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Posted on 25 June 2018 in Waterfowl and tagged under , , ,

There are so many different breeds of duck it can be difficult to know which breed would be best for you, especially if you’re new to the world of duck keeping. Ducks come in all different sizes, shapes, and weights and they all have a different purpose.

For example, the Pekin breed is a popular choice for meat production as well as making good pets. On the other hand, Indian Runners are prolific egg layers and make great pets, but don’t expect to get much meat from them!

Ducks are also grouped into different weight categories – Heavy, Medium, Light, and Bantam.

Examples of the weight categories would be:

  • Heavy – Pekin
  • Medium – Cayuga
  • Light – Indian Runner
  • Bantam – Call

Of course, you can keep any breed of duck as a pet, but some are easier to care for than others. Here’s a look at our choice of top duck breeds to keep as pets:

Call Ducks

This tiny bantam breed is a popular choice if you’d like to have ducks but don’t have a lot of space. The breed originates from the Mallard duck and is thought to have come from The Netherlands.

Call Ducks are lively, friendly, and can be very noisy so if you live in a urban area they might not be right for you.

You can expect to your ducks to lay around 100 small eggs per year. Call Ducks are available in a wide range of colours including: White, Mallard, Yellow belly, Chocolate, Magpie, Bibbed, Apricot, and Khaki.

call duck

Pekin Ducks

95% of duck meat consumed in America comes from this breed but they also make fantastic pets and are good layers. Often confused with the Aylesbury breed because of their similar “Jemima Puddle-duck” looks the Pekin is fantastic if you have a larger garden.

They are a Heavy breed of duck and originated in China before spreading around the world. They’ll give you between 80 – 140 large white eggs every year and their calm, friendly nature makes them a great option if you have children.

Pekins like to be active, so they’ll appreciate having a bigger area to explore and their orange bills and legs make them an attractive addition to any outdoor space.

pekin duck

Cayuga Ducks

This striking breed is unmistakable thanks to its iridescent green/black plumage and they are quiet, hardy, and easy to tame. They’ll produce 100 – 150 eggs per year that start with black shells at the beginning of the season and gradually lighten to a light grey/white.

The Cayuga Duck was developed in New York in 1809 after a pair of wild black ducks were caught and bred for their colour. These days they are a rare conservation breed and can be hard to find, but they make worthwhile pets if you’re prepared to search for them.

cayuga duck

Indian Runner Ducks

As well as being prolific egg layers, up to 200 per year, the Indian Runner is probably one of the most popular breeds of pet ducks in the world.

Originally from the East Indies (Malaya, Java, and Lombok) rather than India these ducks were first known as “Penguin Ducks” because of their upright stance. As they are taller you’ll need to consider a duck house with a higher roof if you want to include Indian Runners in your flock.

They don’t fly, choosing to run instead, and they love foraging and swimming. They are available in around two dozen colours including: White, Fawn, Apricot, Black, Mallard, and Silver.

Indian runner ducks

Muscovy Ducks

This is a Heavy breed of duck and the Drakes are usually twice the size of females. Muscovy Ducks produce 60-140 eggs per year and are well known for going “broody” so if you’re looking to breed ducks this could be a good option for you.

They are unique in that they are the only breed of duck not to originate from the wild Mallard. In fact, they are closely related to a sub group of perching ducks which is why they have sharp claws that allow them to perch comfortably.

Muscovy Ducks, or ‘Scovies as they are known by their fans, are available in nine different colours all of which have a red crest (called caruncles) around their eyes.

Muscovy ducks

Posted on 23 May 2018 in Waterfowl and tagged under , , , ,

Ducks are fascinating birds and one of our favourites. If you don’t already keep them, they make a great alternative to chickens, and you can also keep them in addition to your existing poultry.

muscovy ducks

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a pond or lake for ducks to be happy. You simply need to provide them with a water source deep enough for them to get their heads under, as this is important for their health.

Here are our top 10 facts about ducks:

  1. All types of duck are part of the Anatidae family of birds and ducks are found across the world in all continents except Antarctica.
  2. Ducks are precocial which means that within hours of hatching ducklings are covered in down and able to walk and leave the nest.
  3. Ducks are omnivorous and opportunistic so they’ll eat everything from plants to crustaceans if they can find them.
  4. Duck quacks do echo!
  5. There are over 40 breeds of domestic duck throughout the world.
  6. The estimated number of ducks is thought to be 1.1 billion – with two thirds of those ducks being in China.
  7. Ducks have been domesticated as pets and farm animals for over 500 years.
  8. All domestic ducks are descended either from the Mallard or Muscovy breeds.
  9. Ducks don’t just quack – their verbal communications range from squeaking to whistling and growling.
  10. Although most duck species are monogamous for the breeding season they don’t mate for life.

