I have raised chickens, ducks, and guinea fowl for most of this past decade. I’ll be focusing on common problems from ducks, and how those can be leveraged into great opportunities with Back to Eden/deep mulch/wood chip gardening. I want to be clear up front: While I am focusing in this post on some common concerns, ducks bring great benefits. I wouldn’t raise them otherwise.
While people admit how cute and fun they can be, the most common complaint I hear about ducks is they are “messy”. First, ducks have more liquid in them, and that shows in the projectile pooping they do. Other commonly mentioned points include how messy they make both drinking and bathing water. Ducks dips their bills into water, cleaning out their nostrils and their bills of food. Many breeds enjoy frolicking in water and make other kinds of deposits there. Their behavior with water result in more frequent changing out of water than with non-water fowl, like chickens. In addition, there can be odor associated with that water even when changed fairly regularly.
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In my current small flock, I give them a kiddie pool for bathing, kept in their oversized poultry house. I dump the water in their housing’s wood chip bedding. However, I have always felt an urge to repurpose that nutrient-rich water in other ways. I had not, however, worked out that reuse system.
We recently put in a nearly 1,500 square foot Back to Eden garden. The garden is on a slope, with a covering of anywhere from 8 – 15 inches of fresh wood chips. The plan for the garden was to “set it and forget it” for a spell while the wood chips decomposed. We only used paper and cardboard as a weed barrier, and then the thick layer of wood chips.
It stuck me how using a duck tractor housing system on the new BTE garden could really help expedite the wood chips’ decomposition. Their poop can be the “green”, or nitrogen, to complement the wood chips’ “brown”, or carbon, for composting. Further, by setting the duck housing and water on the wood chips, I can dump the nitrogen-filled water directly on the wood chips, providing moisture, another key element for composting. If the “problem” of slugs shows up in wood chips, it will be a win, providing tasty protein for the flock. Let the garden and ducks feed each other!