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How To Raise Ducks (And Nurture ‘Em)

How To Raise Ducks

These days, so many people are into raising chickens, but how about ducks? Do you think you will succeed in such an endeavor? Raising ducks and chickens can have their similarities. However, you will need to do some modifications should you wish to raise both in your barn. Nevertheless, you can be successful in pursuing your endeavor of raising ducks for meat and eggs or simply raising a backyard flock. Read on and you will learn a lot that will help you in your newest venture of having ducks to raise in your farm.

What you need to know about raising ducks

What you need to know about raising ducks

Raising many poultry and barn animals gets people which species are really ideal. For beginners, I would recommend raising ducks rather than chickens, and here are some great facts why.

Ducklings are cute and fluffy. Aside from that, these little duck breeds can make a lot of wet mess. This is because they can surely track a lot of water around even if you put a small amount inside the duck coop. These ducklings can grow really fast, too. Once your backyard ducks grow bigger, they would also be eating a large quantity of their starter feeds.

As soon as your ducklings become adult ducks and ready to lay, you will be surprised by how they can fill hatcheries with more eggs for incubation. Another good news in raising ducks is that they lay all year round. They lay eggs more than usual during March up to June which is their natural mating season. This can also be a good reason why a duck flock is widely available just after spring as ducklings arrive during this time.

There are two important things you need to know about why raising ducks can be a better choice than raising chickens. With the rate of tiny ducks turning into adult ducks, this means they will be able to leave earlier from a duck house. This can be a great relief as they can roam around in your backyard poultry, instead of keeping ducks in your bathtub or baby pool.

Recommended duck breeds

Recommended duck breeds

I know you’re wondering which breeds to go for after deciding you wanted ducks in your poultry. Pekin ducks usually hold the top spot as they are friendly and great foragers. These are the best traits to look for especially when you opt not to co-manage backyard ducks. They weigh at 10 pounds which means they are too heavy to fly. You can simply allow pekin ducks to roam free range without having to worry that they might escape. Did I mention Pekin ducks are really good at laying eggs? Pekin female ducks can lay from 150 to 200 white ducks eggs. This is a huge number of egg production compared to chicken eggs.

Then there’s the Khaki Campbells. These are smaller breeds weighing around 3 pounds. Khaki Campbells have low flying capability so you still don’t need to worry about your ducks flying out of the pen. This breed is also an awesome layer and can give you around 250 to 380 duck eggs which is still a big number compared to chicken eggs. On the other hand, these ducks are very energetic. So, don’t forget to provide a bigger space for them to run around in.

Don’t forget that there are still a lot of breeds out there that you should be checking out. The bottom line is, you have to identify which type of duck best suits your raising capacity especially when it comes to the size of your backyard poultry.

Moving Your Raised Ducks Outdoors

Moving Your Raised Ducks Outdoors

Would you like some farm fresh eggs? If your answer is yes, then raising ducks is a good choice. Domestic ducks are a good addition to your backyard flock as they are excellent in laying eggs. If you have been worried about weed, small insects, slugs and snails in your yard, then raising ducks will eradicate this concern. This is because ducks enjoy free range foraging any time of day. 

Your ducks can be kept in a large swimming pool in your outdoor backyard poultry. They can be kept just beside your chicken coop.  If you decide to keep them in a kiddie pool, don’t forget to add some pine shavings for them to lay their eggs. Unlike chickens, ducks prefer grasses, watermelon, green salads and insects as a part of their diet. 

For sure, some of these can be found when you let your domestic ducks roam free range. You can also get duck feeds from a local feed store. Be sure to get those layer feeds that are packed with nutrition especially when you have duck eggs that will hatch soon.

Building a duck coop

Building a duck coop

Having ducks will get you thinking about what types of housing you should build to keep the flock safe. You can make a duck coop that is low to the ground. Make sure you can still fit inside as you will need to get in to clean it.

Remember, ducks won’t require you to build them anything fancy. They are easy birds that don’t need much in terms of where to live. All they want is a secure and safe area where they can retreat. As they are sociable, they can even share your chickens’ coop.

Ducks simply bed on the ground so they won’t fight with your chickens over roosts. But because ducks are often if not always wet, it would be best to give them their own space as chickens do not really like water.

Measurements for a duck house

A duck home can be made out of an old dog house. It can be made from a wooden box or crate or anything that is at least 3 feet high. Make sure there is a floor space of about 4 sq. feet per duck. Aside from having an indoor space, you will need about 10 sq. feet of outdoor area for each duck. Your ducks will need this so they can run around freely.  You should also have a decent door measuring around 14″ wide and between 12 to 14 inches tall. The reason behind this is that ducks are big and they walk in an awkward manner.

You can also attach a low ramp so they can walk up without hassle. Aside from that, a mat placed on the ramp can help their webbed feet to easily navigate when coming in their coop. The most important thing to consider aside from proper coop measurements is ventilation.

Your duck coop should be well-ventilated especially when you are planning to house a bigger number of ducks. Since ducks are wet most of the time, you will need to get all that moisture dried up. This will ensure that molds and bacteria will not build up. So make sure plenty of vents are situated on top of the house.

Ducks don't need roost bars and nesting boxes

Ducks don't need roost bars and nesting boxes

Unlike chickens that roost on a bar, your ducks won’t need any perch as they do not have this habit. On the other hand, you can provide coops with some wood shavings and straws for nesting. This will keep the floors of the coop dry. You can also try piling straws in the corners of the coop.  

