What the Duck? Shuswap gardener says you're quacked if you don't have one | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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What the Duck? Shuswap gardener says you're quacked if you don't have one

Silver appleyard ducks, unable to fly away.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED: Jedidiah Wiebe
September 01, 2020 - 7:00 AM

Shuswap resident Jedidiah Wiebe describes himself as a "duck evangelist."

With a couple of dozen waddling around his yard and garden, Wiebe estimates the birds have munched through 100 lbs. of slugs and snails in the last year alone.

"I think ducks are a brilliant alternative to the chicken," Wiebe said. "I can not understand why it is not as popular as chickens considering the benefits."

While the popularity of backyard chickens over the last few years has even spurred local governments to change their bylaws, the humble duck has largely been left out of the picture. However, Wiebe says the benefits often outweigh those of backyard chickens.

"The tip of the bill is incredibly sensitive and so they can feel and taste and smell without even looking," Wiebe said. "Whereas a chicken does the opposite, it just scratches the ground and then visually looks for something to eat."

The end result is that ducks cause a lot less damage than chickens.

Along with eating vast amounts of snails and slugs, ducks will also lay eggs, and when the time comes, taste very good after being in the oven. They are also quiet, unlike chickens.

Wiebe, who together with his partner launched Elderberry Grove Farm in 2017, said he's kept ducks on and off since he was a child. While he doesn't give his ducks free range of his garden or the farm, with the right management he says it is quite possible.

Wiebe said ducks won't eat many garden vegetables, so can have free run of the garden without eating everything. Gardeners definitely need to keep ducks away from strawberries or other desirables, though.

Wiebe said his ducks eat almost all of the by-products leftover from making syrup, and juice on his elderberry farm.

"They go crazy over it and eat until their poop turns purple."

Currently, he has two breeds of duck, the silver appleyard and the buff orpington. They weigh between four and eight pounds and neither breed will take off unlike their ancestor, the wild mallard.

"They cannot fly, they're so fat compared to any flying duck," he said.

They have, however, kept some of the good traits from the native mallard duck, and have enough fat and down to keep them warm through a Canadian winter. Chickens on the other hand – with origins in Africa and Asia – need their coops heated in the winter.

"For a lot of people, the duck can be a superior alternative to the chicken," Wiebe said.

While a coop is required, duck owners don't even need to provide the birds with a pond, although it is advantageous if you want them to breed.

"The water makes them randy, so if you want to make sure that they are getting it on, then you might want to get a kiddie pool... that puts the ducks in the mood for reproduction," he said.

With so many benefits for gardeners, the self-described "duck evangelist" is passionate about spreading the word about backyard ducks – a bird he believes has been well overlooked.

Check out the Elderberry Grove Farm here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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