What is the barrel for snails

Runner ducks: tips on keeping and care

Runner ducks, also known as Indian runner ducks or bottle ducks, are descended from the mallard and originally come from Southeast Asia. In the middle of the 19th century the first animals were imported to England and from there the ducks conquered the gardens of continental Europe. Runners have a slim body, long neck, and an upright gait. You are lively, attentive and very agile. They run fast and like to swim, but they cannot fly. They mainly need water to feed and care for their plumage, but they also enjoy splashing around in it. In the past, ducks were mainly kept because of their high laying performance, because on average a running duck lays up to 200 eggs a year. Today, however, they are mainly used in the gardens as extremely effective snail hunters.

Keeping ducks is not very complicated or time-consuming, but the purchase must be carefully considered and prepared. So that there are no disputes with neighbors, for example, they should be included and informed in advance. In the garden of the Seggewiß family in Raesfeld in the Münsterland region, busy running ducks have been living, chattering and hunted for years. This is why Thomas Seggewiß, the keeper of the ducks and master of the house, is now a proven running duck expert. In the interview he gives us an insight into the coexistence with the animals as well as practical tips about keeping and caring for the runner ducks.

Frequent questions about keeping ducks

Mr. Seggewiß, what do beginners have to pay attention to if they want to keep ducks?
The animals are very easy to care for, but of course they want to be cared for - daily feeding is therefore important. A small stable is also mandatory, it serves as protection from uninvited guests in the garden. A plot of land with a garden pond is ideal for the ducks. However, one should note that ducks like to splash around and that a pond that is too small can quickly turn into a mud hole. A large pond is not so prone to this. But it would be best if the ducks could go in "clean feet". We imagine designing the edge of the pond in such a way that the ducks can only enter in a certain way. This path is laid out with fine gravel. All other parts of the bank should be so densely planted or have a low fence that the ducks cannot get through. We have set up numerous water points in our garden in the form of small and large zinc tubs, which the ducks like to use for drinking and bathing. Of course, these have to be cleaned regularly so that they do not also become mud pools.

It is very important: stay away from slug pellets! It knocks out the strongest duck! Because the snails eat the grain, the ducks eat the snails, ingest the poison with it and immediately drop dead. The neighbor should also be asked not to use it. Snails cover considerable distances at night. You could therefore get into your own garden and thus to the ducks. In return, the neighbor will also benefit from the eager snail hunters.

Do you have to lock your ducks in the barn every night?
We have always given our ducks the option to spend the night inside or outside. We have made it into the habit for them to go to the stable in the evening, but without constant accompaniment they don't keep it for long and prefer to stay outside. Even so, it is essential to provide a stable. This should be a few square meters for several animals and can be securely locked to protect against foxes and martens when the ducks are in it. With us they run around freely on the entire property.

Only in spring do we lock them in the barn in the evening. Because at this time the fox looks after its young and goes hunting more often. Once he has discovered the ducks as food for himself, it is often difficult to keep him away. A high fence - ours is 1.80 meters high - is not an absolute obstacle for him. He can also dig his way under the fence. The only remedy that helps is locking the ducks away in the evening. However, they do not go to the stable voluntarily - unless they have been trained to do so and they are regularly accompanied. Even in winters with severe temperatures, prolonged frosts and snow, the ducks only go into the barn on their own from around -15 degrees Celsius at night.

Is a high fence compulsory?
The area in which the ducks move should be fenced off so that they know where they belong and cannot trample on small plants. As already mentioned, the garden fence also serves to protect against animal hunters. A height of around 80 centimeters is enough to hold back the ducks, as they cannot fly, or only to a limited extent. We always say: "Our Laufis don't know that they can fly and from half a meter they get scared of heights, but if there is a fence there, they don't even try."

Do runners make a noise?
As with many other creatures, the ladies of the duck runner are the louder. They often draw attention to themselves by chattering loudly. The gentlemen, on the other hand, have a very quiet organ and only whisper. If your bedroom is nearby, the chattering on Sunday mornings can be a nuisance. If the ducks are fed, however, they are immediately calm again.

How many ducks should you keep at least and how many do you need to keep the garden free of snails?
Running ducks are by no means loners. They are herd animals and are always out and about in a group, preferably all day long. In the mating season, the drakes pursue the ducks very intrusively. In order not to overload the ducks, it is advisable to keep more ducks than drakes. Then the group structure is most peaceful. An all-male group usually does not cause any problems. But if only one lady is present, there will be trouble. In principle, ducks should not be kept alone, even if the garden should be quite small. In a double pack they simply feel more comfortable and a couple can easily keep a normal home garden of around 1,000 square meters free of snails. In our garden with an area of ​​around 5,000 square meters, we keep around ten to twelve ducks.

