Using Geese/Ducks for Organic Weed/Bug Control-Questions

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Hello, I have a question in regards to using ducks/geese for organic weed/bug control. Anybody doing this? If so, what breed? how is it working? any thoughts on cost/result? Also, what about shelter? Additional feed purchased, what kind? I am looking for any information you would care to share. Thanks!!

-- Wendy@GraceAcres (wjl7@hotmail.com), February 08, 2001

Answers

Down here in Texas we just get eaten up by grasshoppers in the summer and I got some Muscovy ducks and I don't have any more grasshoppers. Not enough to be a problem, anyway. I've heard Muscovy ducks are the best for this sort of thing. I hear geese are good too but I like the Muscovys. Their eggs are great too. If you have a pond, you won't need any kind of shelter, unless you are way up north. Then just some kind of shed with some straw. But if you don't have a pond of some kind you'll have to put them up at night to keep skunks or coyotes from eating them. If you have a pond don't worry about them. Muscovy males get to about 20 pounds and females around 9 or 10 pounds. If you have enough bugs you won't have to feed them anything in the warm months and in the winter I just give them some wild gamebird mix. Kinda like chicken scratch, but don't give them chicken starter because there's something in that isn't good for the ducks. Cost/results? The eggs they lay will make up for any cost you're out. You didn't say how much land you have you want to keep the bugs off of, but I figure to keep land bug free, it'll take about five muscovys per acre. That works for me. By the way, you'll love the Muscovy's temperment. Great ducks.

-- Joe (jcole@apha.com), February 08, 2001.

We have both geese and ducks and they seem to prefer my flowers and shrubs to the weeds. We only give extra feed in the winter when there is snow cover and we also give hay during that time. We use just oats and corn - nothing special. Mostly they will find their own shelter, but we do let them in the barn during the winter when it is really cold and they like that. I have seen people use old hog huts for shelter near a pond.

-- beckie (sunshine_horses@yahoo.com), February 08, 2001.

Hi Wendy. When I was a kid, my uncle down in Arkansas used geese to keep his cotton amd soybeans weed free. He had something like 1500 at one time so they must have worked out well. He turned them out in the morning and then put out feed in the evening so they would all return to a penning area to keep them safe. You were also unable to carry on a conversation on my grandma's back porch 3 miles away when they wanted in or out!

The trick is to be sure THEY know what is weed and what is crop by your definition, not theirs. They were successful for my uncle because the grasses and weeds were more palatable to them than the young cotton and bean plants. They worked in the corn fields later when the corn was too big for them to pull up.

I've heard of using them in strawberry beds until the strawberries are just ready to set fruit or they would trample/eat every one in sight.

The years my uncle had the geese, we used the eggs for cooking and every church, elementary school and children's group (Brownies, Cub Scouts) had plenty of Golden Eggs at Easter. The goslings were so cute and a lot of wild geese took up residence with my uncle's weeders because they were safe and had plenty to eat. All I remember about breed was that they were tall, stately white geese.

-- marilyn (rainbow@ktis.net), February 08, 2001.


I had geese when I lived in Texas and they did not care if it was weeds or vegtables they ate it.

-- Mike in wny (jake@2ki.net), February 08, 2001.

I had ducks for years and they were great to pick the tomato worms off and eat the potato bugs!! As for the muscovy ducks they are great layers and mothers but they fly and if you don't want to patch your roof or repaint the car you have to clip their wings or keep them confined...In the summer I never fed my ducks anything but a handful of corn...In the winter they always cleaned up around the feeders and the manure piles...they actually do not need shelter...In the worst snow storm I watched them sit until they were buried then climb up on top to sit again to be buried doing it over and over until the snow stopped! In zero weather you have to becareful if you have a pond that they don't get frozen in the water! I have had ducks that lost their feet when they got frozen in the pond...they still managed to get around.

-- Cathy Hamilton (chamilton@mail.gcnet.net), February 08, 2001.


