Runner Ducks – The Slug Hunters. Think Twice Before Keeping Them.

Do Runners Keep Their Promises?

Runner ducks are currently a trend in slug control.

Although many people talk about them, hardly anyone has tried keeping runner ducks.

Here, you will learn everything you need to know about runner ducks and how to keep them healthy in the garden.

But first, who are these ducks, and what makes them unique?

Video: Keep Indian Runner Ducks | Cottage Garden

Who Are the Much-praised Runner Ducks?

They are sometimes also called Indian runner ducks or Indian runners.

Runner ducks are ducks that cannot fly anymore but are better off on foot.

Since these animals have been bred for a long time, they are available in entirely different colors.

group of running ducks
Runner ducks are amusing herd animals.

In the 19th century, breeders brought the runner ducks from Asia to Europe.

They can live for up to 15 years, and the females lay between 150 and 200 eggs per year.

For some years now, there has been an increasing trend to use them as predators against slugs and snails because they like to hunt and eat these creatures.

In general, the ducks can be very friendly and sometimes even intrusive.

Their attitude is similar to that of domesticated chickens, geese or turkeys.

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How to Keep Runner Ducks

If you know how to keep poultry, it is relatively easy to house and keep runner ducks.

But if you have no experience, you may run into some difficulties.

You have to take care of them each morning and evening.

They need a safe enclosure to protect them from predators at night (foxes, martens, dogs, cats).

So, in the evening, you need to lure them into their enclosure with food.

They are usually reluctant to go in by themselves.

Runner ducks can be fed on regular poultry feed and unsalted leftovers.

It is important not to use slug baits in the garden and its surroundings because if the ducks eat the poison or poisoned slugs, they could die too.

Therefore, this matter should also be discussed with nearby neighbors.

ducks-runners herd animals
Runner ducks dislike to be alone, so keep at least a couple.

These active, alert ducks are herd animals and are happy when living in small groups.

Two runner ducks should be enough to keep about 1,000 square yards (ca. 800 m²) of garden area snail- and slug-free.

What Environment Do the Ducks Need?

To protect plants from runner ducks, fence in the vegetable garden. Otherwise, the slugs will not eat the greens, but the ducks will.

Apart from that, the entire duck yard has to be fenced in.

The fence should be at least 35 inches (90 cm) high and the mesh tight enough so that the ducks cannot squeeze through.

If this is not the case, they will leave the property and predators of the ducks could come in.

runner ducks garden pond
Runners need a large waterhole to satisfy them.

Dogs or even foxes and martens will try to reach the defenseless ducks.

Runners require clean water to swim in and to be able to clean themselves.

That is why at least one large garden pond is needed.

A small pond will not be enough because it can quickly become a mudhole where the ducks can no longer keep themselves clean.

They adore playing and splashing about in water.

It is worthwhile setting up additional smaller water tanks, in which the water can regularly be renewed. This is because it is essential for the ducks to have access to fresh, clean drinking water.

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Since runner ducks multiply quickly, new offspring will arrive relatively soon.

The chicks must be kept separate from the males, who would otherwise kill them.

If you do not want reproduction to happen, you can keep only males.

But then, of course, you will have no eggs to eat.

Just keeping females is more laborious and not recommended.

runner duck drake indian runners
For the group to be happy, there needs to be a drake.

You need at least one drake to form a healthy, happy group.

advantages strengths of this slug controlBenefits of Runner Ducks

It is true that runners like slugs and keep their population small.

Even if you do not leave them in the vegetable garden, they will reduce the slug and snail population.

One positive side effect is that the ducks produce eggs nearly every day throughout the summer.

Over the year, one duck lays around 150–200 eggs.

The eggs are of high quality since you know where they come from and what the animals have eaten.

They taste a bit different from chicken eggs, but you can get used to this.

Another plus point is that with their dung, the ducks contribute to the fertilization of the garden and lawn.

Indian runner ducks eat slugs and snails.
Runners like to hunt for slugs and snails.

Poultry manure is very high in quality and will benefit plant growth.

Disadvantages weaknesses of this slug controlDisadvantages of Runner Ducks

Unfortunately, there are many disadvantages too, especially because runner ducks need daily attention and care and because their droppings can be a problem.

In the garden, the droppings act as a fertilizer, but if you step on them regularly, it is not pleasant.

You should also consult your neighbors before you decide to keep runner ducks because they chatter a lot and are not quiet animals.

If they want to be fed in the morning or the evening, they can sound the ‘alarm’ and even wake you up.

This could lead to quarrels with your neighbors.

Moreover, the fence in the garden can become an unwanted obstacle.

It is not very attractive to look at and of course costs extra money.

Creating a dog protection fence around your property can quickly become expensive.

You require a big pond. Without a pond, runners are unhappy, and you will not enjoy their presence.

Therefore, if necessary, you can create a separate pond, which is also useful for reasons such as biodiversity.

But the question remains, is a pond feasible and wanted?

runner duck clean
Runners need access to fresh water to clean themselves and to be able to eat snails and slugs.


If you are not careful, runner ducks will eat your greens instead of the slugs.

So, you should not leave them in the vegetable garden if there is something delicious for them.

Since they can still ‘fly’ a bit, raised beds are not entirely safe.

In nursery beds, they can quickly ‘flatten out’ everything and become a pest themselves.

That is why in the vegetable garden, snails are safe from runner ducks.

But these are not the only problems.

