Keeping Ducks – A Few Facts

Jemimah Puddleduck

Photo Credit

I thought it might be a good idea for me to do some research on raising ducks since I will be getting some at the end of May. I did raise two ducks when I was in high school for FFA (Future Farmers of America) but I don’t really remember anything about them other than I had the quackless breed that eventually got killed by my dog. They were called the Muscovy and they were not very attractive but since I lived in a tract home I needed something to raise that wouldn’t bother the neighbors. Actually my female Muscovy was attractive but the male was not so much.  His face looked like the one below but he was all white.

Enmascarado

The Unattractive Muscovy: Click for Photo Credit

Owning ducks was a little short lived since my dogs couldn’t control themselves when left alone with a loose duck.  I don’t think I really took very good care of my pair so maybe they were committing suicide by dog-killing. I do remember the ducks were messy and I had to make sure they had water for swimming. Since my duck care education is very limited I thought it would be smart for me to learn some things before the fowl arrive.

Keeping Ducks- A Few Facts

  • Ducks need protective housing. They need protection from elements and predators. This is kind of a no brainer tip but still important to mention. House can be similar to chick house but the need for roosts in not necessary. Here are some photos of some duck house options.
  • The housing floor needs to be easy on their webbed feet. If using wired floor it’s a good idea to bury it so their feet won’t be bothered by it.
  • Ducks need a high protein feed in the early stages of growth. This site recommends 20-24% for 3 weeks and 16% protein feed for adolescents.
  • Ducks tend to have a difficult time eating dry mash feed because it gets stuck to their bills. The solution is to either feed a pellet feed or offer the dry mash in water.
  • Ducks do not require water for swimming and wading in but it can benefit them in hot climates. Fresh water for drinking is to be offered 8-12 hours per day.

It seems there is really not that much difference between keeping ducks and keeping chickens. Ducks don’t require the exact same housing but similar to chicken housing. I was surprised to find out they don’t need water for swimming but that’s the cool part of having a duck ,isn’t it? I am planning on allowing them to have some sort of swimming/wading option.

The ducklings I will be getting are called Anconas. They are supposed to be good egg layers and a good size for meat. My hope is that I will have one or two females to lay eggs and a male to fertilize the eggs for hatching. I purchased a straight run of 4 ducklings because I am hoping there will be at least one male and one female.

I am purchasing my ducks, turkeys and 15 of my egg layer pullets from Cackle Hatchery. If you want to see photos of the ducks I will be getting follow this link > Ancona Ducks.

Do you own ducks or have you owned them at one time? I would love any advice you have for me.

21 Responses to “Keeping Ducks – A Few Facts”

  • Thanks for this into to ducks. I just wrote an intro to chicks but we were considering getting ducks instead. It felt a little daunting. Can’t wait to see the updates!

  • Hello Mona! This is great. I’ve been playing around with the idea of raising ducks myself. Thanks for sharing the basics! Also, thank you for linking up at Simple Lives Thursday!!!

  • Thanks for linking up with Simple Lives! I have ducks and they have a simple wooden house to protect them from raccoons, which come through our yard every night around midnight. They do like to swim so I have a large pot that used to be a fountain for them (but not as large as a swimming pool since after all I try to conserve some water).
    They are very messy. I need to use wood chips in their house to sop up all their wet poops (unlike my chickens) but they don’t eat my garden – just worms and slugs which I love!
    I love the ducks, even more than the chickens for their egg laying and comedic value. Enjoy your ducks! I may have a picture of their housing on my blog somewhere but it is indeed time to do an update on the ducks.
    xo, Sustainable Eats.

  • Mona:

    Sarah,

    I love you chicks. They are so cute!

    Mare @ just-making-noise,

    Thanks for stopping by Mare.

    Sustainable Eats,

    We almost didn’t get ducks because of the messiness. My husband wasn’t too into it but I think he’s warming up to the idea. I hope 🙂

  • Some tips:
    1.Unless you use waterfowl starter, you need to add Niacin to the drinking water. 100mg/gal. This will prevent leg issues, which ducks can be prone to.
    2. Watch your brooder temperature, and after they start to get their down in, keep it on the cooler side. They will feather out faster, and it is healthier for them.
    3. Though they don’t need water to swim in, please make sure they have deep enough water to wash their faces in–this will prevent gooky eyes.
    4. I wouldn’t recommend that high a protein food for that long. I would recommend that protein level for 2 weeks only, before switching over to the 16-15% ration. It will prevent slipped wing.
    5. Try to get them outside as much as possible. Waterfowl benefit from being able to move about outside and eat bugs and grass and dirt. Keeping them cooped up in the brooder will create more problems than you’d like. So let them out!

    Just a few tips from someone who’s been there before. Enjoy your little ones!

  • Mona:

    Jocelyn,

    Thank you for the tips Jocelyn! I will keep them in mind 🙂

  • […] Keeping Ducks – A Few Facts by Healthy Homesteading. A few facts on raising ducks that has some of us thinking about raising […]

  • […] 4.Keeping Ducks – A Few Facts by Healthy Homesteading. A few facts on raising ducks that has some of us thinking about raising our own! […]

  • […] Keeping Ducks – A Few Facts by Healthy Homesteading. A few facts on raising ducks that has some of us thinking about raising […]

  • Shawna:

    Hi, thanks for this post! We are considering ducks on our homestead. We have a lovely pond in the backyard that is already home to wild mallards. My concern with domestic ducks is that they will get out on the water and I’ll never get them back to their house at night. Am I correct that they need to be locked inside like chickens at night? Do they have the instinct to come inside at night like chickens?