 

ducks

One of the great things about keeping poultry is that they don’t take a lot of time on a daily basis. As long as you have time to feed, water, collect eggs, and cast your eye over to flock for any problems then you’ve got time for chickens. Add on an hour or so once a week to thoroughly clean their coop and accessories and you’re done.

However, it’s always nice to be able to save a few minutes here and there. After all, those few minutes mean more time to relax and enjoy your hens once the chores are done.

Luckily there are plenty of products on the market, and DIY projects you can do, that will help you save time on the boring (but essential) jobs involved in chicken keeping.

Automatic chicken coop doors

Automatic door control units are usually solar powered, so you don’t need an electrical supply, and keep your flock safe as well as saving you time.

You can set the timer for whenever suits you, normally dawn and dusk, and this will ensure that your flock are shut up safely for the night if you can’t be there to put them to bed when the sun goes down.

automatic door

Automatic feeder systems

Feeding your flock doesn’t take a lot of time but if you’re running late or you tend to your chickens before you go to work knowing that they’re fed without needing to lug around bags of feed can be useful.

There are many different designs of feeder available online and in pet/poultry shops. However, if you fancy a weekend project we’ve found a great video from Rob Bob’s Backyard Farming showing you how to make a DIY poultry feeder.

Automatic poultry drinkers

Automatic poultry drinkers are also a great time saving invention and not all designs require mains water to work. In fact, some drinkers can even be attached to a water butt so you could collect rain water and hydrate your chickens for free!

Check Ebay for low cost poultry drinkers.

Remember, automated poultry keeping products are great, but they still need to be checked daily and cleaned weekly to ensure they are working correctly.

If you already have chickens but you want to add some webbed footed friends to your flock, we’ve put together a few tips for happy mixed species poultry keeping.

chicken and duck

For some people the idea of keeping ducks and chickens together brings them out in a cold sweat, and even if they keep both species, they are kept in separate enclosures.

Both species are social animals and many people keep ducks and chickens together, usually in perfect harmony. However, they do have different care needs so it isn’t always plain sailing.

Here are some things you’ll need to consider if you’re thinking about having a mixed species flock:

Keeping the peace

Chickens and ducks will squabble both with their own species and with each other. This behaviour is normal and as long as this doesn’t turn into bullying you won’t need to worry about the occasional ruffled feather.

It’s important to provide your flock with enough room for them to be able to avoid a fight. You may find that they need separate poultry houses within the same enclosure and ensure there are plenty of water and food sources so everyone gets their fill.

30 bird chicken house

However, if there is a squabble, damage can sometimes be done by chickens’ beaks, which are far sharper than ducks. Fights are more common between drakes and cockerels during the breeding season than between female birds.

Having an all-female flock, bachelor groups, and removing overly aggressive birds should help to resolve this problem.

Feeding time

As said above, having plenty of food and water stations will mean that the entire flock doesn’t crowd around one place at the same time.

Chickens and ducks also have different nutritional needs, especially when they’re young. Generally speaking it’s not advisable to keep young chickens and ducks together as they should be fed on different food.

 

Adult birds can both be fed chicken layers pellets/mash but care needs to be taken to ensure the ducks are getting enough Niacin (Vitamin B3) in their diet. This can be done by adding Brewer’s Yeast to their feed or a Niacin supplement.

If you keep drakes you’ll also need to be aware that chicken feed has too much calcium in it for drakes. You’ll need to provide your drakes with wheat to keep their protein levels up and they’ll regulate their intake between wheat and layers’ feed themselves.

Keeping water clean

Of course, both species need water to drink but ducks also need water to wash in and this can lead to water sources becoming dirty quickly. There are a number of ways to combat this.

One common solution is to put a drinker higher up and provide perches for your chickens to access it. Nipple style drinkers, in addition to a trough or small pond, ensure that your flock can stay hydrated without your ducks making a mess of the only available water source.

chicken drinker

Posted on 3 March 2018 in Waterfowl and tagged under , , ,

Keeping chickens has undoubtedly become popular in recent years, but that isn’t the only option if you want some feathered friends to share your garden, and we love ducks just as much as we love chickens.