Last year I thought it would be a good idea to put the few ducks in my garden to eat bugs. Had to take them back out because they trampled the plants so badly. Not saying I won't try again. It's always a trade-off on which seems to do the most damage-the bugs or the cure.

-- mary, texas (marylgarcia@aol.com), February 08, 2001.

Thanks to everyone for the great answers!

Joe, I did a little research on the Muscovy Ducks after reading your suggestion. They sound great! I am in Missouri, about 2 hrs from the Kansas line. Don't think it would be too cold around here, do you? I checked at the 2 local hatcheries and McMurry and none of them sell the Muscovy. Maybe because of our location? Do you know where to order them?

McMurry has a "weeder geese" that they sale. Does not indicate the type, just that they are weeders. They did say you have to keep them from your strawberries, for a time, when they are ripe. I currently use guineas for bug patrol, but want to add to the mix. We are increasing the size of our growing areas and want to stay "natural" while gearing towards certified organic. Not committed to that 100%, just looking towards it. We already practice rotation, cover crops, green manure & living mulch. Have only used Diatamacious Earth once in the last 2 years. No pesticideds of any kind. Do the composting, etc.. Anyway, thats why I am really wanting the ducks or geese...or both. I really appreciate everyone who responded! Thanks!

-- Wendy@GraceAcres (wjl7@hotmail.com), February 09, 2001.


Oops, I forgot to add. SQUASH BUGS....any breed particulary LOVE to gobble on these critters?? Squash bugs are my nemisis....other than a flame thrower, I cannot find a "natural" way to eliminate them!! Any ideas? Thanks!

-- Wendy@GraceAcres (wjl7@hotmail.com), February 09, 2001.

Wendy: We have Muscovies up here in MN so I doubt that you would be too cold for them. I also tried using our goslings as weeders last year but without too much success. They tend to trample the plants. I have heard that the key is when they are very young to feed them the weeds and grasses that you want them to eat so they learn that they are food. Also, from what I've read on the weeder geese they use 1st year goslings and then use those goslings for meat in the fall. I'm sure it has something to do their being easier to manage than the larger adult geese.

Hoffman Hatchery in PA sells Muscovies as well as several other places I know of. If you need more info just let me know.

Good luck.

-- Trisha-MN (tank@Linkup.net), February 09, 2001.


I know that this sounds funny, but it always works for me. If you want a natural insect repellent why not train a chicken. I had Lucy for 12 years and she would follow me around when I hoed and eat the grub worms that were hoed up. She would also eat squash bugs too. She never ate my veggies. I would just go call her out of the coop and take her with me. I have Dotty now! I can call her and she knows her name. I haven't tried her in the garden yet, because I haven't needed her so far. She is great for grasshoppers in the herb bed and around our little goldfish pond. We had ducks in the yard on several occasions and the ducks ate all of the baby cucs. off the vine through the fence! They are very cute though!

-- Nan (davidl41@ipa.net), February 09, 2001.


Thanks Trisha, I emailed Hoffman Hatchery for their catalog. Good to know it won't be too cold here. I am leary after reading so many of the responses about trampling and eating the wrong things!! Hmm, wonder if I should just increase my guinea flock? They do great with bugs, but not as much with weeds. Decisions, decisions...LOL!

Nan, neat idea. I think we have too much area that needs covered for the chicken "training" {grin} to work. Although, I have considered the idea of fencing off the "tomato" areas, and letting them roam the rest of the areas. I don't know. Do they do much damage to other crops? I'm open to any ideas. Thanks!

-- Wendy@GraceAcres (wjl7@hotmail.com), February 09, 2001.


