First of all, before I go
off into my typical poultry geekiness, those of you who don’t read our
other blog will probably want to check out cute duckling photos here and here. Be warned, though: those posts are going to make you want ducks!
Okay, back to the real topic at hand — duckweed! A throwaway line in Storey’s Guide to Raising Ducks mentioned that, in the wild, duckweed would be a duckling’s first food. I was a bit dubious since I’d read that the plant makes good chicken feed, but once I tried it out, our hens turned up their noses at the greenery.
However this time around, book learning was on the right track — when
I offered duckweed to our ducklings, they went nutty for the wild food.
Later, after I let the youngsters into a little pond, they quickly
consumed every speck of duckweed off the surface (while also going after
water bugs, I assume, to round out their diet). I now see why
ducks are a permaculture poster child — our ducklings happily spent
entire days in the pond foraging, only eating storebought food in their
brooder once I shut them in for the night.
Of course, every
permaculture opportunity has to be carefully managed. By their
third day in the pond, our ducklings were spending more time resting on
the bank because the pond food was pretty much gone. Luckily,
there was enough duckweed off in one corner to allow me to do what I
should have done from the beginning — start another pond going to
allow for aquatic pasture rotation.
We had a little kiddie pool in the barn that we’d once used to soak
mushroom logs, so I filled the pool up with water and seeded it with
some duckweed, snails, and a quart of pond water (for microscopic
life). Hopefully in a couple of weeks, there will be enough bounty
in the kiddie pool to give the ducklings a few foraging days (and to
give their current pond a rest).
We don’t have the
infrastructure in place right now, but I could see having at least four
small ponds for a handful of ducks, moving their home every week to give
them new aquatic grazing ground. Ducks definitely seem like
they’re going to be keepers on our farm, so I suspect we’ll expand our
water features in the future — good thing we live in soggy ground!