How I Potty Trained My 5 Ducks

April 21, 2015

Permaculture Food Forest

AnconaDucks

The first comment I always hear out of people’s mouths when I tell them that I have ducks is, “Oh man, I’ve heard they’re messy”.

“Not if you know how to potty train them” I like to always say.

This ALWAYS get’s their attention.

And here’s what I mean.

If you’re not familiar with my adventures in creating a 5 acre mini farm I have had to tackle two VERY large issues on my property if I wanted it to be TRULY self reliant.

1) Growing my own Fertility on site

2) Preventing slugs from destroying EVERYTHING I try to plant.

I tried chickens, but because I live in the Pacific Maritime northwest, where we get tons of rain… my chickens just like to hang out in the coop on rainy days and WATCH the slugs eat everything.

So I decided to give ducks a try… and range them on this section of my Orchard.

LowerPermacultureFoodForestSmall

This orchard is fenced in so I can keep the ducks in it, but the thing I want you to look at are all those little squiggly circles with numbers in them in the above picture… those are all my fruit trees.

So when I say I’ve potty trained my ducks, what I mean is that I have trained my ducks to do most of their poopingNon Eaten Comfrey, UNDER the fruit trees using a plant called Comfrey

This is Comfrey, underneath a plum tree in my orchard.

And this SUPER productive perennial plant, that according to an article I was reading from Purdue University, can contain as much as 30% protein and is comparable with legumes as a high protein feed when fed dry.

Not only that, but this plant thrives when cut to the ground 3-4 times a year.

Plus its roots go deeper then my fruit trees roots can go, and pulls up minerals for my fruit tree… its really pretty awesome.

But I’m getting off track… back to potty training.

I had been told that ducks love this plant.  So I thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I could bait my ducks to EVERY fruit tree on my property, and get them to poop specifically under each fruit tree, by baiting them underneath my trees with Comfrey?”

If so I’d basically have potty trained my ducks to poop under my fruit trees.  My fruit tree production would go up from their manure, plus the ducks are getting a super high protein feed to boost their egg production.

So I gave it a go.

The Results?

At first I could not get the ducks to eat the Comfrey :-(

So I pulled a little trick out of my old Animal Training background for getting an animal to eat healthy things that it currently doesn’t like…

  • I cut back my ducks food rations
  • And I force fed my ducks the Comfrey

Now that might sound tricky, but here’s what I mean.  Instead of feeding my ducks through a feeder, every morning I’d go out and dump food right in the middle of the Comfrey plant.  The food would fall deep into the crevices of the plant.  And my ducks, who are now on smaller rations and slightly more hungry had to work hard to reach that deep for their food, and inevitably they ended up accidentally biting off chunks of Comfrey in order to reach their food… it was just a small percentage, and they were eating it accidentally, but it was enough to give them a taste for the stuff.

Fast forward a few weeks…

I haven’t fed my ducks in over a month, and look what some of my Comfrey plants now look like:

Eaten ComfreyIt’s basically been devoured.

The ducks sat their eating on it, and then once it looked like this… they moved onto the next tree and let this one grow back!

So quite literally this plant, baits the ducks to every tree on my property, where they hang out and directly feed its roots their manure.

In essence, potty training them :-)

Now one other thing I want to mention about this strategy.

This is just part of the strategy for building a self-reliant orchard.  I use many other plants to do many other things… like for example, plants to combat the compaction of the soil that’s being caused by the ducks.

And if you’re interested in getting an introductory lesson on how to set up a system like this, which is called a Food Forest.  I have a complete module in my Survival Gardening Secrets course dedicated to this concept.  It shows you my complete plan for how I’ve laid out my Food Forest, as well as a complete plan for how to do it in a backyard.

Its not a full on design course, but if you’re interested in playing around with this stuff, I think its a good place to start.

You can check it out here if that’s up your alley.

Hopefully you found this helpful.  It’s working like crazy for me in my climate.

 

11 Responses to “How I Potty Trained My 5 Ducks”

  1. susan Says:

    I have a question Chet. Do you know if deer finds comfrey tasty? I live in lower Hudson valley NY and deer love even deer “resistant” herbs/flowers Hostas here. If they love comfrey too, then I would plant them as a border of my property maybe to hold them off from my other plantings. Thank you for any info you can share.

    Reply

    • Chet Says:

      Great question, but I don’t know the answer Susan. I took the 7 foot tall fence approach to deer, and not deterrents. Sorry.

      Reply

  2. Linda Says:

    I love, Love, LOVE this concept! What a great idea!
    And, I had no idea that my cherry-tree-eating comfrey plant, that by late summer gets nearly as tall as the young cherry tree, was actually good for it!

    Reply

    • Chet Says:

      sure is, and make sure you cut it down if you don’t have ducks to eat it down like I do. It can handle 3 cuttings a year no problem. It’s like growing mulch right on site :-)

      Reply

  3. Softballumpire Says:

    My hats off to you, as I too live in the PNW and have frequently raised ducks, I had never thought of trying to potty train them. We actually kept them for road monitoring. Our neighbors had developed the habit of attaining excessive speeds along our stretch of gravel road. Potential presence of the ducks alerted them to potential interaction with other animals, including the wild ducks nesting in the pond. We did lose one duck that was struck so hard that the gizzard was knocked out of her. Duck gizzard road kill in Chinese stir fry side dish contributing to feeding my family one night. The remainder of the carcass was useless.

    As an aside, over the years, we did discover a potential danger ducks encounter on the diet of slugs. They can engage in consumption of a meal too big for them to handle. One hen grabbed a full grown Banana Slug and choked to death in the unsuccessful attempt to swallow it.

    Reply

  4. Elspeth Says:

    Thanks for giving me a good laugh today, Chet! The image of ducks congregating around a designated “potty tree” is too funny. :) Looks like you’ve figured out a win-win solution for you, your orchard and the ducks!

    Reply

  5. Beverly Ovalle Says:

    I enjoyed your duck training. Ingenious.

    Reply

  6. Norrie Wise Says:

    I’m ready to order your course and get the free blue prints, but can you answer a question for me first. Your home made pesticides, are they organic? I really want to go all organic on my ‘soon to be homestead’. Thanks, Norrie

    Reply

  7. Joyce Says:

    I live where we get lots of deer, and they don’t bother the comfrey. The grasshoppers do.

    Reply

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