Here are our top reasons why keeping ducks could be the best thing you ever do:

Delicious eggs all year around
As tasty as chicken eggs are, duck eggs are usually richer and creamier, which is why they’re so popular with bakers. Plus, their eggs are bigger, containing more nutrients and goodness than chicken eggs.

Ducks also lay all year around, unlike chickens that stop in the winter, so you won’t need to buy eggs even in December.

They’re cheap to keep
Once you’ve had the initial outlay of a suitable duck house and other equipment you’ll need, ducks are incredibly cheap to keep.

Depending on how many birds you have, one bag of feed could last you for weeks and they’re experts at supplementing their diet with things they find in the garden. In fact, if you’re looking for chemical free pest control, a couple of ducks could be the answer!

Ducks are made of tough stuff
Ducks are extremely hardy and generally less susceptible to disease and infection than chickens. They cope well in harsh weather conditions and if they do become ill, they usually recover fairly quickly with minimal human assistance.

Your neighbours won’t notice you have them
Although most female ducks do make the classic “quack” noise they only do this when startled or frightened. The majority of the time ducks are silent or make quiet noises.

If you’re worried your neighbours won’t like the cackles and squawking that hens make, ducks might be a better choice. Just avoid the infamously loud Call ducks!

They don’t need that much water
Many people think you need a lake, or at least a large pond, in order to keep ducks but depending on which breed you keep that isn’t always the case. In fact, Indian Runner ducks are reportedly happy as long as they have enough water to dunk their heads in, although we’d recommend giving them more.

A child’s paddling pool, a sawn in half barrel or an old bath tub can all make suitable “ponds” for backyard ducks. As long as the water is deep enough for them to get their whole head under then your ducks will be happy.

Ducks are very sociable
Many poultry keepers can’t resist adding to their flock after a while and this can cause disruptions to the pecking order. However, ducks seem to accept new additions to their group more calmly than chickens, so if you’re expecting to expand your brood, ducks are a more likely to welcome them with open wings.

Ducks have great personalities
If you talk to anyone who keeps ducks they’ll tell you all about their individual personalities. Different breeds also have different personality traits, so it’s worth doing your research before starting your flock.

They make loyal friends
Dogs might be mans’ best friend but ducks come in at a close second. Sometimes it can take them a while to trust you, but once they’ve imprinted on you and see you as part of the group, you’ll have a friend for life.

Posted on 19 January 2018 in Chicken Chat, Other Poultry, Waterfowl and tagged under , , , , ,

The latest situation on the Avian Flu outbreak in the UK is that DEFRA have announced a UK wide Prevention Zone from January 18th 2018 for anyone who keeps poultry or captive birds.

This means that:

If you keep poultry you must, by law, follow specific disease prevention measures. These apply to all keepers of birds, regardless of flock size, or if your birds are pets. These are designed to reduce the risk of infection from wild birds.

If you keep birds then you can continue to allow your birds outdoors into fenced areas, but only if these areas meet certain conditions including:

you have made the areas unattractive to wild birds, for example by netting ponds, and by removing wild bird food sources

you have taken action to reduce any existing contamination, such as cleansing and disinfecting concrete areas, and fencing off wet or boggy areas

you have assessed the risk of birds coming into contact with wild birds or contamination from them

If you keep more than 500 birds, you must take some extra biosecurity measures. They include identifying clearly defined areas where access by non-essential people and vehicles is restricted, and cleaning and disinfecting vehicles, equipment and footwear.

DEFRA gives the following biosecurity advice to all poultry keepers in order to reduce the risk of the disease spreading and contaminating UK flocks:

minimise movement in and out of bird enclosures

clean footwear before and after visiting birds, using a Defra approved disinfectant at entrances and exits
clean and disinfect vehicles and equipment that have come into contact with poultry

keep areas where birds live clean and tidy, and regularly disinfect hard surfaces such as paths and walkways
humanely control rats and mice

place birds’ food and water in fully enclosed areas protected from wild birds, and remove any spilled feed regularly

keep birds separate from wildlife and wild waterfowl by putting suitable fencing around outdoor areas they access
keep a close watch on birds for any signs of disease and report any very sick birds or unexplained deaths to your vet

Whether you keep just a few birds as pets or have a much larger flock, good biosecurity is essential for maintaining their health and happiness.

