- 1 Do runners keep what they promise?
- 2 Who are the much-praised runner ducks?
- 3 How to keep runner ducks?
- 4 What environment do the ducks need?
- 5 What to consider during reproduction?
- 6 Benefits of runner ducks
- 7 Disadvantages of running ducks
- 8 Other difficulties
- 9 Is it good to rent ducks for a short time?
- 10 Conclusion and recommendation
- 11 Further methods to control slugs and snails
Do runners keep what they promise?
Runner ducks are currently a trend in slug control.
Although many people speak about them, hardly anyone has really tried to keep runner ducks.
Here you will learn everything you need to know about runner ducks and their needs for keeping them healthy in the garden.
But first who are these ducks and what makes them so special?
Video: Black Indian Runner Ducks
Who are the much-praised runner ducks?
(also called Indian runner ducks or Indian runners)
Runner ducks are ducks which are not able to fly anymore, but in exchange are better off on foot.
Since these animals have been bred already for a long time, they are available in completely different colors.
In the 19th century, breeders brought the running ducks from Asia to Europe.
They can live up to 15 years and the females lay between 150 and 200 eggs per year.
For some years there grows the fashion to use them as predators against slugs and snails because they like to hunt and eat slugs and snails.
In general the ducks can be very friendly and sometimes even intrusive.
Their attitude is similar to that of domesticated chickens, geese or turkeys.
How to keep runner ducks?
If you know how to keep poultry, it is relatively easy to house and supply runner ducks.
But if you have no experience so far, you may run into some difficulties.
You have to take care of them each morning and each evening.
They need a safe stable to protect them from predators at night (fox, marten, dogs, cats).
Therefore in the evening you need to lure them with food into their dwelling.
Normally they are reluctant to go in by themselves.
As a feed you can use normal poultry feed and also unsalted leftovers.
It is important not to use slug baits in the garden and in 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.
The active and alert ducks are herd animals, and live in small groups so that they can feel happy.
Two runner ducks should be enough to keep about 1,000 square yards (square meters) of garden area snail- and slug-free.
What environment do the ducks need?
It is necessary to fence in the vegetable garden to protect the plants from the runner ducks.
Otherwise the slugs will not eat the salad, but the ducks will.
Apart from that the entire duck yard has to be fenced in.
The fence should be at least 55 inches (80 centimeters) high and the mesh tight enough so that the ducks are not able to squeeze through.
If this is not the case, they will leave the property and also predators of the ducks would come in.
Dogs or even foxes and martens will try to reach the defenseless ducks.
Runners need clean water to swim in and to be able to clean themselves.
That’s why at least one large garden pond is needed.
A small pond will not be enough, because it would quickly become a mud hole where the ducks can not keep themselves clean anymore.
They play and splashing in the water extensively with great joy.
In addition, it is worthwhile to set up additional smaller water tanks, in which the water can be renewed regularly. Because it is essential for the ducks to have access to fresh, clear drinking water.
What to consider during reproduction?
Since runner ducks multiply quickly, relatively soon new offspring will arrive.
The chicks must be kept separate from the males, as they would otherwise kill them.
If you do not want reproduction to happen, you can keep only males.
But then of course you also have no eggs to eat.
Just keeping females is harder and not recommended.
You need at least one drake to form a healthy and happy group.
Benefits of runner ducks
It is true the runners like slugs and keep also the snail population small.
Even if you do not leave them directly in the vegetable garden, they will reduce the population of slugs and snails.
A 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 high quality since you know, where they come from and what the animals ate.
They taste a bit different than chicken eggs, but it is possible to get used to it.
Another plus point is that the ducks contribute with their dung to the fertilization of garden and lawn.
Poultry manure is very high quality and that will benefit the plants growth.
Disadvantages of running ducks
Unfortunately the disadvantages are manifold.
In particular because runner ducks need daily attention and care.
And also because their droppings can be a problem. In the garden it’s a fertilizer, but if you step on it on a regular basis, it is not nice anymore.
Further you should consult with the neighbors beforehand. Because the ducks are chattering a lot and are definitely not quiet animals.
Especially if they want to be fed in the morning or in the evening, they can give “alarm” and even wake you up.
That could lead to quarrels with the neighbors.
Moreover the fence in the garden can become an unwanted obstacle.
It is not very nice to look at and of course also costs extra money.
To create a dog protection fence around the property, can quickly become expensive.
You definitely need a big pond. Without a pond the runners are unhappy and you will not enjoy their presence.
Therefore, if necessary, you can create a separate pond, which is also useful for other reasons as biodiversity.
But the question remains, is a pond feasible and wanted.
If you’re not careful, the runner ducks will eat the salad 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, also raised beds are not completely safe.
In nursery beds, they can easily ‘flatten out’ everything and thus become a pest themselves.
This is why directly in the vegetable garden the snails are safe from the runner ducks.
But these are not the only problems.
A big problem is that the ducks also disturb or eat other natural enemies of the slugs.
This means that if you have the ducks in the garden only for a while and not for good, then the slugs will have an open field again afterwards, where they can settle without danger.
So do not forget the runner ducks eat not only slugs, but also many beneficial animals (for example, earthworms, ground beetles, etc.) and deter other predators as toads, hedgehogs, etc.
After all, the reproduction of ducks could become a problem if you do not have the space to hold them and do not know where to leave them.
Also, the separation of chicks and drakes 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 skillful other means of effective slug control.
Is it good to rent ducks for a short time?
This is the fashion and it sounds perfect.
Just borrow some ducks for a short time and the slug population boom ends. Unfortunately, in practice that’s not the case.
Although the ducks can find and eat some of the 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 above mentioned points.
“Just send a couple of runner ducks through the garden for a while and then it’s quiet”: this is a good slogan but not the reality.
In addition, it is always a psychological shock for the ducks to move into a different environment.
This is why for reasons of animal welfare ‘rent a duck’ can not be recommended.
Conclusion and recommendation
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 stable, it might be worth considering.
But even then I would rather advise chickens rather than running ducks.
Because even chickens enjoy eating slugs.
In the past, chickens contributed 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, 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 a number of measures against snails that can be even more effective but do not come with so many unwanted side effects.
Further methods to control slugs and snails
slug fences (soon)