Birds Gardening Harmful animals Slugs and snails

Slugs Ruining Your Garden? Get Ducks!

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Nothing controls slugs better than ducks! Source: www.clker.com & http://www.okclipart.com

This is not a joke. Ducks are excellent finders and consumers of slugs and snails, plus many other insects and invertebrates. They’ll clean up a vegetable bed in no time. Several years ago, a man in Germany created a business renting them out to gardeners. That business seems to have disappeared (possibly overcome by the logistical problems of moving ducks from one garden to the next), but maybe someone else could give it a try?

Or you could raise your own ducks if you have the space and inclination.

Plenty of Good Poop!

Ducks also produce prodigious amounts of rich manure, so they feed your plants even as they clean them. They’ll also quickly turn leaf mulch into compost by mixing in and turning the leaves while adding droppings and mud (yes, those flat feet do track a bit of dirt!) Plus they supply you with eggs and meat. They are tougher and hardier than chickens and do less damage to plants, although they do like to keep lawns nicely clipped.

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Ducks are usually quite safe around established plants, but can damage seedlings. Source: Steven Schantz, YouTube

They can be hard on seedlings, though, trampling some with their feet and digging up and eating others, but usually leave established plants alone (unlike chickens). Ideally, you’d use them for a thorough slug-and-bug clean-up either at the end of the gardening season or just before it kicks off again in the spring, then bring them in occasionally, as needed, during the growing season for a bit of a clean-up and to handle any mid-season emergencies, like a grasshopper invasion. Or brush Japanese beetles to the ground (they hang around too high up for ducks to reach) and your horde of voracious waterfowl will follow you around and snap them up.

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When you’re ready, open the fence and let them forage. Source: www.pets4homes.co.uk

You’ll need to keep an eye on ducks in a growing garden and to chase them off (they’re easy to herd) if they become interested in something they shouldn’t. The easiest thing is to simply bring the ducks with you when you’re gardening so you can keep tabs on them, then chase them out of the garden when you’ve finished. If yours have free run, fence in your veggies during the growing season (a simple 2 ft/60 cm barrier would do, as most races are flightless) and let them patrol the perimeter. That way they’ll catch marauders before the latter make it to your plants.

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If your raise ducks, they’ll need an enclosure for protection from predators. Source: www.gardenwoodcraft.co.uk

Ducks also need care and feeding, including fresh water to drink at all times, protection from predators and, in cold climates, a winter shelter. Oddly enough, given that they are waterfowl, they don’t need to swim and would probably dirty up any pond or basin pretty quickly. You can put out a kiddie pool every now and then for their enjoyment, but it’s not absolutely necessary.

Then there is the question of legality: many municipalities ban the keeping of poultry, but laws are changing and more and more are opening up to families raising a few chickens and possibly ducks as well.

And you do need ducks. Plural. Two or more. Three or four are even better. They’re social creatures and like company. Certain races, including the very popular Indian Runner, are better at slug control than others, so check into that as well.

If only we all had duck rental outfits nearby, that would solve a lot of our gardening problems. So, entrepreneurs, what are you waiting for?

Here’s a short article on the subject you might want to read: Natural Pest Control for Gardens with Ducks!20180219A  www.clker.com & www.okclipart.com.jpg

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

4 comments on “Slugs Ruining Your Garden? Get Ducks!

  1. We have chickens and ducks. Ducks win hands down. 🙂

  2. What a delightful post! Thanks.

  3. I read somewhere that someone’s chicken ate an infected slug, which quickly ended with a vet deworming her entire chicken flock (worms in the slug reproduced and clogged the chicken’s throat). Can this happen to ducks as well or are they resistant to this kind of infection?

    • Yes, this can happen (the worms in question would be gapeworm)… but you can’t stop free-range ducks from eating the various little creatures that can harvest the pest: earthworms, slugs, snails, flies, etc. And the main cause of infection is even harder to control: droppings from wild birds. If most cases, the infection clears up on its own, but you’ll need to deworm if the case is serious.

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