    Thanks!
    Shawna

  • Mona:

    Shawna,

    That’s a great question Shawna. Seems like domestics would come back if you are feeding them regularly and they have good place to come at night but I would be concerned if they started laying eggs. More than likely a female would lay somewhere by the pond and stay with the eggs. Also you might get some breeding happening with the wild males. I would ask around on the Backyard Chickens forum. I am sure someone there has had experience with the same type of situation.
    http://www.backyardchickens.com/

    Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  • I love my Muscovy Ducks, I love the way they sing to each other and the little warbling noises they make while grazing. They way a mother with chicks stamps her feet if you get too close and the honk of alarm when they see an eagle fly over. Much better than all that quacking and the eggs make the best fresh pasta ever.

  • Ah?? Where is the mention that ducks will eat mostly grass after their early stages of growth and as such are REALLY CHEAP? And that they will look a lot more groomed and healthy if provided with a kitty pool or something? They do perfectly fine when started on the regular chicken starter, too. I’ve raised them, killed them, and ate them too.

  • Mona:

    Te Willans,

    I really liked my Muscovy’s too. They were very entertaining. Too bad I was a preoccupied teen that didn’t take very good care of them :(.

    Sofya @ Girls’ Guide to Guns and Butter,

    Lol! There is lots I didn’t mention Sofya because I am just learning some of the basics. I really like the idea of them eating grass but in the summer months we don’t have much green grass out here but we do have lots of weeds. That’s good to know about the chick starter. I have been concerned about their need for niacin. Should I be concerned about that?

    Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  • Pogonia:

    I can’t have/do farm animals of any kind (HOA) but love learning all about ducks, chicks, etc. The shared knowledge is wonderful! Thank you. 🙂

  • Rick C:

    I have raised ducks for several years now, and thought I would add a few pointers.

    A chick starter works ok, but nmake sure it is NON MEDICATED. Medicate formulations are based on chicken research and not for ducks which do have different eating habits. You could kill them easily. Also watch for supplements to be added to water as ducks dring a tremendous amount of water compared to chickens, and sould be disproportionately over medicated.

    Ducks will not automatically go into their hose at night, even though they should. I also grow bamboo and use a long culm (cane) with a string and opiece of black cloth to it. You herd them back to their pen at night. Gve them siome feed in the pen and then herd them back in and shut the pen. I think they acurtally enjoy to fristrate you a little even long after they know the drill.

    As was pointed earlier, they need deep water to blow out their nostrils of dirt. They search for slugs andf goodies by probing their bills into the sodt dirt or compost and their nostrils get filled. I use a Kiddie Pool with fresh water. I use a baler to take the dirtied water to feed my fruit trees and berries. They love the added microbes and nutrients.

    I use straw in the pen (which is covered) and the house. No feed or water goes into the house, and keeps it much cleaner. The dirtied straw feeds the compost pile and breaks down quick when layers with greens and other gsrden delights.

    Ducks relish fresh greesn and I provide leafy veggie greesn daily for them.

    I raise Pekins, White Golden Hybrids (developed by Metzer Farms) and Rouens and found Pekins make awesome mothers. For the most part I collect eggs and incubate and brood them myself as mortality is high roaming around the yard. I have Turkeys, Ducks and Chickens free ranging together and traffic can be hazardous for a littel duckling.

    Ducks seem to lay between 04:00 and 05:30 at my place so keeping them in the duck house with nest boxes you can be assured of your eggs before you let them out.

    No Homestead is complete without some ducks. either for their rich eggs or for the meat, their antics are always a pleasure.

  • Mona:

    Rick C,

    Thanks for the tips. I didn’t know they won’t automatically go to their houses at night. I will have to make sure I bring them in. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  • kim diehl:

    when my ducks were small they wouldnt go into the barn by themselves. i would go out and put them in their house. now as soon as it starts to get dark they just go in. they are very easy to raise. we delight in watching them run around and swim in the kiddy pools we have in the pen. i raise them the same way i raise our chickens. they have grown great. they do require alot of water and they are very messy! ours are pets and will not be butchered. but, if we were to raise them for meat they would be cheap and easy to do so.

  • Our ducks rarely go in their house at night. They are up all night partying and having a good ol time. They do go in their house during the day when the sun is brutal. For some reason, like clock work, at around 11:00am they head on into the house and quiet down for a while. They really are a crazy bunch.

  • Mona:

    That’s what I have been told about ducks. The funny thing is I have been locking mine up every night and now they already in their cage before I got to lock them up. My ducks are not friendly either. They don’t like to be bothered . They are always scared of us event though they have no reason to be and we have had them since day old chicks. Maybe the Anconas are different.

  • Amy:

    If you use regular chick feed, just sprinkle it with some Brewers Yeast and that will suffice for their niacin requirements 🙂 Also if they are eating anything other than feed make sure to get some chick grit to eat as well. They need the grit to help them digest their food. When they are older use adult grit. If they are in an area that is relatively sandy or has tiny rocks you won’t need the grit.

    They are GREAT weeders – especially dandelions 🙂

    Throw some fresh chopped up greens into their water or fresh veggies (mine really love corn and peas). To them those are treats.

    Very important – if they have food to eat they must have water to drink or they can choke.

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