Other Difficulties

A big concern is that the ducks also disturb or eat other natural enemies of slugs.

That means that if you have the ducks in the garden only for a while and not for good, then after the runners have left, slugs will have an open field where they can settle without danger.

So, please keep in mind that runner ducks not only eat slugs but also many beneficial animals (for example, earthworms and ground beetles) and deter other predators such as toads and hedgehogs.

Reproduction could become an issue if you do not have the space to keep them and do not know where to leave them.

Moreover, keeping chicks and drakes separate is problematic.

All these points should be kept in mind and thought about before introducing these animals into a garden.

In the end, you may have more work with the ducks than you would have by other skillful means of natural slug control.

runner duck head
Runners dislike changing their home.

Is It Okay to Rent Ducks for a Short Period of Time?

To rent ducks is fashionable and it sounds perfect.

Just borrow some ducks for a short time, and the slug population boom ends. Unfortunately, in practice, that is not the case.

Although the ducks can find and eat some slugs and snails if they spend time in the garden, that effect will not last long.

When the runners leave, the slugs will return.

Therefore, the ducks have to stay in the garden for several months, and then you have to consider all the points mentioned above.

‘Just send a couple of runner ducks through the garden for a while, and then it’s quiet’: this is a good slogan, but is not reality.

In addition, it is always a psychological shock for the ducks to move into a different environment.

indian runner ducks can not fly
Runners need a stable home and a lot of care.

That is why for reasons of animal welfare ‘rent-a-duck’ cannot be recommended.

plus minusConclusion and Recommendations

Unfortunately, ducks only rarely provide an alternative to other snail control measures in the garden.

Only if you have a big garden with a large pond and a safe enclosure might it be worth considering.

But even then, I would instead advise chickens rather than runner ducks.

Because even chickens enjoy eating slugs.

In the past, chickens contributed to keeping slug problems to a minimum.

But today they are usually locked up and can no longer help to protect the garden from pests.

Therefore, I think that for most garden owners, it does not make sense to purchase runner ducks.

Also loaning them for a short time is not recommended.

There are some measures against snails that can be even more effective, but do not come with so many unwanted side effects.


Other Ideas to Control Slugs & Snails

Copper vs. Slugs and Snails

Slug Barriers

Slug Collars

Schnexagon: Slug Deterrent Paint 

Slug Resistant Flowers

Slug Resistant Vegetables

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7 thoughts on “Runner Ducks – The Slug Hunters. Think Twice Before Keeping Them.”

  1. Some wise advice, along with some incorrect information. I have had runners for 25 years, so I think I can comment on this … Yes, you do need a high fence, as they are defenceless against predators , but they don’t have to have pond, a few washing up bowls, changed regularly will make them happy. You also need space, as they do like to dabble and will turn a small lawn into a muddy puddle. If you don’t want ducklings, pick up the eggs as they lay them. Males will not kill ducklings, I don’t know where that came from. You don’t need a male duck to get eggs, only to get fertile eggs! However, runner ducks are not particularly good mums, I tend to get a hen to raise them, as duck mums tend to be bit clumsy and tread on the eggs sometimes.

    • We have 2 male and 2 female runners I change the water twice a day . Thankyou for your info it is very welcome.
      Mary p

  2. I raised three runner ducks as a kid. Instead of needing a big pond, one of my runners actually seemed afraid of swimming in our small pond, and the other two only swam occasionally. Most of the time, the ducks ignored the pond and seemed perfectly content running around the yard eating bugs. Most of the other information here is correct: runner ducks are defenseless against predators and need a tall fence. Females lay about an egg a day. They are social, curious, and quack almost constantly. They are noisy but not as noisy as a rooster or peacock. I don’t know how effectively the ducks controlled the slug population – I did observe the ducks eating slugs, but as the article says runner ducks also eat many other bugs (worms, beetles etc). If you enjoy keeping animals with lots of personality, use many eggs, and have space for the ducks to roam and the resources to effectively defend against predators, I’d recommend keeping runners.

  3. Alex,
    Thank you. You made all the points I was going to make. Also, while the article focuses on runner ducks specifically, muscovy ducks make almost no sound, defend themselves against predators quite effectively, are happy with a kiddy pool (changed regularly as you mentioned) and I have had a drake and 2-3 hens make a perfectly happy little family together. Only downside being that they are better at hiding eggs than most

  4. We have three runner hens and adore them (and their delicious eggs!) but I wouldn’t think of keeping them for the purpose of pest control in a garden. We keep them in a large fenced area in our yard and while I doubt there is a single living slug in their enclosure, there isn’t much in the way of surviving plant life either. Runners love to forage and will nip the tender leaves off most anything that looks tasty. They’ve even torn up most of the ivy in their area (although, probably in the hunt for snails and slugs). I agree with the comment above — a pond is not necessary as long as you supply tubs of fresh water for them to splash about in daily. And they can be quite noisy, especially when they’re impatient to be fed. In short, only keep ducks if you love ducks! There are much easier ways to control garden pests.

  5. Why not turn on the garden sprinkler for the pet duckies now and then?
    Are ducks good for keeping the grass down – lawn mower style?
    Do duckies destroy the lawns?

  6. Do you have any information about firms in Europe that rent out pairs of runner ducks to farmers for (in some cases) 200 dollars per month per duck?

    What kind of farmer could justify paying that much for predators to keep slugs away from his crop? Specialist cash crops like saffron, strawberries?


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