Well, I have a half acre garden and am out in it every day, if I ever need to take Dotty with me I will probably take a couple of extras too. You can never have too many friends, Right?! I always plant a bunch of radishes with my squash plants and let them go to seed. They take care of the squash bug problem I like white icecicle the best because they seem to get bigger. Somethin in them repels the bugs. For cabbage worms I mulch with lawn clippings. That seems to help. When I pick a head that I want to use immediately I soak it in cold salted water before I cook it. All the critters that you didn't see will come to the top of the water. It is the same for broccoli or cauliflower too! Once my husband saw me doing this and wouldn't eat the broccoli. He saw a worm and guess he was worried that I wouldn't get them all. Boy, some people are picky!:~) I absolutely refuse to shuck corn if he is around or he wouldn't be eaten that either. You either have to nuke it till it glows or deal with a few bugs on the end. I never have a bad problem and I just cut off that end. I have tried the mineral oil, but had the exact same luck just leaving it plain jane! A bug free garden is probably a nuclear active one! SNICKER SNICKER! Oh...I got off track again didn't I ....I always do that!!!! Sorry!!!!

-- Nan (davidl41@ipa.net), February 09, 2001.

Wendy,

My efforts with weeders were not very productive. I didnt have any trampling problems but if just left to themselves the weeders ate most of the garden first before turning to the weeds. Ducks and geese head straight for the salad patch. All lettuce, purslane, spinach, cress, malabar, etc goes first (50 ducks and 30 geese can wipe out the better part of 1/4 acre in an afternoon). The only salad patch item that Ive found that they leave is shungiku.

Next they migrate to the kohls. Cabbages, kohlrabi, broccoli, raab, chard, etc, and work on those with occasional breaks for a bite of pumpkin vine leaves, until the kohl patch is gone except for the head cores.

Now its time to turn their attention to the squash and pumpkins, leaving just the fruits and the main vine.

As they move along they grab any clovers that may be hanging around (is that what you had in mind for living mulch?).

Things that I have found to be safe are: relatively developed corn, tomatoes, all beans, carrots, onions, garlic, parsnips, potatoes, garlic, hamburg parsley, melons, strawberries, and and soybeans.

I suppose that you could grow a "safe" garden and let them weed that but I found that I didnt have the time to babysit the geese...now if you had a young one who needed to earn allowance...

-- William in WI (gnarledmaw@lycos.com), February 09, 2001.


There are some interesting web sites about Muscovies. They're nice ducks. Good personalaties. They're from Brazil and I've been told they're the only domestic duck in the US that isn't related to the mallard ducks. I know they love to eat mosquitoes. Snatch them right out of the air.

Down here in Texas we can usually find somebody selling baby Muscovies at trade days place. You might look in some newspapers in your areas. They're pretty common.

-- Joe (jcole@apha.com), February 09, 2001.


Chickens, on the other hand, love tomatoes, melons, and sometimes will even eat the squash.

-- mary, texas (marylgarcia@aol.com), February 09, 2001.


Great info here guys! You have changed my mind completely!! Glad I asked!

Hey William, did you get the geese & ducks for the same reasons I was wanting to? Do you grow organic? Any "words of wisdom" you'd care to share? I am looking for ANY info from one who has "been there & done that". We have a group of 30 families who are currently buying all their eggs, produce, etc.. from a health store. They have a condition that forces them to eat strictly organic. Right now they are paying $3.59 per dozen, for organic eggs. They would like to buy from a local grower. And the eggs, meat, ect. We are raising/growing naturally but would really like to explore this opportunity. Would need to do a few things differently. We have also begun a orchard, this is the 3rd growing season for them. Also have planted different berries. And are expanding our pumpkin growing, Indian corn, Corn stalks, gourds, ect.. And adding Turkeys and Cornish Cross, as well as some fryers for meat sales.

Yes, the clover is used in my pathways and I am "setting" aside portions of the garden areas to try to build up the soil. I have planted red clover and alfalfa in those areas. This will be the second growing season on those areas. I also plant the winter wheat and will till that back in the Spring. Also planted some Hairy Vetch last fall to be used in the Tomato area,(for mulch) curious to see how that works this year. I would love to hear anything anyone has done along these lines. I don't know much but am trying to learn. The bad part is, we don't have any equipment!!! I hand sow(well, I do have the over the shoulder spreader) and use our big garden tiller, but would love to have a tractor!!! (sigh) Anyway, what I mostly have available is my labor....not much money, sooooo, whatever I do, I have to do with that in mind. I have also used buckwheat in newly tilled areas, to prepare that soil for planting the following year with less grass & weed competion. Anyway, I am convinced to forget the geese. I do think I will try just a couple of the Muscovy ducks this year and depending how they do, can always add more next year if need be..thanks for the idea Joe.

