Ducks are cheaper to keep than chooks because they just seem to get by without much grain. This is great for Permies, as we are usually penniless, building up real wealth (starting with the soil). With ducks you can plant stuff to attract slugs and snails, so the sappy , strappy and succulent plants (like agapanthus that usually get infested with molluscs) are great. Ducks love to snaffle around in them with their very busy bills, cleaning up slugs snails and their tiny, clear, caviar- like eggs. Get your organic minded old friends to collect snails from their gardens for your ducks, and maybe you can return the favour with duck eggs. There is nothing nicer than a duck egg, such large and rich yellow yolks. To me they don’t taste different but are just bigger.
In old China it was common to rent- a -duck flock to clean up your garden in the winter. A guy would come with his ducks in a trailer pulled by bicycle. The ramp went down , the ducks emerged and went rifling through the plot . At the end of the day the ducks were enticed back into the trailer , or should I say the last duck up the ramp got a tap with a bamboo cane. The Chinese use to hatch out eggs in cane baskets heated and insulated in some way. They would bond with their birds from hatching day and for the next 6 week. With cormorants the fisherman lived on a boat and when it was hatching time they would go below decks in the darkness with the baby birds for these 6 weeks . They then had a faithful servant who for decades would catch fish for their master. But back to us:
Comfrey is a great favorite with ducks but must be established a few years before they are introduced as they will love it to death. I have had to put cages over my comfrey to save it from ducks.
Oh crikey , they love chicory to stumps too. So they have great taste and favour the deep rooted herbs which have lots of minerals. I haven’t got them on the seed catalogue but I do have some alfalfa and chicory seeds if you like to order some within Australia please email me ( firstname.lastname@example.org). There’ll be a lot more very good plants which I haven’t observed yet but now that you’ve asked I will keep my eyes out. It would be good to have at least 2 pens and a house in the middle with hatches to either pen, to allow the plants to regrow between onslaughts.
Put some hay in the house and if the house is locked up against foxes at night there will be nice clean eggs in the morning when you let them out for the day. We have a duck pond in their pen which is a bad idea: the sillie billies lay eggs in the water. On the good side, the ducks swim out over the pond to freedom of the fields very early, leaving their more destructive friends the chooks inside the pen ( as they cant swim) till midday. Chooks really are like small rotary hoes whose energies are best controlled .
It really isnt groovy to allow ducks near the chooks water supply as they will muddy it up in seconds. But you can easily block duck access to the water with a small fence that the chooks will easily jump over. The permaculture principle of ” turning a problem into a solution” means we can use the habit of ducks to foul their water to great effect if we place a movable duck pond such as the half shell plastic paddle pools available in the colder months for just $12.oo, in the orchard. The ducks will naturally congregate under the shady fruit tree at the pond. A hose can be connected to whatever irrigation system you are using for the trees. The dirty water is tipped out, the pond moved to the next tree and refilled as often as you can be bothered. The ducks will eat low fruit, but there should be plenty enough for you. The kahki Cambell and Indian Runner ( egg laying type ) ducks do not fly . The dual purpose meat and egg laying duck the Muscovey however, will fly even though they are a far heavier bird. They not only fly, they employ vertical takeoff like a helicopter, making them ever so hard to catch. We only put up with them because of they are so funny to watch and have heaps of personality. Remember the duck in Babe? A muscovey. I find them better layers and better mothers than our aging pekins too, but it all depends on the strain of duck you have. I once had some awesome Kahki Cambells.