Having poultry in the orchard is a benefit to fruit tree growing.

We only thought about getting ducks when we had a problem with our dam being covered with water lilies. We inquired around and we decided to get some ducks to eat the water lilies. (Some people said ducks won't eat water lilies and some people said they will eat them.)

We set about getting a coop ready. Don built a coop that can be portable. The coop is two metres square and high enough to walk into. He made the frame out of timber then covered it with chicken wire on all sides, leaving the top open. He added the door made of galvanised arc mesh and covered it with chicken wire.

He attached the door and then we carried the coop down to the dam and sat it on even ground facing the dam so the ducks would have a nice view.

Don did not fix the roof. The roof is loose sheets of iron cut to size and weighed down with logs. This way the roof can be taken off easily and the coop shifted to a new spot if required.

Around the sides, Don wired on plastic material, leaving a gap of the top to let in air except the front where the door is attached.

This keeps the coop light for moving and keeps the ducks dry and warm at night.

We then set about buying some ducks. We bought harlequin, Indian runner and muscovy ducks. The ducks swim in the dam and eat some of the weeds but are a pleasure to watch.

Each evening around 5:30 p.m. I feed the ducks in their pen, with some laying pellets, cracked corn and cut-up banana mixed with water so the ducks can swallow it easily.

Every morning the ducks are let out to graze on insects and worms in the orchard. The Indian runner and harlequin ducks are very decorative and are pleasantly noisy, whereas muscovy ducks are peaceful and move slowly.

We are now breeding our own ducks, losing a drake to a huge snake.

Everyday I collect from their pen a bucket of dropping. Their manure is then spread around the free trees and on to the vegetable garden. The taro is growing better with the addition of the duck manure.

Each day their feed dishes are cleaned and they are given fresh clean water, and every week I add fresh sand to the floor. The ducks pooies are easy to mix with the sand and spread easily on the garden. It is important for the ducks to have dry feet.

Nesting boxes must be high enough for mother duck to turn around in and must have an earth floor for moisture to help the duckling's hatching process.

• There seems to be less insect problems in the orchard since we have the ducks free-ranging during the day,

• Good manure for trees,

• Fresh eggs,

• Chemical free meat, and most of all, they are a lot of pleasure.

The ducks are well worth having in the orchard

Christine Gray

DATE: November 2000

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *