Congratulations on becoming a duck parent, let's panic...and prepare together 🧡🧡
There is nothing like officially clicking the “Complete Order” button on whichever duck hatchery website (or in store, if you’re into that) that makes you feel more that you have taken on the heavy responsibility of being the person that your new batch of ducklings will be depending on for food and shelter.
With the dedication of being as sustainable etched deep into your bones, you might have decided to raise ducks for a number of reasons. There is the benefit of having your own pest management crew who actually enjoys ridding your food forest or edible landscape of evil slugs and other pesky creatures that might be nibbling on your greens or raspberries before you have the chance to harvest.
There is also the benefit of having high nitrogen poop machines running around and fertilizing your edible landscape so that you can finally stop worrying about how your persimmon trees are going to get enough nutrition to give you the fruit you’ve been waiting for for what seems to be a century.
Perhaps you have finally dug that pond you always wanted and looked for the most affordable way to naturally seal that pond. No pond liners or concrete for you.
All of these are good. Ducks can handle them all. But how do we handle the ducks?
How To Feed Your Indian Runner Ducks Using Your Edible Landscape or Food Forest
Well, your quack crew is not going to work for free. You’ve got to keep them fed somehow. Unfortunately, your Indian Runner Ducks cannot survive on slugs and bugs alone. You’ll find this out very quickly when certain plants begin mysteriously disappearing.
But not to worry, here are some excellent ideas that are also very cost effective and self-sustaining to get you started on growing the very best organic food for your permaculture ducks.
Stocking the Pond With Edible Plants for Ducks
Duckweed & Giant Duckweed
Duckweed and its somewhat larger friend, Giant Duckweed are both easy to grow and are, in fact, considered an invasive nuisance to many ponds and aquarium keepers. Luckily for you, this means that you will have no problem growing it to keep a steady supply at the ready for your Indian Runner Ducks. On the flip side, if left to its own devices, duckweed and giant duckweed will certainly cover the surface of a pond, turning it green on top. This makes it far more difficult for any submerged plants you may be growing under the water’s surface to get the appropriate amount of light and nutrition.
Though your ducks will play a role in keeping duckweed at bay by eating it, there is still a chance that the duckweed will grow faster than the ducks can/will consume it.
Eelgrass aka Vallisneria aka Jungle Val
Easy to grow and fast-spreading, Vallisneria has a sturdy root structure but will need some time to really put its roots down firmly to get properly established before you let the ducks in for a bite.
Since Vallisneria grows submerged in pond-like settings, once it is established, there will be little for you to do in terms of maintenance, making this a must-have plant to add greens and variety to your Indian Runner Ducks’ daily diet.
Jungle Val is also a very inexpensive plant, for $20, you can get about 10 plants to get started in a pond or bucket for your ducks, or, you can go hunting at a local pond, river, or stream to harvest Vallisneria for your edible landscape.
How To Prevent Indian Runner Ducklings From Choking On Their Food
Running the food through a blender with a bit of water and then adding it to a dish can chop up any food that may be too large for your Indian Runner Ducklings into an easily digested duck smoothie.
You can also make a large batch of this liquid feed and store in the fridge for multiple feedings.
Protecting Your Indian Runner Ducks From Predators
As Indian Runner Ducks are certainly not large, topping out at 5 pounds for most adult ducks, they are ill-prepared to defend themselves against neighborhood cats, stray dogs, rabid raccoons, or sinister hawks. It will come to you as the duck parent to create a zone of safety for your Indian Runner Ducks so that they can produce eggs well and feel secure and happy.
Growing a Living Fence to Keep Out Predators
Though this is not an overnight solution for protecting your Indian Runner Ducks, it is one that can help put another obstacle between lurking predators and your precious waterfowl.
Living fences can also provide some shade and cover for your Indian Runner Ducks during the day so that they can be more comfortable free-ranging in your edible landscape.
Having a tall living fence with a strong root system will also make it more difficult for digging predators to go under your fence to find their feathered feast. But not too tall, as this can also act as a ladder for crafty, climbing creatures like raccoons to scurry up and jump over your fence.
Some suggestions for living fences to grow to protect your Indian Runner Ducks include:
- Clumping Bamboo with closely spaced culms
- Running Bamboo with closely spaced culms
- Flying Dragon Orange Trees (which are extremely thorny)
- Thorny Blackberries
Clumping bamboos have very strong root structures that appear to be as hard and thick as the bamboo culms that grow above the ground. As many bamboos have to be cut down for harvest with a machete, chainsaw, or handsaw, it is unlikely that any predator will have the ability to dig through a barrier of bamboo roots in order to get at their intended prey.
You’ll also want to be careful about where you leave the prunings from your thorny blackberries as ducks have relatively soft feet that can easily be cut by stepping on the wicked thorns of blackberry cuttings. I suggest immediately tossing them into a composter as you don’t want you, nor your waterfowl, stepping on the mean thorns of the blackberries.
To further fortify this living fence, planting a row of horseradish along the fence can act as a more aggressive deterrent as anything that digs into the roots of the horseradish will inhale its harsh smell, which burns the eyes and sinuses.
Here are more ideas for repelling raccoons from your edible landscape.
Waffles the Indian Runner Duck nesting in the edible landscape
Adding Hardscaping To ROCK 🪨 Your Predator Problem
In order to reinforce the hardware cloth that lines the metal gate keeping larger, more hateful creatures out of my food forest, I added some additional large bricks to hold down the hardware cloth, which is also secured with zip ties to the fence.
Ducks seem to really like the addition of bricks and pavers to the edible landscape due to how they heat up quickly in the winter, giving them somewhere warm to nap. You can also flip over your rocks or bricks from time to time and allow your ducks to feast upon the little pill bugs and worms that have gathered beneath. Careful about doing this though, as snakes and lizards and other, creepy crawlies like to live under rocks because of that same warming factor.
Digging A Duck Pond To Give Your Edible Landscape Ducks Their Best Advantage For Survival
It has to be said, ducks are not exactly the best fighters and their survival instincts seem to have suffered some in the process of domestication. I’ve seen my own Indian Runner Ducks chase down a stray cat they did not want in their food forest, but also walk right up to the gate and stare intently at a full grown pit bull dog.
This is not to say that pit bulls are inherently vicious but… dogs are still carnivores and despite the boniness of the small Indian Runner Ducks, they are still meat.
One of the best things you can do for your duck flock is give them a large pond to escape into. Ducks are incredible swimmers and despite flight being bred out of ducks in most hatcheries, many can still use their wings to catch enough air to give them additional speed when they have to move swiftly to avoid danger.
Having a duck pond to retreat into gives them their best chance at survival if everything else fails. You’ll want this duck pond to be well planted with wetland plants that cast shade over the pond. This gives the ducks shelter from overhead predators.
I’m finding that I favor banana plants, bamboo, and tree collards to accomplish this task as bamboo is evergreen, tree collards also stay green throughout the year and are edible for the ducks, and banana plants cast a very wide shade and the leaves will be nibbled on by the ducks.
Tree collards are cold hardy, here in zone 8b, so I’ve been propagating them all around the edible landscape especially in the pond area so that the ducks can nibble on them while swimming to help gley up the duck pond.
Adding evergreen wetland plants also helps to zone push your pond, for those of you ducking and food foresting in areas with colder winters. So if you’re trying to prevent your pond from freezing during the winter, adding evergreens will help improve your odds.
While ducks are pretty cold hardy, they can’t swim in a pond that is frozen over though I’ve seen my own Indian Runner Ducks go directly into the pond despite snow and ice as long as there isn’t so much ice that it restricts their ability to swim.
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