Dickson Farm

 
Welcome to Dickson Farms!
  

Dickson Farm is a small hobby farm located in south western Pennsylvania where we take pleasure in raising over 15 different species of ornamental birds including waterfowl, peafowl, and pheasants. The majority of our farm is focused on raising waterfowl.  We take extra care in raising birds with very strong blood lines rather than focusing on raising mass quantities of any species.  On our Waterfowl page, you can find pictures and descriptions of the different ducks we have raised on our farm as well as our pricing and availability.

Our interest in birds started after we constructed our first and largest pond during the summer of 2005.  Our large pond's flood plain drains agricultural ground and the incoming water is high in nitrogen.  The high nitrogen content of the incoming water readily supports the growth of algae.  During the summer months the large pond's surface became nearly covered with algae.  We didn't want to chemically treat the pond to control the algae growth, we wanted to go with something natural that wouldn't hurt our fish.  We explored several options such as koi fish, grass carp, fresh water mussels, and swans.  We were afraid the Koi fish would muddy the water and the grass carp would eat all of our aquatic plants.  The fresh water mussels were a viable option, however they would take years to establish in our pond.  We decided to buy a pair of swans and see how much algae they could control.  The following summer, to our pleasant surprise, our pond was completely free of algae!  As an added bonus, Canadian geese no longer invade our pond for fear of being attacked by our swans. 

                                      

Since the Mute Swans did so well on our big pond, we decided to try a pair of Australian black swans to put on a smaller pond on our farm.  When we went to pick up our pair of black swans from the breeder and now good friend, we were shown her duck collection which included wood ducks, mandarins and every other type of duck that you could ever imagine.  After seeing her duck collection, in particular the wood ducks, our interest in waterfowl grew and we immediately wanted some of our own.  We decided to start out with some less expensive call ducks and pekins to see how they would do on our smaller pond with our black swans.  The small pond is not fenced and has no netting above. This proved to be a real problem because we lost almost everything we had to turtles, foxes, owls, and other predators.  After weighing our options, we decided to build a third pond which is a completely netted and fenced facility, absent of all predators.  After relieving ourselves of the stress of predators, we finally bought a pair of wood ducks. We now own about 20 species of ornamental ducks that we raise and we are always looking to add more!  Enjoy the site and feel free to email us with any comments, suggestions, or inquiries. 

 

 

   


Pictured below is our first netted facility that was completed in September 2009. It houses the majority of our diving ducks and is used as a grow out pen for our pheasants and peafowl. 15 small houses make up the two villages of Pintail Place and Wood Duck Way. The sides are made of sheetmetal that is 36" tall and the roof is covered with a 2" knotted netting that we purchased at www.bfproducts.com.  The sheetmetal works well for the sides because it prevents ducklings from climbing out and predators from climbing in.  The metal is buried about 6" deep to prevent predators from digging under.  The enclosed duck pen contains a pond that is fed by three separate sources of spring water.  The pond is 5 feet deep and contains roughly 10,000 gallons of water.  The fresh spring water is continously flowing into the pond while an over-flow pipe allows excess water to escape.  Large rocks and railroad ties were placed along the water's edge the whole way around the pond to prevent the ducks from muddying the water when they get in and out.  It can be seen from the photo below a gutter in front of our self feeder (the long skinny box on top of the dock.)  A continous stream of fresh water flows into one end of the gutter and spills out the other end to ensure each duck has fresh drinking water while they eat.  The gutter is drained periodically to remove any spilled feed.  An added benefit of the gutter is the ducks' ability to hide beneath it while remaining in the water when the weather is warm.  We have planted various duck-resistant shrubs and trees throughout the pen including blue spruce, alberta spruce, juniper and various fountain grasses.  We have found that plants labeled as "deer resistant" seem to be "duck resistant" also.  We have tried to plant some tougher water plants such as cattails, but have discovered the ducks will pick at them until there is nothing left.  We feed our ducks a mixture of commercial duck feed, cracked corn, oats and fresh cut alfalfa leaves.  Our ducks, mostly the diving ducks that require additional protein, are given a small amount of floating fish food that we scatter on the water each day.  No two nest boxes we have are the same for two reasons: First, we think it makes the pen more interesting and second, it ensures that every nesting duck can find a box that she is comfortable with.  Most of our ducks are full winged but some are pinioned, so we attached ramps to the boxes for easy access.  We try to attach the ramps at a 30 degree angle so the hens don't have trouble climbing into their nests. We found that the nest boxes that were selected first by our hens, were the ones that were highest off the ground.
  

wood duck pond pintail duck box duck house

 

Our largest pond is home to our Royal Mute swans, Charles and Penelope. This pond is approximately 1 acre in size and is stocked with over 1,000 fish. Our greatest worry in open ponds are snapping turtles, which challenge us every year.    We trap turtles throughout the year but realize that we'll never be able to rid our pond of them.  To trap the turtles we bait large catfish hooks with deer, chicken or steer meat and attach them to milk jugs.  We connect several milk jugs together and string them across the pond to increase our chances of catching a turtle.  We would like to keep other types of waterfowl on this pond, but can't due to the aggressive nature of the mute swans and the risk of turtle attacks.

royal white mute swan cynget babies



 

Our lower pond is the home of our Australian black swans, mallards, and pekins. When we first started, this pond also contained our cinnamon teals, red-crested pochards, and call ducks. We quickly learned what ducks can survive on an open pond and after losing many of our smaller, more expensive ducks to predators, we caught the survivors and placed them in our netted pen once it was completed. The ducks on this pond attract the most neighbors and visitors because they are friendly, loud, and love to be fed! The black swans  greet everyone by singing and whistling while the pekins charge across the water  quacking and looking for bread and lettuce. This pond is located near the woods and offers an abundance of natural coverage which is excellent for breeding. Many wild ducks come to this pond to lay a nest and hatch out their babies. We tend to see numerous ducks landing on this pond throughout the year including mallards, wood ducks, hooded mergansers, and ring-necked ducks.  

australian black swan pekin duck red crested pochard

 

 














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