Meet Harry and Stella, a pair of Cayuga ducklings and newest additions to our flock this summer. They are a quiet and hardy breed, the males whispers while females make more of a distinct “quack”.
At three weeks old, they weren’t quite old enough to swim in the big pond. Their downy coat isn’t completely waterproof and they can drown if left unsupervised.
Here you can see their adult feathers coming in. Ducks don’t necessarily need to have a pond to swim in; they just need a lot of clean water to dabble and dunk their heads in, clearing their nostrils of dirt and debris.
The two are inseparable. Ducks are much more polite and won’t scratch up your garden like chickens do. They are also excellent foragers, eating bugs and snails in the garden without tearing it to shreds. They also gobble up mosquito larvae.
Harry and Stella grew extremely fast. Here they are at six weeks old. I’m using Honey and Persia for size reference.
Five weeks later, they have doubled in size, fully feathered out, and towering over Honey. Time to put them to work. Where there are ducks, there is poop, perfect for the ‘duckponics’ project. Our basement aquaponics is still thriving, but I wanted to grow outside and make better use of the pond and real sunshine.
Once a week, this harvest comes out of our basement. It makes me very happy.
These balcony planters from Home Depot were inexpensive and the perfect size. They came with a drain hole which we plugged up, drilling a slightly larger hole for drainage.
Once drilled, the fittings for the bell siphon is threaded together.
Other pieces of pipe are added, the height of the pipe will determine the height of the water. It should be one inch below the surface of the clay pebbles.
Hardware cloth is cut for the media guard. This will keep the pebbles from falling into the drain and clogging it up. It also allows for easy maintenance of the drain.
Zip ties are used to hold the media guard together.
Here’s what the finished media guard looks like.
The clay hydroton is washed and carefully added to the grow bed with the media guard in place.
You can see how the media guard keeps the pebbles away from the drain of the bell siphon.
The “bell” cap that sits over the drain is a plastic IKEA cup with slits cut. Once air reaches this level (about an inch from the bottom), the water stops draining and starts to fill up again. I like that it’s clear, so that you can see how well the siphon is working.
The black rubber hose is dipped in hot water to help it slide easier onto the connection points.
Done! The pump is always on, feeding dirty water into the growbed. The bell siphons do an excellent job in automatically draining the filtered clean water back into the pond. A virtually maintenance-free, self-watering, self-feeding system.
Harry and Stella took to it like ducks to water. French salad mix, yu choy, nasturtium, herbs, and green bush beans were seeded directly in the pebbles. Chicken wire lids had to be made to keep the chickens and rabbits out of the “salad bar”.
Cilantro, basil, dill…
and yu choy.
I found that the duckponics worked better than the aquaponics system as I didn’t have to add any supplements (glacial dust). The duckponics bed also produced more beans than the bush beans grown in soil. Next year I will definitely try tomatoes and other heavy feeders.
Plenty for everyone!
Harry and Stella at four months sneaking some lettuce.