What can you feed your ducks with?
When it is not too warm in summer and you are taking a nap in the shade, ducks are constantly on the move and constantly beaking on the ground for grains and small animals. They turn every leaf over to look for bugs. Her favorite dish is nudibranch - and it's best in large quantities. Snail eggs, which can be found in the ground in autumn, are also part of it. In this way they also reduce the number of snails in the following year considerably. Runners always take some earth and small stones with them when they eat. This is good for your digestion. Nevertheless, you should give them separate food - but not more than is actually eaten. Leftover food is always an attraction for unwanted guests in the garden.

In spring and summer, when the supply of insects and snails in the garden is quite large, there is little need to feed. In winter, however, the need for additional feed increases accordingly. Normal grain feed is very suitable as additional feed for chickens. It contains all the important nutrients. But the ducks also like to eat some leftover food. For example, pasta, rice and potatoes are always eaten quickly. However, salty and spicy foods should be avoided.

Do runner ducks also eat plants? Do vegetable beds and ornamental plants need special protection?
For lettuce and small vegetable plants, a fence is useful for protection. Because they not only taste good to us humans, but also to ducks. In general, ducks steal very few plants. For example, our ducks eat petunias, small banana trees and some aquatic plants. If possible, we raise the plants a little so that the hungry beaks can no longer reach them. Otherwise, the ducks run through all the herbaceous borders and also over a wooded wall on the busy road. There is no feeding damage there. The animals should only stay in the enclosure for one to two weeks in early spring, when the perennials are just emerging. Otherwise, when they hunt snails in the flower beds, they step a little flat here and there. Once the perennials are a little bigger and stronger, the ducks can waddle freely through the area again.

What about the offspring?
Running ducks have a very high laying performance and build their nests in sheltered places in the garden or in the stable. A clutch often contains more than 20 eggs. During the breeding season of around 28 days, the ducks leave their nest to eat and bathe once or twice a day. During this time you can quickly check how big the clutch is. After a few days it can also be determined how high the fertilization rate is. To do this, you have to x-ray the eggs with a bright lamp and watch out for fine, dark blood vessels that become visible after a few days of incubation. A piece of cardboard is very suitable for this, in which an oval hole about three by five centimeters is cut. You put the egg in the hole and shine a light on it from below with a powerful flashlight. When the duck returns, however, the egg should be back in the nest.

It often happens that a duck disappears. That doesn't have to be an immediate sign of a fox nearby. Often the nest building has been overlooked and the duck breeds in a sheltered place. After a few days, however, the duck should reappear for feeding. It is imperative that the hen and its hatched chicks be separated from the drakes. Because the male animals often see competition in the offspring and can quickly become dangerous for the little ones. If two chicks get chicks at the same time, it can happen that the chicks attack and kill the foreign chicks as well. Therefore, it is better to separate them from one another.

More interesting facts about ducks

• Ducks are often used to train herding dogs. Owners who do not have their own flock of sheep but want to train herding behavior very often do so with a small group of ducklings. The ducks always stay together and can be driven in the desired direction with just a few movements.

• The common aversion to duck eggs stems from the fact that it was previously thought that they were more susceptible to salmonella than hen eggs. Since the animals like to bathe in the mud, the eggs are often a bit dirty too. But the assumption is wrong, because unfortunately salmonella occurs everywhere.

• Runner ducks lay an egg almost every day - more than most chicken breeds. Under natural conditions, like chickens, they stop production in winter. As soon as the days get longer and brighter again, things will start again. Duck eggs are usually slightly larger than chicken eggs and have a harder and thicker shell.

• Duck eggs used to be considered a delicacy. They have a very fresh taste, but not everyone likes it. They are very good for pancakes and pastries. The intense color of the yolk gives the dough a great yellow color and a special taste.

• Ducks hardly leave any dirt in the garden. The manure is very fluid and is usually absorbed directly from the ground. What is left will be washed away by the next rain. Just don't get into the habit of feeding the ducks on the patio. Because then they do their business there very quickly.

• You can even rent ducks. But if you think you can get your garden snail-free in the long term with a couple of ducks rented for a few weeks, you are wrong! For this you have to enter into a longer relationship with the lovable animals and provide them with permanent board and lodging. Only then can an ecological equilibrium arise.

You are welcome to visit the magnificent garden and of course the lively running ducks of the Seggewiß family, by prior arrangement. Or you come to the next open garden day. Further information and pictures can be found on the homepage of the Seggewiß family.

Video: 5 tips against snails

In the video we show you how to get rid of snails in the garden without the help of ducks.

In this video we share 5 helpful tips to keep snails out of your garden.
Credit: Camera: Fabian Primsch / Editor: Ralph Schank / Production: Sarah Stehr