What a year it has been for slugs! Wow, they are big and everywhere. Not just us, either, almost everyone I’ve talked to says this is one of the worst years. I even lost a tomato plant to slugs – this was shocking; I didn’t even know that would be a problem, earwigs never bother tomato plants. And tiny slugs were eating off the onions and corn seedlings, too (as well as everything else).
But there is a solution. Our ducks are 6 weeks old now. From day 1 (well, day 3) they have been eating slugs – I have to pick them off the plants for them, but they do the hard part. Even tiny little ducklings a few days old will tackle any size slug, although I worried a lot about choking when they were smaller. They can eat an awful lot of slugs and are always ready for more. I can’t wait until they can start harvesting their own.
It would have been a very discouraging spring without the ducks… at least there is some up-side to the slug invasion. Picking slugs has some advantages over earwigs… low-tech, no vacuum needed; slugs don’t run very fast; and they often come out before dark.
Other than that, we are up to 4 sheep, who are not keeping up with the grass at all; chickens are laying, meat chickens ready to go to the butcher; the garden is in and growing, and the slugs are really not too much trouble any more. Things really are beautiful and bounteous here!
Ancona ducks, from Boondockers farm, south of Eugene. From the left; Duckie, Bill, Donald, Cenk, Ping, and Ryan, and the 7th, Quacky, is not apparently in the photo. (unless I have mixed up Quacky and Ryan)
Some years ago in southern oregon we tried raising ducks (it was during the period where Jay had to limit me to one new species per month). We got 3 Khaki Campbells and raised them in the master shower in the mobile home. They were very stinky. They were nervous and high-strung. They got moved to the orchard, where they messed up the tree mulch. Their wading pool water was always filthy. One lost to a hawk, one disappeared, so we got 3 Indian Runners. They were even more nervous, and at least two of them were males resulting in some inapproproiate behavior :-). Finally we gave them away to someone with a pond. It was Not A Success.
So, moving ahead 8 years and 200 miles, to the Willamette valley. I’m reading Deppe’s book, “the resiliant gardener”. She’s in Corvallis, less then 30 miles from me, so her observations are more relevant to me than they used to be. She points out that ducks eat slugs. Hey, we have lots of slugs here, all over the greens! She notes ducks like rainy weather. Well, we have that in spades now! It won’t stop raining! She claims not all ducks are nervous and unfriendly – well, we’ll wait and see, but perhaps I’ve been unfair to duckdom. Hey, you can eat ducks! Last go round, I was still pretty much vegetarian; but now we’ve learned how to smoke poultry, which makes even fatty meat like turkey legs delicious.
Our ducks used to hide their eggs in the grass and they were always filthy, so I’m not that enthusiastic about duck eggs, but they are a bonus.
Jay has always liked ducks, and I guess he’s on duty to change their water. Ducks do have the ability to hang out and be happy in a way chickens never are. I think ducks are type B personalities, while chickens are type As and are only happy when they have projects to work on. Perhaps I identify too much with the chickens…