You can register with DEFRA in order to be kept up to date on the Avian Flu situation. If you have 50 or more birds, you should register with DEFRA within one month of their arrival. More information can be found here.

This handy poster gives simple advice for all poultry keepers. It may be worth printing a few copies and giving them to other local poultry keeping friends and family.

Meriel Younger, from Electric Fencing Direct, joins us again on the blog and continues her guide to electric poultry netting kits.

Your battery electric netting kit has arrived, you have never seen an electric fence before, and have no idea how to put it up… here are some pointers and useful tips.

Battery Operated Kit Contains:

Electric netting including posts
Guys and pegs (for bottom line) and netting repair kit
Battery Powered Energiser and Earth Stake (the energiser spec depends on the number of nets)
Electric Fence Warning Sign
12v Battery (Leisure/Agri battery preferably as will hold power longer)

Preparing the Area:

Clear the area of any debris – i.e. sticks and large stones and ensure there are no branches or plants that could touch the netting and short it.
Mow or lay dpc or spray the grass where the netting is going to stand.

Setting Up Your Battery Operated Kit:

Locate the Energiser close to the net (this can be at the end or middle of a net) and push its stand and earth into the ground. Please keep the energiser off the ground to prevent it getting damp. (For Solar Units ensure the solar panel is facing south and out of shade so it receives the maximum amount of sunshine)

Link the earth cable on the Energiser to the supplied earth stake using the green crocodile clip. For a multiple earth system, locate earths 1m away from each other and link via lead out cable.

Link the live cable on the energiser to the metal clip on the net or the top line of the netting with the red crocodile clip. DO NOT attach the crocodile clip to a vertical line in the net (as these are not electrified).

Link up the two battery leads, (black EARTH first, then red LIVE). When switching the energiser on you will see the Energiser flashing indicating it is sending pulses. To disconnect the Energiser from the battery, switch off, take red LIVE off first then black EARTH.

Solar Assist: attach the solar panels clips on to the appropriate battery terminal and then attach energiser clips on to battery terminals.

To Set Up The Netting:

Lay out the net in roughly in the position you want the net to be.

Put the first/start post in to the ground.

Go around the netting putting the posts into the ground – use your foot to pull the bottom of the post to ensure tension in the netting.

Position your hot gate if you have one – connect by using the metal clips on the netting.

Your netting doesn’t have be in a circle… it can be in a straight line if required.

Once your netting is up tweak its position and use your guy ropes (half way up the post) to put tension in corners or on long straight sections. Use netting clips to lift any sagging sections or reposition the posts with your foot to get better tension. Wooden corner posts can be used to give extra tension to netting but the netting must NOT touch the wooden post or it will short. Peg down the bottom line – it is not electrified.

Testing:

Once all is connected you should ideally test your net with an Electric Fence Tester. It must be greater than 3000v to be effective.

If below 3000v you have:

You have too much earthing (listen for a clicking sound) reposition net posts so that live lines do not touch the ground, slightly leaning the posts outwards sometimes helps, otherwise add netting clips or more posts.

Poor connection between the Energiser and net (you may even see it sparking at night).

Poor connection between Energiser and earth stake.

Battery needs re-charging (take live line off the net and test voltage output of wire).

An equipment failure.

Further Notes:

The Nets: Keep vegetation away from the net (i.e. by mowing or if in a semi-permanent position by spraying or lay down a strip of heavy material e.g. damp course under the net).

Additional nets: are linked by slotting the end clips together and then tie together with the green cord provided.
Gates: Hotgate is an easy way to access an enclosure. It has an insulated handle and a foot plate for the moving post to slot into.

Set Up Tips: Do not try to pull the net too taught during set up. Once the net is up, re-position individual posts until the net stands up right. If you have undulating land or are very exposed you may need more posts and/or net tensioners, which will minimize sag. (To insert follow instructions for adding the ‘Gate Post’) Setting the posts at a slight angle outwards can also help improve tension.

12v Battery: For best results use a ‘Deep Cycle’ battery (e.g. a fencing/agri battery) with a minimum output of 30 amp hours for the smaller Energisers, or a minimum of 60amp hours for larger Energisers. These should last approx. 4-12 weeks between charges. Car batteries are not recommended, they are not designed to be discharged and will let you down.

