from predator proofing, they need clean water all day long to wash their bills. If you find you arent getting many eggs, try increasing the feed. It takes energy to make eggs - no energy no eggs. During the summer they will need far less than in the winter.
Ducks develop habits and like to have a routine. After a few days of the same thing they will get used to it and do whatever it is as a group.
Ducks are omnivores and eat almost anything. They get our kitchen scraps as well as leaving all garden cuttings for them. Chicken feed works just fine. Sunflower seeds. They love bugs. Great foragers!
Just what I was looking for... The pond used t be for Cattle but I have kept them out this year and the banks have grow up with waist high grass which has given them good cover so far. As I said I am in the middle of building a house, selling my existing house so I am a bit strapped for time. I was going to wait till late summer or fall to build anything for them. The only other thing that bothers me are the turtles in my pond. I discovered them this year. Can't tell what type buy I heard they will go after ducks. I would prefer they coexist. Any suggestions there? Long term i want to add aeration and fish but heck my hands are full and I need to prioritize short term. Thanks again.
One thing you'll probably want is some sort of calcium supplement--such as crushed egg shells and/or oyster shell. Without enough calcium, the ducks will have thin--or even no--shells.
To make sure the ducks go home at night, you can feed them in their house for a few weeks. Sing a song or say a specific phrase every time you feed them, and they should come home. Keep them in there until 9:00am, and all their eggs should be in the house--rather than scattered about your yard and hidden in bushes.
If you do feed the ducks in their house, they'll need water in there. Put a pail of water in there, rather than a tray or poo. The pail will allow them to get a drink that cleans their nostrils, and they won't make nearly as much of a mess as something they can bathe in.
I do suggest that, after you've trained them to go home at night, you then feed them in the evening an hour or two before they go in their house. That'll make for less poop in there, as well as less feed that the rats/mice might decide is tasty. Also, if they don't have feed in their house, they don't need water, and so their bedding is much drier and easier to maintain.
I do the "deep litter method" in my duck house. Basically, I put down a few inches deep of pine shavings. Every other day or so, I turn the bedding with a pitchfork so it doesn't become anerobic. When I don't turn it, I just sprinkle some fresh bedding on poopy areas. If I feed the ducks earlier in the evening, the bedding is much cleaner and can go more days before I have to turn it/add new bedding.
I would let them out at 9:00am, let them range all day until you feed them later in the day (if they are fed earlier, they might laze about and not forage). My ducks only take me 20 minutes per day--more like 10 if I don't have to fill up water pails.