When I first got my ducks this spring, I had hoped to raise them to adulthood and then let them be free-range and enjoy the pond in my backyard.
This dream was quickly dashed when I realized how much that plan underestimated the fox population of Albemarle County. I apparently needed to build them a certifiable fortress and a permanent run, but I also wanted to cut costs and reduce waste as much as possible. Thus began the journey of repurposing materials in my quest to protect my flock. It’s still a work in progress, and may change as the needs of the ducks change.
The ducklings started out in my living room- in a large plastic tub I’ve been lugging around since college:
They quickly outgrew that and graduated to an old guinea pig cage I got from a friend:
When they moved outside, their first house was an old dog house that I reinforced with hardware cloth and chicken wire:
Their movable run, or “duck tractor,” used to be a portable dog run that I reinforced with scrap lumber and large sticks from around the yard to make it sturdier:
The permanent duck house is built from pallets I got from Biostar's delivery department. The floor is a layer of flagstone that had been used on the farm for a prior landscaping venture, topped with old bricks for added predator protection. Now nothing is digging into the house from underneath! Some materials like hardware cloth and some of the lumber being used for the permanent (in-progress) run are new for added security and longevity, but I’ve tried to give to new life to previously-used materials wherever possible.
In addition to saving resources for building materials, the ducks themselves have helped reduce waste around the farm. Scrap hay that has fallen loose from the bales in the feed room or been passed over by the horses is used for the ducks' bedding. The ducks have also helped me reduce food waste; when my personal produce starts to wilt, I give it to them before it spoils. They even get snacks leftover from the Biostar production team, like apple cores. They gobble them up after I’ve removed the seeds.
Raising ducks is a fulfilling experience. Luckily, when you're resourceful, protecting them doesn't have to create additional costs or materials!
(Emily, Gertrude, and Bertha)
Top photo: Boop, one of our new recycled garden alien robots, meets the ducks. Photo by Lindsey Henry)
All other photos by Emily Halaszynski