Nan, I will try the radishes. I grow pumpkins, I assume the radishes would do the same with these as with the squash? Probably won't be able to do too large an area but will try with a small area this year and see how it works.

Thanks all!

-- Wendy@GraceAcres (wjl7@hotmail.com), February 09, 2001.


Don't know why it wouldn't work with pumpkins. I have just never had any trouble with my punkins yet! I plant them in hills about 3 feet apart(4-6 plants per hill) and then mulch everything with black and white newspapers with old straw over the newpapers. It is a lot of work at first and then no work after that. I have a punkin patch and watermelon patch combined, with some cantelopes and a few odd squash. It is an area of about 50 by 30 or so. There are plenty for our family and plenty to share with the neighbors(bribery:~).

-- Nan (davidl41@ipa.net), February 09, 2001.

Hello everyone, The post about training the geese know what is food for them (weeds) vs. your food, is needed. Mature birds are less likely to eat something that looks different than "food" an example to train birds to not eat tomatoes or strawberries place fake red 'tomato' balls and fake red strawberries around in the pen and in the green weeds/food that you want the birds to eat, they must never be allowed any thing red to eat,(or be fed food pellets as they will try other pellet shape things,) and when they are grown they think red things are not food. Weed eating geese/ducks work best on large crops like corn, okra,pole beans, soy beans and orchards.Some birds will taste forbiden foods and learn to eat them, these birds must be removed before the other birds learn from them to eat the wrong things. Good Luck!

-- Thumper (slrldr@aol.com), February 09, 2001.

OH, forgot to add that weeds can be grown in seed flats so the birds learn the right foods, and you should not put the birds on a crop until the crop is big enough it doesn't look like food to the birds

-- Thumper (slrldr@aol.com), February 09, 2001.

Try undercropping with mint to get rid of squash bugs - although you have to be careful to confine it! As far as squash bugs go, the more mulch, the more squash bugs. I found that no mulch or a plastic or other flat, inorganic mulch (carpet scraps, etc, not newspapers, they love that too) works best.

-- Soni (thomkilroy@hotmail.com), February 10, 2001.

Wendy,

"...did you get the geese & ducks for the same reasons I was wanting to?"

I thought that it would be a nifty side benefit but no, my flock is primarily to feed the family.

"Do you grow organic?"

A conversation between my wife and I last summer:
I began,"I dont know what Im going to do, the bugs are eating everything."
"Well, why dont you just spray something to kill the bugs?"
"Because Im trying to raise organic-"
"Organic bugs?"
So yes, I guess I qualify as a master organic bug farmer, the gardening part still gets mighty elusive. One of the things that the ducks and geese are best for in relation to my organic efforts is what I refer to as "duck sheets". I like to use "lawn hay" when I bed the poultry. I make that by letting some of my property grow too long and then cutting and drying it. The waterfowl tend to pack their bedding down and make it soggy. I use a scoop shovel to pick that up in sheets and place those sheets in a wheel barrow. Then I carpet with "duck sheets" between the rows, duck side down, wherever fertilizer is needed and it gets mulched in the process. It never burns and makes things grow like crazy. It takes care of a number of problems all at once (fertilize, mulch, weeding, bedding disposal, etc) which is important as my garden is about 1 acres and I do mine "by hand" too. I dont know that it is directly related but my garden is pretty much disease free, and has been while I have used duck sheets, could be a coincidence though...which ever way, it doesnt help with bugs. I do use clover for living mulch too but it acts as a goose magnet so I plant tall borders of goose safe foods like sunflowers w/pole limas as a garden palisade. It blocks their view of the goodies in the garden and along with a distraction planting elsewhere (of leftover garden seeds, alfalfa, clover, garbage seeds from leftovers and trimmings, etc) and a wheat field (17 acres in wheat this year), they just arent interested when everything is sprouting and by the time its grown up they seem to have forgotten that my garden was there. The palisade helps to keep the thundermutts out too which is no small feat.

