Why Ducks Are Good for Your Garden

Chickens can take a destructive toll on your garden, but ducks—they’ll pick the bugs and leave your vegetables alone.

by Kirsten Lie-Nielsen
PHOTO: 2-Dog-Farm/Flickr

In addition to large, rich eggs, charming personalities and gamey meat, there’s another great reason to add ducks to your small farm. They can be hugely beneficial in the garden. Unlike geese that will happily chew down fresh greens or chickens that can dig up a plant looking for grubs, ducks are less harmful to the plants in your garden while remaining steadfast devourers of slugs and other nuisance bugs.

If you’ve ever battled slugs or tomato hornworms in your garden plot, you know it’s a test of vigilance trying to get rid of these pests and save your plants. Even though chickens will snap up beetles and earthworms, they turn their noses up at the gooey mess of a slug. Some chickens won’t even touch a Japanese beetle because of its size and hard outer shell, but nothing is too messy or too tough for a duck. With enthusiasm, they’ll chase down any creepy crawly and chow it down, and they are tenacious in their desire for fresh bugs.

Keeping Your Plants Safe

Gardening with ducks presents fewer challenges than other birds. They have little taste for fresh vegetables or vines. The only plants that need to be protected from duck’s appetites are lettuce greens and strawberries. Some ducks will chew on other plants, especially if it is a variety you regularly feed them as a treat.

Duck’ large, webbed feet means you do have to be careful about your ducks trampling young seedlings. Keep areas with tender greens fenced off until the plants are tall enough to withstand a passing duck.

Getting a Taste for Bugs

To give your ducks an appetite for nuisance bugs, or just to offer them a special treat, you can start plucking out slugs and other creatures from your garden live and introducing them to your young ducks while they’re still in the brooder. This will give them some entertainment and teach them how tasty these insects are.

Ducks love grasshoppers and flies, too, which other fowl can’t keep up with. A duckling will chase down a fly with determination, and they also enjoy the larvae.

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Happy Ducks for a Happy Garden

Ducks are easy keepers, so adding them to the home garden is not a chore. They need a safe shelter to spend their nights locked away from predators, and they love having access to a pond or water trough to swim in. With plenty of fresh water for drinking and a bowl of food, your ducks will only require attention when their shelter needs cleaning or their food and water needs refreshing. But that doesn’t mean you won’t find yourself spending your time near the ducks. With some of the most affable personalities in the feathered kingdom, duck watching is sure to become a pastime of any small-scale farmer.

The garden is a wonderful place for a duck to spend its summer days, with growing plants offering them shelter and shade. What would be a task for the gardener—picking off bugs and squashing them—is a pleasure for ducks, leaving you with time to relax and enjoy their antics.

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