I'm going to be getting a few chickens, mostly to help keep the grasshopper population down in my organic garden. Are there certain breeds that are better at eating bugs? I've heard the Hamburg breed is especially good - any others?
Well, I breed Hamburgs so might be biased a bit! I have had many breeds over the years and I will say Hams are good at bugging but then most of the light,active breeds are pretty good and the Rocks, Wyandottes atc, can do well also. Ducks are also quite the bug catchers gabbing flying bugs right out of the air. ducks are also good at drilling for the underground things like snails/grubs.
I bet that Hamburgs would do well, as would leghorns or Old English Games. Almost anything light and active would probably do well. I raise Kraienkoppes which do great foraging for bugs. But with any chicken you'll have to keep them away from tender small plants, tomatoes and anything newly planted. I simply don't let my chickens into the garden.
Instead, I'm building a small duck pen in one corner of the garden. I have 10 Indian Runner ducklings on order. My plan is to keep them in the pen when things are small and delicate and then start running them in the garden when real grasshopper infestations begin. I'll use low, temporary chicken wire fences for later plantings; to keep the ducks from trampling or eating tender seedlings. We'll see how it works!
I had also thought about ducks, as they wouldn't scratch as much. As for just purchasing a few (about 6), do the farm stores carry the unusual breeds, or would I have to order them? I know McMurray's requires a minimum purchase of 25, and I don't need that many!
we now have ducks and I plan to try them in the garden this year, I have herd they are good weeders. I have also herd that ducks will weed strawberrys and not eat the berrys. does any know if this is true?
I've heard this is true Lynda. However, I would suspect one would want a Campbell, Hookbill or Indian Runner, since they are small breeds. This is my first year to try them in the garden. So I can't tell you from personal experience. But we did raise Muscovies for a while (wonderful birds!) and they would not have been good in the garden simply because they are so large and could squash plants.
I've seen Runner ducks for sale, around Easter, at Atwoods Feed and Farm Supply. One might find them. Also, the Indian Runner's eggs are very good for hatching. So if one wanted I imagine they could get some eggs through the mail. If I recall they take between 26 & 28 days to hatch.
cymraes, if you have an incubator, we could send eggs. We have four indian runners, not show beauties, but healthy, hearty and love slugs!
ducks are meat easters mostly, bugs, worms, etc; and would not be well suited to weeder use; geese are herbivores and do eat weeds/grasses & many garden plants too, and were traditionally used as weeders, many times in cotton fields; they must be kept on the hungry side to be efficient and the youn work best as they have big appetites, both will eat your berries. There are a few web sites to google up where their uses are mentioned.
I am currently working on an ag grant proposal using ducks as bio control in certain vegetable crops.
Thanks for the offer, LF, but I don't have an incubator. I'm going to call a few of the local feed stores and they may be getting some chicks or ducklings in that would work. First I have to get my husband to build the coop!