I wouldnt entirely forget the geese, with all they bring I would never get rid of mine. We eat a lot of goose and there are a lot of good uses for goose grease, some lay piles of giant eggs, the down cant be beat plus the lawn mowing and fertilizing that they do replaces a lot of effort on our part. It just requires a bit of extra thought as to how you go about things and where things are placed.

"Any "words of wisdom" you'd care to share? "

Never trust a man with a comb over.

-- William in WI (gnarledmaw@lycos.com), February 13, 2001.


Nan,

Im not sure Ive ever heard of the radish/squash protection plan, Ill have to try it. I grow a lot of both but never put them together.

Ever heard of rattail radishes? I really like these. Its a kind of radish that you intentionally let go to seed and then pick the pods and pickle them while they are still green and "vegetabley". Its kind of like a hot pickled green bean. That way you could protect your squash and get a crop from the radishes at the same time. I have a little worm that eats my regular radishes (parat, french breakfast, etc) if they stay in the garden too long so I couldnt use regular radishes for the squash unless I was just going to write them off as a loss.

I wonder if black spanish radishes work against squash bugs too? The worms dont seem to like them and I could get 2 crops from the same space that way too.

Hmmmmm, back to the garden planning drawing board...

-- William in WI (gnarledmaw@lycos.com), February 13, 2001.


Wendy, I sure miss my guineas-I never had a potato bug when we had guineas. William, I never thought off using "duck sheets". I love that idea. We have geese and ducks and I love the way they keep my lawn mowed but we have to fence the front of the garden off(they have never figured out that they could get around it if they wanted to) because they could sight a ripe tomato or strawberry from a quarter mile away. I have read where people have very successfully used geese to weed row crops after they were grown up enough. Never tryed it though myself.

-- diane (gardiacaprines@yahoo.com), February 13, 2001.

A conversation between my wife and I last summer: I began,"I dont know what Im going to do, the bugs are eating everything." "Well, why dont you just spray something to kill the bugs?" "Because Im trying to raise organic-" "Organic bugs?"

Eeek....that's IT, I am an Organic Bug Farmer!! Speciality being the renowned SQUASH BUG! Wow, I feel MUCH better now..wonder if I need to get certified? hee-hee!

I wouldnt entirely forget the geese, with all they bring I would never get rid of mine. We eat a lot of goose and there are a lot of good uses for goose grease, some lay piles of giant eggs, the down cant be beat plus the lawn mowing and fertilizing that they do replaces a lot of effort on our part. It just requires a bit of extra thought as to how you go about things and where things are placed.

Okay, I will give that some thought. Maybe do something on a smaller scale than I had thought about and use some of the techniques you have given and see how it goes. I really appreciate all the info on this!

"Any "words of wisdom" you'd care to share? "

Never trust a man with a comb over.

Giggle, giggle ---- I will be SURE to remember this one. Course it might be kinda hard to know about that here in Cyberland...maybe require "Full Disclosure"? Then again I may never get any answers to my questions!! LOL!

Thanks to everyone who offered info...I do appreciate it!

-- Wendy@GraceAcres (wjl7@hotmail.com), February 15, 2001.


I run my chickens, geese, ducks, and guineas into my orchard. They seem to do a pretty good job. I get one of those Japanese beetle traps, take off the bag and put it down low enough for the men and womenbirds. They do calesthenics to get to the June bugs! They don't like the grubs, but LOVE the adult beetles!! There is some damage to the trees and the guineas have decided that they like my tomatoes in the garden more than I do, but I am working on the problem. :) Besides, If I get too many birds I will eat them they way they eat the June bugs.... :)

-- Gailann Schrader (gtschrader@aol.com), February 15, 2001.

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