How Fish & Duck Ponds Improve Soil Fertility in the Edible LandscapeHow Fish & Duck Ponds Improve Soil Fertility in the Edible Landscape

It has been along, tiring journey of chasing down insolent Indian Runner Ducks, hopping plants, sliding in mud, and generally being frustrated about the ducks’ resistance to walking the ramp up into the duck house. Part of what made this journey so frustrating was that the ducks began to gather beneath the duck house after only a few days of living in it, which to me said they obviously understand that they knew where they were supposed to go for bed time, but did not understand how to “get upstairs”.

They’d look up at the place where they were supposed to be with adorable confusion on their faces and when I’d come outside around sunset to help them get to the top, they’d run away and come back as long as I wasn’t nearby. 😭😭😭😭😭

1. Try Adding Some Texture Or Rungs To Your Duck House Ramp To Give Your Ducks Something To Grip Onto

2. Is Your Duck House Coop Ramp Wide Enough?

Unfortunately, ducks are not the best at climbing, though that applies less to Indian Runner Ducks because their upright bodies gives them some sort of ducky super powers. Apparently those powers are not strong enough to magically get the ducks up the ramp, so, looking for a more mortal method of coercing my ducks to get up the ramp, I added some ramp “rungs”.

I did this by nailing blackberry brambles in spaced intervals from the top to the bottom of the ramp since the blackberries were in dire need of pruning out the last season’s growth and I’d seen on Youtube that blackberry cuttings could be used to weave baskets. I made the intuitive leap that the blackberry cuttings must be far more woody than I’d previously thought, and durable. Also, free and sustainable, as my blackberries would produce new canes every year, if some of the blackberry rungs were to wear out, they’d be easily replaceable each summer when blackberry pruning was to be done.

After adding these rungs, I also used some of the remaining blackberry bramble cuttings to weave alongside the long edge of the ramp to fill in the gaps between the rungs, which made the ramp a bit wider without having to replace the ramp altogether.

At the end of that little experiment, another duck began regularly walking the ramp by following my most faithful duck. Who’d begun using the ramp within the first week.

Even still, this did not seem to be enough of a difference to convince the other ducks to go up the ramp. Since making it wider did seem to make a bit of difference, I decided to stick with that and add even more width to the ramp by growing a grapevine up the blackberry bramble rungs as grapevines become very woody once mature and would remain that way throughout the winter, regrowing in spring.

After adding the grapevine and securing it to the blackberry bramble rungs with some temporary vine holder padded wires which will stay in place until the grapevines become woody enough to stay in place on their own, another duck began to use the ramp.

3. Defining The Ramp Entrance For The Ducks

Someone somewhere said that ducks had excellent eyesight, which does seem to be the case until it is time for them to walk up the ramp to put themselves to bed at night. While waiting for the grapevines to take off and settle into their new positions, I also took the liberty of cleaning up the front of the duck ramp, which, for me, more or less starts where the duck pond ends, so the ducks can immediately leave the pond and go up the ramp into the duck house.

Defining that entrance seems to have helped make it a lot clearer for the last duck that refused to understand the concept of walking the ramp although he walked it just fine when I was feeding them on it.

4. Feeding The Ducks On The Ramp To Train Them Up It

Well, I supposed this is technically the first thing you should try as it might require less effort, if you can convince your ducks quickly to take to the ramp…which I could not. 😭😭😭  Anyways, by putting the duck feed in a metal food tray, I’d offer it to the ducks at the end of the ramp, as long as they stayed on the ramp, I’d let them keep eating from the tray and steadily moved the tray up the ramp until I got to the top and pushed the ducks, one-by-one, into the duck house.

This method was effective for duck one, who learned to use the ramp within a week of adding it to the duck house. Since I did move onto adding rungs and grapevines to the ramp, this apparently was not enough to make the ducks understand the concept of the ramp.

5. Establish An Evening Feeding Time To Encourage The Ducks To Put Themselves Away

Nothing seems to motivate ducks to do anything as much as the thought of being fed. In fact, now that I’ve gotten this far with training them to walk the ramp, all I have to do is bang the metal feeder I use for them, add food to it, and put it in the duck house. I wait for a couple minutes and then here comes my little row of ducks, marching up that ramp to get the food.

Since I have transitioned my food forest ducks off of traditional duck feed, I will note that I’ve had good success with keeping them interested in eating from the feeding bowl with oatmeal, peas, and fresh fruit, which I grow right in the edible landscape. I’ve also had good success with certain table scraps like, the leftover bits of cabbage, broccoli, and tomatoes.

Here’s a more complete list of everything I feed my little Indian Runner Ducks.

Did you know that you can order duck eggs on the internet for far cheaper than ducklings and hatch them yourself?
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