Nice weather for ducks!

We have a willow circle planted by previous owners at the bottom of our garden. It was interesting but wasn't doing much, so we duly looked at it for a year and then had an idea. It would provide a secure and fox proof enclosure for ducks.

I had already woven the willow to thicken up bare patches and formed an arched top ring to strengthen it and formed a doorway with an arched top. Once the bracken was cleared away, we put some chicken wire inside the circle and tied it to the willow up to a level of about 1.5 metres. We have quite a lot of foxes here.  The door I made from an old fireguard made rigid with pieces of dowel we had kicking about.  The door was hinged by wiring it onto the willow hedgeposts.

The coop we constructed from blockboard from an old wardrobe.  It has a sliding door and a galvanised tin reinforced roof.  We made ventilation holes in the side that are protected with mesh; an old frying pan spatter guard proved ideal.  We are lucky to live next to a river where the ducks could go but to begin with we put a plastic under bed storage box filled with water in the enclosure for them to splash about in. This is easy to tip out each night and then refill.  The sludgy water feeds the willow and at the lowest point I have planted some watercress which is thriving.  The willow is growing well and I have taken an extra crop of willow cuttings to root for another area of the garden.

In May we went to the Smallholders Show at Builth Wells and bought two Welsh Harlequin ducks, a drake and a female Khaki Campbell. They were not particularly tame as they had come from a large poultry breeder. We are getting an egg each day, but unsure if the females take it in turns or just one of them is laying but they seem quite happy.

They only go onto the river if it is very hot. We think that this is because the drake may have been attacked by a mink.  He lost a lot of feathers and cut his leg where he had squeezed through some fence and has been spooked by the river ever since. The three move about in a comical peloton and dibble in the long grass for slugs. As a special treat they get marinated slugs from the beer traps in the polytunnel which they squabble over quacking excitedly.

So with a bit of recyclying and some lateral thinking we are quite pleased with the outputs from the willow circle - willow cuttings, watercress, eggs, slug control and a lot of enjoyment from the ducks company in the garden.  However they don't like rain, despite the saying, and retreat to their hut when it rains.  This part of Wales is classed as temperate rainforest and is quite a rare ecosystem. We get on average 80 inches of rain a year.  Hopefully the ducks will acclimatise and venture out more soon.

Other Designers (not members of PA): 

Janet Rushby