At the beginning of the Covid lockdown for Tasmania this year, we scrambled for home projects for our little 5 year old Frida while her kindy was shut and landed on a few things including hatching Indian Runner duck eggs which we had been thinking of re-introducing into our garden for a while.
We sourced 12 eggs from a friend, made an incubator to keep them warm for 28 days and waited. Out of the 12 only 2 turned out to be fertile (that happens sometimes). Both hatched and we met Star Bright Shimmer and his very weak sibling Marison (named by Frida of course). Marison was born with only one working leg and was lack lustre from day dot. And yet we adored her, she lived for 2 months before dying (this happens sometimes). We buried her in our garden and planted flowers on top – Frida is beautifully attentive to these plants and sometimes I catch her singing to Marison at her grave. So much unexpected learning and conversations about life, death and love when we just thought we were hatching ducklings.
Star Bright Shimmer – the most beautiful.
While this was all happening Star Bright Shimmer imprinted himself onto Frida which means he legitimately thinks Frida’s his mum and will follow her anywhere. And while he now strictly only lives outside, there was a while there where Star Bright was an inside duck and the bathroom sink his personal bath. Sounds sweet, but the smell, the mess – so much poo!
We sourced Star Bright two girl ducks for company from a farm – Dandy and Daisy, we have no idea who is who but we’re ok with that. As we didn’t hand raise them they are completely uninterested in us, except when we feed them. Star Bright continues to be Frida’s true love and will clamber all over us at every opportunity.
We keep our ducks fenced in our young olive orchard as they’re enormously destructive to annual gardens. Between their bills snuffling under little plants, copious amounts of poo being splashed around and their big flat feet they can demolish whole annual crops and compact the soil while they’re at it. But in an orchard or established food forest, they’re perfect.
Ducks are messy creatures. They specifically like to poo in water – we have a bath pond for them which we empty as needed and drain onto a nearby food forest. You can see a much older blog about that system here.
The feeding & watering system
I’ve struggled to find an effective water and feeding system for them that I can build easily myself. But recently found this DIY bucket system which contains all the food and water and stops them from walking and pooing in it all.
All you need is two 20 Litre buckets, I sourced mine from a local wholefoods shop for free once they’ve finished with them – ask your local cafe or bakery if they have any spare.
Using a jigsaw, I cut three holes into the sides of the bucket – one for each of my three ducks. The holes are approximately 20cm from the ground height, ensuring the ducks can reach in and touch the bottom of the bucket with their bills.
I then fill one with water and the other with pellets for them to eat.
Importantly, you should still expect the water to be very dirty at the end of the day. This is because ducks use water to keep their eyes and bills clean. As they’re constantly foraging beneath mulch and soil all day for slugs and grubs, they keep clean by frequently dunking their head in water. So there’ll be a fair bit of dirt in the water still – nothing to worry about.
So far -this is the best and easiest DIY method I’ve found for ducks. I can move the buckets around easily preventing one patch of earth becoming an absolute compacted mess, they prevent duck food being wasted and keep all poo out. All is well in duck universe :-).
More duck resources
- Our educational tea towel on different breeds of ducks and systems to keep them.
- An older blog on khaki campbell ducks (which moved to a friends house)