Need landscaping idea for your duck pen? These sturdy and non-toxic perennials for duck runs are great ones for adding shade, beauty, and even food to your ducks' environment!
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Landscaping a duck pen is tricky. Just like with chickens, a fenced-in grassy area is soon reduced to bare dirt, once you add ducks!
But it's completely possible to add wonderful foliage to your duck run - it just has to be sturdy enough to withstand quite a lot of nibbling, dibbling, and trampling. These non-toxic perennials are some of my favorites, and they hold up very well to lots of attention from our ducks.
Whenever you transplant something new into your duck pen, I highly recommend placing some sizeable rocks around the base, so that the roots can't be unearthed. You'll eventually be able to remove the rocks, once the plant's roots take hold, and the earth settles and firms up. Ducks do love to dibble in soft, newly-turned dirt, and mine think that any kind of gardening is group play time!
My favorite perennials for landscaping duck runs
Grapes might seem an odd choice, since ducks will clearly eat any grapes within reach, and it might feel like a waste of a good grape harvest. If you grow plenty of grapes for your family in areas the ducks can't reach, though, it will give you nothing but joy to watch the ducks enjoying their own harvest in the fall.
Grapevines are sturdy, and if you train them on a trellis above the run, they can also be a wonderful source of shade!
Mulberries are a bit notorious for being messy - but in a duck pen, there's nothing wrong with that! Mulberries are safe for ducks, and your feathered pets will adore gobbling them up as they fall.
Mint is so incredibly sturdy, and spreads readily. I actually hadn't intentionally planted it in the duck yard, but it spread there from the other side of the fence and continues to thrive. The ducks enjoy nibbling at it, and it's a very healthful herb for them. Thankfully, it's so robust that they never decimate it.
Blackberries & Raspberries
Bramble berries are another wonderful source of food for ducks, and they're not easily damaged. My ducks seem especially drawn to hanging out among the canes, and watching them stretch to reach the berries once they ripen is just adorably comical!
Comfrey is one of those plants that's SO sturdy, it can be invasive. Sometimes it seems that the more it's disturbed, the more it explodes with renewed vigorous growth. These are all wonderful qualities in a duck run! The comfrey in the photo above is small and just begin to grow for the season, but by mid-summer its leaves are so large it can actually serve as a source of shade for the ducks.
Blueberry bushes can be a good addition to a duck run, once they get established. They're much more delicate starting out, than blackberries, raspberries, or mulberries, so you'll want to put a protective cage around them to keep them from being decimated before they really take hold. Once they're sizeable, they can hold their own quite well.
It's very important to note that there's a big difference between daylilies and true lilies. Daylilies are edible for humans and ducks. Lilies are toxic. (This post has photos of both and will help you tell the difference. )
I've had daylilies in our duck run since we first built it, and they've not only survived, but spread. You can see that the plant above has been trampled and nibbled - but it's doing just fine. Daylilies also provide a wonderful splash of color in the summer when they bloom, which is a joy!
Hostas are safe to eat for both humans and ducks, and in my experience, they're sturdy enough to hold up to the attentions of a flock of ducks. I've heard of other duck-keepers, however, that have had their hostas completely wiped out by their ducks.
I think it's worth giving them a try, knowing that even if they do get eaten, they're not toxic. That said - you won't want to plant your only piece of great-grandma's special hosta in your duck pen, just in case!
While any variety of roses are safe for ducks, I really recommend rugosas as being particularly hardy and standing up especially well to heavy duck traffic. While ducks will gobble down any blossom petals within reach, rugosa roses generally grow tall enough that many blossoms with thrive out of reach. Another benefit of roses is that rose hips are edible, and ducks really enjoy them!
This is the list I always send people, when they ask what I recommend for sturdy perennials for duck runs. How about you? What do you have planted in your duck run that works well? I'd love to hear, and hope you'll let us know in the comments below!
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