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Duckweed

 
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Ok I admit it, I'm a crazy person.  I can't seem to stop myself from constantly starting new projects. My to do list only seems to get long, not because I never finish anything, but as I'm working on one I'm thinking of others.  
This morning I'm harvesting my worm castings, and setting up the worm bin, and thinking about the black soldier fly bin that's built, and needs to be set up.  I went in to rewatch the post to remember the layers for the bin, end up watching a bunch of videos on duckweed. I picked up some when I was in town.  Now I will start it in a bucket, but need to dig out a space in the coop for the pool.  Not to mention setting up the BSF bin, I want to build a raised bed for Swiss Chard, and... Yep I'm a crazy person.
Anyway I always value input from all of you.  I put some compost in two 5 gallon buckets, and filled it with well water.  One bucket will go in the sun, one on the edge of the walnut tree where it will get dappled sun light.  I know it's supposed to be in full sun, but it's so hot this time of year I think it may burn it.  This is the plan for today.   I have a plastic kiddy pool. I plan to dig out a corner in the chicken yard deep enough so the top of the pool is ground level.  I will put some compost and water in the pool and add the duckweed.  I will fence around the pool, so the chickens can stick their head in to eat the duckweed, but they won't have access to the hole pool.
I don't know if the chickens will eat to much for it to keep growing, will I need to keep adding water because they are drinking it, will I need to add something to the pool if I do?  So many variables, to so many questions.  The cool thing is it's cheap, so if I totally mess it up, I can try again.
 
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I have a tiny pond with a few goldfish. If I bring home some snails from a larger pond, and a ton of duckweed, it is gone in a few days. Fish or somebody can't get enough. I want more duckweed. Meanwhile, the local greenhouse we buy from has an inside pond, and they look at us funny when we say "can we take a bunch of duckweed?" Yep, duckweed is a nuisance to them, and candy to my fish.

No idea about chickens and duckweed, but chickens know what they like and are smarter than we think.
 
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My chickens have never been interested in duckweed - but my ducks hoover it, so it isn't something I'm doing wrong. It will be interesting to see if your girls like it, as it is supposed to be quite nutritional. It may partly depend on what other options they have for greens.

However, I admit there was an ornamental pond here when we bought the land, and it's no where near where the ducks are, so I have to carry it to them every couple of days. At least that way, I can control how much is left behind.
 
Jen Fulkerson
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I was told a the pet store 1.99 per bag.  When I told the guy I wanted two bags he was surprised and asked what I was going to do with it.  I told him I wanted to grow it to feed my chickens he seemed to think that was cool.  He said how about if I give you a big bag for 2.99, I said that would be great, and thanked him.  When he gave me the bag to be honest I was disappointed, it didn't look like very much.  Well it's obvious I don't know anything about duckweed,   I split it between two buckets, and the top was pretty much covered on both. I did a third bucket.  I hope there's enough room for it to grow.  Once I spread it out there's quite a lot.  Now I hope it grows. I've had plants before that I was told it's super easy to grow, hard to kill, I couldn't keep alive.  Wish me luck.
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Jen Fulkerson
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That would be my luck to do the work, and then the don't even like it.  Oh well if it grows, and they don't like it there's always the garden, worm bin and compost.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Wait, what, you paid for duckweed? With cash money?

Your chooks better pretend they like it, even if they don't.
 
Jen Fulkerson
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Ha ha I read pet stores give it away, but not here. Welcome to California where they even change for weeds.
 
Jay Angler
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Jen Fulkerson wrote: That would be my luck to do the work, and then the don't even like it.  Oh well if it grows, and they don't like it there's always the garden, worm bin and compost.

It would just be a good excuse to get a couple of ducks! I will try and check to see if my two youngest goslings are eating it. They're still being supervised by a couple of Muscovy, so it could be the Muscovy that ate the pile I put in yesterday.
 
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Duckweed seems like seriously awesome stuff, especially if you're going with ducks instead of chickens as your poultry of choice. You can also dig it straight into garden beds as a soil amendment or add it to compost piles.

Lemna Minor - Wikipedia
It grows extremely rapidly - they say it can double in mass in 24 hours. 73 tonnes/ha/year dry mass is cited in the article above in ideal conditions. There's even mention of a trial growing it in north carolina on diluted swine lagoon fluid at over 100 tonnes/ha/year which is downright astounding. As far as I know the best you can do on land is giant miscanthus at 40ish tonnes/ha/year, so duckweed is over twice as productive per unit area.

Duckweed Aquaculture Tutorial - Vegetronix
It's also quite high in protein. 20-40%, comparable to soy. Can apparently replace soy in duck diets, which I guess isn't surprising considering it's their biggest plant food source in the wild. You can dry it down and store it for winter feed too. Poopy duck water (which ducks produce in seemingly limitless abundance) would seem like an ideal medium on which to grow it too.

Jen Fulkerson wrote:Ok I admit it, I'm a crazy person.

You're not alone there! This lady here seems like an ultra-enthusiast about duckweed, complete with trips all over the world to study it and find unique strains. She's even got a post a bit down the page about feeding duckweed to black solider flies. Seems like a winning biomass combo - you'd have the ridiculous plant productivity of duckweed helping feed the ridiculous animal productivity of BSF and ducks will happily munch both of them like they're candy!
 
