Mallard Lane Farms is a small hobby farm located in Western Tennessee, we have been raising ornamental ducks since 2002. We began this hobby quite by accident. One summer while vacationing in Yellowstone National Park, I was fortunate enough to see a wild pair of trumpeter swans. As I admired them I thought to myself, wouldn't it be nice to have a pair of those on our pond. I wondered if you could even buy such a thing. When we returned home, I decided to find out if in fact you could buy swans. Sure enough, not only could you buy swans but there was a whole other world full of exotic waterfowl that could also be obtained. I also learned that there were several breeders of these birds located close by, all were very helpful in getting me started with my first birds. My first pair of exotic ducks were Mandarins, followed by Wood Ducks, Bahama and Northern Pintails and several species of Teal; and yes, I also bought that pair of swans for my pond.
From the humble beginnings of Wood Ducks and Mandarins we now keep and raise about 30 species of wild waterfowl. We also have pheasants, peafowl, swans, quail, bantams, and some domestic ducks.
Pictured below is the pair of wild trumpeter swans, photographed in Yellowstone National Park in 2002
Most of the birds that we raise do not require large enclosures. We have found it possible to keep a larger number and variety of birds in several smaller enclosures instead of in one large one. By not keeping all of our birds togther we can separate species that may hybridize, and also keep better track of our bloodlines. We have found this particularly important in raising color mutations. The majority of our aviaries are about 20 ft by 20 ft with the smallest being about 12 ft by 12 ft. These enclosures can house anywhere from 1 to 15 pairs of birds depending on the size, temperment, and nesting habits of the species being kept.
Each of our small aviaries has it's own concrete pond and these differ in size, but most are about 5 ft by 5 ft and 1 to 2 feet in depth. Each pond has a drain line, and can be completely emptied and scrubbed out. Fresh water which is provided by a well, is continuously run through the ponds. These ponds are connected to each other by 2" pipes. Water flows easily from one pond to the next because of the slope of the ground that these aviaries are built on. Pictured below is one of our smaller concrete ponds.
Because the dept of this pond is only about 10", the valve for the drain line is on the inside of the pond, in our deeper ponds these are on the outside. All of the water from these ponds collects at the bottom of the hill in a larger pond, where it is then pumped back to the top of the hill and re-circulated through the ponds in our large aviary.
The floors of our small aviaries and of our holding pens have a 2 inch layer of river gravel with another 2 to 4 inches of sand on top of that. This type of floor drains water very well and virtually eliminates any mud, this helps keep the enclosures much cleaner. Further more, dirty sand can be raked out, or removed from the pen. After it is able to sit for awhile it will naturally be cleaned out by sun and rain, and can then be reused. One disadvantage to using the sand and gravel is the difficulty to grow plants. In the smaller enclosure only a few shrubs can take the birds abuse combined with poor soil conditions. Our large aviary is the only one that can substain grass.
The large Aviary is 75' by 150', it has 3 natural bottom ponds the largest is about 25' by 25' and is 12' deep. Water from the ponds in our smaller enclosures is re-circulated via streams and waterfalls through the ponds in the large aviary. Here we only have gravel and sand along the perimater of the ponds, thus in this pen we can grow grass along with a variety of other plants.
Below are some pictures of our large aviary which was still under construction at the time these pictures were taken.
Below pictures take in early 2010, although some parts of the aviary are still under construction it is now complete enough to house birds and to be used in the 2010 breeding season.
How we Raise our Ducks
Planning for breeding season starts way before the spring. We try to have all birds housed in the correct aviaries with their mates by late fall. This allows them plenty of time to settle into their new homes and to get acquainted with the others birds in the enclosure before breeding season begins. Nest boxes are ready for the birds to start checking out by late winter. We try to make sure there are 3 boxes for every 2 nesting pairs in an enclose. Pictured to the left is a standard wood duck style nesting box. If your birds are pinioned you will need to include a ramp so the birds may walk up to the box.
Ground nesting species will often nest under natural cover if it is available. In the absence of plant cover a few well placed cedar branches in the corner of the aviary may make a suitable nest site. Ground nest boxes may vary widely in size and shape, depending on the species that will be using them. An easily made and cost efficent ground box can be made out of plastic storage container, simply cut out the entrance hole to the desired size, and line the bottom of the tote with sand and then nesting material. These boxes last for many years exspecaily if they are keep out of direct sunlight. Many of our birds will use these just as readily as the more exspensive cedar boxes. Pictured below is a silver bahama who had made her nest in one of these boxes, she was quite upset about being disturbed for the picture.
Our newly hatched ducklings are placed in small brooders, some of which are nothing more than a large plastic container. The floor of these containers are lined with newspapers, and a top layer of paper-towels.
Ducklings are provided with a heat lamp, food and water. It is important that the ducklings are not allowed to become wet and chilled, marbles are added to their waters so they can not soak themselves.
For species that have more difficulty learning to eat, we use shallow pans of water, these are also filled will marbles. Floating food is then placed in the water. We have found that most ducklings can learn to eat using this method. Having a wire top on these brooders is important, especially when brooding any of the tree nesting ducks. These ducklings have amazing climbing skills, and can still manage a foothold on even a smooth plastic surface.
In about a week , the ducklings are moved outside to a larger brooder. These brooders have wire floors, and also provide access to swimming water. At this stage, ducklings still need a heat lamp, and protection from the weather. One side of the brooder is boxed off and completely covered and a heat lamp is provided there. The ducklings spend about 2 weeks in these brooders. Once they begin to grow some feathers, they are taken out of the brooders and moved to small grow out pens. These pens all have a sand and gravel floor a small concrete pond. Ducklings are still provided with some cover from the weather, as a hard rain storm combined with a drop in temperature can still kill them at this stage. Once the ducklings have reached their adult size and are fully feathered they are moved into our larger holding pens. These pens also have a sand and gravel floor and a concrete pond. Here the birds will be housed until they are shipped out to their new homes in the fall.
Pictured below a group of silver and whites woodies in one of our holding pen. Picture taken in 08.