We love talking electric fencing… so if you need to contact us: call 01620 860058 or email info@electricfencing.co.uk

www.electricfencing.co.uk

Posted on 18 September 2017 in Guest Posts and tagged under , , ,

In part three of our guide to electric poultry netting, Meriel Younger, from Electric Fencing Direct, gives you detailed instructions to your mains powered electric poultry netting kit.

You can read part two and part one here.

Your mains electric netting kit has arrived…so how do you set it up?

Of course there are instructions, but here are some pointers you might want to think about and some concise instructions too.

Mains Operated Kit Contains:

Electric netting including posts
Guys and pegs (for bottom line) and netting repair kit
Mains powered and earth stake (the energiser spec depends on the number of nets)
Electric fence warning sign

Please note: Lead out cable (10m, 25m, 50m or 100m) is required and must be added to the kit

Preparing the Area:

Clear the area of any debris – ie sticks and large stones and ensure there are no branches or plants that could touch the netting and short it
Mow or lay dpc or spray the grass where the netting is going to stand
Check distances from mains socket to fence to ensure you have enough lead out cable

Setting Up Your Mains Operated Kit:

Locate the adapter plug of the energiser in a waterproof location (i.e. inside next to a plug socket or protected from the elements outside). The energiser is waterproof BUT the adaptor is not.

Position the earth stake close to the building containing the Energiser. Insert the earth stake into the ground until 6” or so is showing (note: the earth stake must beat least 8 mtrs away from a house earth and away from tree roots and foundations).

Link to Earth: Cut a length of cable to fit the distance from Energiser to Earth. Bare the cable back at either end to show the metal core and connect one end to the green Earth terminal on the Energiser and the other to the earth screw onto or connect to the earth rod. (Locate additional 1m away from each other and link either via lead out cable or wire if required).

Connect to Net (via outdoor switch):- With re remaining lead out cable bare both ends of the cable to attach it to firstly the live terminal on the energiser and secondly the other end to the net (insert cable into piping if going underground). Insert bare end of lead out cable into crocodile clips and clip to net.

If you would like to use a cut out switch to enable you to turn off the fence at the fence… then here’s how. Connect the bared back lead out cable coming from the energiser to the cut out switch, attach cut out switch to a wooden post, attach a further section of lead out cable to switch and connect this last section with a crocodile clip to the fence.

To put lead out cable into crocodile clips…. Bare off ½ ” (1 cm) of cable and push into the ‘spade’. Crimp tight (with pliers). The ‘spade’ pushes into flat metal clip positioned inside the crocodile clip. Connect the crocodile clip to the metal net clamp; or another solution is to bare 1” of cable and wrap around the metal net clamp. DO NOT attach the lead out cable to a vertical line in the net (as these are not electrified), or to just one of the horizontal lines as this will not electrify the net efficiently, it will only electrify that one individual line.
Switch on: the Energiser will flash indicating it is sending pulses.

Test with your fence tester to check the amount of power coming through the net and to make sure there are no shorts.

To Set Up The Poultry Netting:

Lay out the net in roughly in the position you want the net to be.

Put the first/start post in to the ground.

Go around the netting putting the posts into the ground – use your foot to pull the bottom of the post to ensure tension in the netting.

Position your hot gate if you have one – connect by using the metal clips on the netting.

Your netting doesn’t have be in a circle… it can be in a straight line if required.

Once your netting is up tweak its position and use your guy ropes (half way up the post) to tension in corners or on long straight sections. Use netting clips to lift any sagging sections or reposition the posts with your foot to get better tension. Wooden corner posts can be used to give extra tension to netting but the poultry netting must NOT touch the wooden post or it will short. Peg down the bottom line too.

Further Notes:

The Nets: Keep vegetation away from the poultry netting (i.e. by mowing or if in a semi-permanent position by spraying or lay down a strip of heavy material e.g. damp course under the net).

Additional nets: are linked by slotting the end clips together and then tie together with the green cord provided.

Gates: Hotgate is an easy way to access an enclosure. It has an insulated handle and a foot plate for the moving post to slot into.

Set Up Tips: Do not try to pull the net too taught during set up. Once the net is up, re-position individual posts until the net stands up right. If you have undulating land or are very exposed you may need more posts and/or net tensioners, which will minimize sag. (To insert follow instructions for adding the ‘Gate Post’) Setting the posts at a slight angel outwards can also help improve tension.

We are always on hand to help with any poultry netting set up enquiries… so if you have any questions just get in touch at info@electricfencing.co.uk or 01620 860058 or visit www.electricfencing.co.uk

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