Jen Fulkerson
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Hay thanks for all the great replies.
I don't want ducks. I could have gotten a couple free, and didn't do it.  We don't eat our birds, just can't do it. So in my mind ducks are cute, but messy and no real value for our family.
I got my little pool in. Added some duckweed. I have already seen some of the chickens eat it. Unfortunately they were also drinking the water, no way to get around it. Why would they want to drink fresh water I change every day when they can drink gross pond water???  I guess if I can figure out the balance, the duckweed should clean the water.
It was a quick easy and cheap project, my favorite kind. I'm already thinking of getting a couple of gold fish.  I know the chickens will kick the wood chips and soil into the pool, but I don't know if that will provide enough nutrition to sustain the duckweed. I read if I give some cover, if there's enough duckweed creating oxygen, a couple of goldfish will do fine.  It said they can live off the plants and mosquito larvae.  Worst case scenario the fish die, I feed them to the chickens. Best case scenario it creates a little life cycle where the duckweed provides oxygen, and food, and keeps growing, fish are happy creating fertilizer for the duckweed, chickens enjoy the duckweed giving them a nutritious food source, and something to do.  Maybe a little extra for the garden.  All I would have to buy is the fish, and a few other kinds of plans.  I need to do more research, and give the pool time to be more pond like, but it sounds good to me.
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Day 2
Day 2
 
Jen Fulkerson
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I have an interesting little experiment I didn't know I was conducting.  When I got the duckweed I put some in 3 buckets. Since I didn't know what I was doing, I put different things in the bucket.  1 bucket got organic fertilizer, like bone and blood meal, 5-5-5, and some biolive. It gets sun all day with some shade in late afternoon.  2 bucket got about a half of a shovel full of soil from the chicken coop ( composted wood chips and chicken manure) Sun all day. 3 was the compost, but it was put into the pool in the coop with the wood chips and soil the chickens kick into it. Probably get the least amount of sun, but still 6? Hours.
1 is disgusting.  It. Has a slime on the surface, doesn't look like the duckweed is growing, and when I added more water today, it had a nasty smell.
2 is growing like the weed it is.  The water level was down a lot, but other than that it's great.
3 pool.  Looks good. Considering everything that's been kicked in it it's pretty clear.  I did add another water plant (don't know what, just something I got at the pet store the guy said could handle my conditions.  Not a lot of duckweed. I have a feeling it's because the chickens are eating it faster than it grows, but not sure.
I think it's interesting the natural free Stuff I dug out of the ground is making it grow, and the store bought stuff is creating a sludge.

This project is evolving.  I've been researching adding gold fish .  It seemed like the solution. Fish eat mosquito larvae and algae, there waist feeds the duckweed, a self sustaining system.  The problem is I understand my pond will need to have a section that is 3' deep to keep from over heating in the summer and being to cold in the winter.  Now I'm thinking about digging a simple pond. Honestly the only thing holding me back is the liner.  If it was anywhere else I might get away with no liner, but once upon a time this area was a corral.  There's lots of rocks.(not found in our native soil, which is almost rock free.) So I will have to dig it, put sand down then a liner, and they aren't cheap.  I want to do it, but don't know if I can justify the cost.  
I just thought the difference in the buckets was interesting.  It makes me think permaculture. Use what nature gives you, and life strives.
 
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Hey! I know this thread is a few months old but I was learning about aquaponics the other day and that led me to duckweed. I don't have a lot of time and am mostly vegetarian, and don't have chickens, so got interested in growing duckweed to eat myself. Has anyone done this? Some varieties of duckweed seem like a nutritional dream, especially for vegetarians.
 
Jay Angler
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Nick Boutros wrote:Has anyone done this? Some varieties of duckweed seem like a nutritional dream, especially for vegetarians.

This thread,
https://pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Lemna+minor
suggests that the flavor isn't great, but variety may matter. My concern is that it's really small and mats together, so I would want to be very careful about how you were growing it to be sure you didn't end up with anything nasty. I have ducks, so I only get it second hand from the eggs. Thus I've never tried washing and cooking it. I have grown it just in 1/2 barrels and despite not adding any sort of "fertilizer", it just keep growing. That might not be the case if I were to harvest it aggressively.
 
Jen Fulkerson
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I'm afraid the pond in the chicken yard is no longer. I still think it's a good idea, but when I researched fish I realized the kiddy pool isn't deep enough in our hot weather.  So I removed the pool so I wasn't breeding mosquitoes.  I bought a small pond liner ( ordered it from Amazon, it's very thin, sad face). I got a solar aerator.  I'm going to install a small pond with a deep covered corner.  It  will be small, and I will still block most of it with the fence. But at least it should be able to maintain a few fish through the hot summer, and cold winter.  I just felt the pond needed fish to complete the micro ecosystem. I might be totally wrong, but that is what I'm going with.
I thought about putting the pond somewhere else so I could enjoy it more. Then I decided to stick to the plan. The idea was to have a natural feed and entertainment for the chickens. Also since it's very simple and small scale it will allow me to decide if I will like it, if it is more work for me and so on.  If I really like it then maybe I will put in a little larger one for my family and I to enjoy.
I still have some duckweed in a couple of buckets. Is not very much, but at least some of it made it through the winter. I know winter isn't technically over, but I doubt we will see anymore frost.
 
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