Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Duck Publication Released!

In 2011, Northeast SARE awarded us a farmer research grant to study the potential of integrating ducks into our shiitake mushroom enterprise. For two seasons we raised several flocks of ducks of many breeds and took observations and data to try and answer the following questions: 

1. Are ducks effective and reliable slug control in log-grown mushroom cultivation?
2. Is the forest affected in any negative way from the presence of ducks?
3. Are ducks (raised for meat) economically viable as an additional farm income stream?

Well, two years later we've completed the project and the results are in! Here are some of our key findings: 
1) Ducks can provide a good level of pest control throughout the farm (including forests, fields, and gardens) and if rotated, do not appear to have adverse effects on the farm landscape.

2) Only one of the four breeds of duck we raised (Muscovy) gains sufficient weight to make a profit. A duck would need to get to at least 8 lbs in a season to make it economical under our model. 150 - 400 ducks would need to be raised per season to be economically viable.

3) Integrating ducks into the mushroom yard did appear to have a positive effect on reducing slug populations and thus mushroom damage, though the mix of variables (weather, temperatures, labor, etc) made it difficult to collect good data on the dynamics at play.
In addition, part of our goal with the project was to author a publication that covered some of the basic tips and tricks for raising ducks, as we found that books and articles just didn't cover all the bases. We hope that our efforts will help farmers and homesteaders consider raising ducks for hobby or profit, valuing their ecosystem services as much as their products. Ducks have a phenomenal potential to be beneficial members of the farm ecosystem.

Ultimately, we are very happy working with ducks and while we decided that, at least for now, we won't be raising ducks for meat at a commercial scale, we continue to maintain a flock of roughly 20 ducks and are selling duck eggs locally.

Read all the details and learn key information about raising ducks in our FREE PDF publication:

Complete Grant Documents can be accessed at:

Drawing by Carl Whittaker
Our Sincere Thanks to:
NE-SARE for funding and support
Roger Ort and Ken Mudge for providing technical expertise
Joshua Pezet for his help caretaking, collecting data, and especially all the wrangling and weighing of ducks in 2012!
Jennifer Gabriel for her wonderful photos.