We have kept chickens for many years and have LOVED the eggs, their desire to rid our property of ticks and other insects, and the occasional chicken dinner they have given us. But one garden pest I have continually struggled with year after year is slugs and the chickens are no help in this department. Slugs eat my lovely brassicas and I reached the end of my rope last fall when the big cabbages we grew to make sauerkraut were ruined by slugs!!! Our property is on the swampy side and it seems to be a slug haven. I have read if you cut up slugs for chickens they will learn to eat them….but after trying that a couple time I realized I’m not a slug cutter upper and had to find another solution.
I discovered while reading up on permaculture that I apparently do not have a slug problem…but instead I’m suffering from a lack of duck problem! Apparently ducks are major slug consumers and my property is having an ecological crisis! I promptly ordered up 4 Khaki Campbell ducklings and set up my nephew as their foster Dad for the first month or so when they need a heat lamp to stay warm in the cold weather (we live off the grid and we do not have electricity, therefore we require a foster family for the first part of any baby bird’s life.)
I decided on Khaki Campbell’s for a couple reasons. First, they were offered by the local farm supply store in my area (Shout out to L & M Fleet in Mt. Iron!) . I also liked that the duck’s foliage will be a good camouflage in our area, and as these ducks will be free range, they will be exposed to the many predators we have in the area. While researching them, I also found out that the Khaki Campbell breed are a good dual purpose breed (this means you can get high egg production and they also have good meat production.)
Ducks and chickens are pretty much the same thing right? Ummm no, not all! My sister has raised all my chicks over the last 9 years and a couple days into caring for them she was telling me all about how these ducklings were very different from chicks. They are smelly…..frankly I think we must say they are downright stinky!! The reality is that ducks like things wet and wet things stink more. They will take their drinking water and splash it all over themselves….this in turn gets their bedding wet, their food wet and my sister’s garage walls wet. I recommend any new duck owner find a way for their ducklings to spend as much time outside in a large safe enclosed area with access to water to swim in, if possible. If they are in a pen with sawdust bedding most of the day it is going to be one stinky mess!
The other biggest difference is that so far they don’t seem to be able to navigate walking on a slope, in less they really want to. They will do it if scared, or for mealworms. Remember, they had no mother to show them the ropes so maybe things will change in the next couple of weeks, or maybe we will rebuild the duck ramp with a more gradual slope.
That is always how is seems to go on the homestead, we never know what the heck we are doing the first time! We learn from trying new things…..some call it the “hard way”, but if we waited until we knew everything we would never start anything!