Remember this – chickens need nesting boxes while ducks don’t! This will encourage the mother duck to lay eggs there. As the eggs are laid on the corners, it always keeps the egg production out of the traffic lanes. Because of that, it also makes the eggs safe from other ducks from getting stepped on.

Keeping ducks safe from predators

Keeping ducks safe from predators

Just like when you raise chickens, you will also need safe and secure housing for your ducks. You will need a duck house to keep your ducks especially at night when predators start to roam looking for food.  A perfect example for this are your neighborhood cats who’d love to gobble on your baby chicks and tiny ducks alike.

Adding ducks to your poultry does not only mean protecting them at night. This also means keeping them warm just like the raised chickens housed warmly in a chicken coop. Take note that ducks are extremely cold hardy animals. That is why you will need a well-ventilated structure with spaces found on the walls. Make sure you get it all covered with hardware cloth as well. This can be a great help in keeping ducks warm during extreme cold winter days.

List of common duck predators

I’ve written earlier about cats being a duck predator but there’s more to that. Here are some of the common predators that you should be protecting your ducks and duck eggs from.

  • Raccoons – As much as they enjoy sneaking in the dumpsters, these animals would enjoy duck eggs for dinner.
  • Foxes – Make sure your eggs are safe as well as your ducklings as foxes will have no second thoughts to attack and eat them.
  • Skunks – Like raccoons, skunks are also on the lookout for any available food including your eggs and ducklings.
  • Hawks and owls – These predatory birds will show no mercy the moment they spot an available chance to attack your ducks and bring them home to forage.
  • Snakes – Take note that snakes can swallow a whole duck egg which can cause cash crop losses if you cannot protect your flock.

Keeping ducks and chickens in your barn requires protection from all sorts of predators. A fence can be a wise thing to do to keep most predators out of your property. Meanwhile, hawks and other birds that can pull your ducks can be kept away by having taller fences installed. That way, these flying predators will not be able to swoop down and fly back up. For predators that can dig underground, make sure your floorings are made with hard materials to prevent them from coming up.

Don't forget the water

Don't forget the water

Water is essential to humans and this is also true with ducks and chickens. If you plan on getting ducks raised for meat or eggs, then you should have a lot of water in the coop. You can make use of a kiddie pool to store water for different duck breeds.

Ducks need water to get their bills dipped. They also love to swim. They need to be able to dip their entire bill into some water. It doesn’t matter if it’s backyard ducks or wild ducks because they all love to swim and get their feathers clean and tidy in the water. Ducks don’t mind cold water as they will still love to splash around. Take note, though, be ready to clean up the coop as they make quite a mess.

Feeding your ducks

Feeding your ducks

Duckling feeds will require 18-22% protein content. These can be a good waterfowl starter that can feed young ducks that are about 2 months old. Ducks this age will need about 15% protein content so you have to keep an eye on the starter’s label to be sure you get the right nutrition for your flock. Meanwhile, laying ducks need 16 to 17% protein content while broiler ducks will need about 20% of protein content in their duck feeds.

As much as ducks love water and food, you should be keeping both in separate containers. The best feeding method would be keeping your older ducks fed all day. Just leave some duck feeds on their food containers and they would be happy to eat it all up every few hours in a day.

On the other hand, no matter how tempting it is to give crumbs of leftover bread to your ducks and ducklings, just DON’T! Feeding ducklings with bread does not provide their nutritional needs. You can throw in some chick feed, smartweed, plantain leaves and grass clippings instead. Bread feeding can actually result in losing wing feathers, bone deformities and even missing feathers.

Are those male or female ducks?

Are those male or female ducks

Does gender have any significance in raising ducks? Let’s find out!

Having two male ducks in your  small flock is actually not a good idea at all. Duck characteristics differ according to breed. You will have to study what these are as they are essential when you want to have ducks raised on your family farm.

Ducks do not mate the same way that most animals do. Female ducks look a lot like male ducks so the only distinction would be their quacks. A female duck quack would sound like a honking car. If both ducks quack at the same time, then the louder one is definitely the female.

Another distinct feature of male ducks is a small tail feather that curls at the tip of its tail. The male will always follow behind the female. It will also bob up its head whenever he wants the female to follow him.

It would give a soft quack and lead the female to where he wants to go. Drakes would also protect the female should you come any closer to its eggs. This is his way to guard her and won’t run off like roosters would to protect the laying chickens. Furthermore, it will try to seemingly nudge you away from the female. If you still don’t understand its gesture, then he will surely get angry. On the other hand, the female would hiss to let you know you should be backing away from her.

Male Ducks Mating Behavior

Male Ducks Mating Behavior

Did you know that a single male duck requires more than one female? Male ducks have extremely high sex drive. When I say extreme, I literally mean extreme! One drake can mate up to 12 female ducks. Also, mating male ducks can breed a female up until its last breath.

So how would you know if these ducks are up for mating? Simple! Both male and female would start bobbing their heads in rhythm. They would do this repeatedly and soon after, mating will occur.

You might think drakes are killers but they’re actually not! Don’t panic when you see a male seemingly trying to drown a female when mating in a pool. This behavior is completely normal. A sign for you to help a female is when it’s honking really loud. This means that it does not like what is being done to her or it needs your help.

Ducks don’t form bonds for long-term mates. Thus, they only form seasonal bonds. That means that they will only be partners for one season. This is prevalent in 40% of waterbirds to which ducks also belong.

Duck Eggs in Your Poultry

Duck Eggs in Your Poultry

Did you ever wonder why not just have chickens instead of adding ducks in the least? You might even think how many ducks you will need to start producing eggs. Nevertheless, having ducks and chickens in your barnyard means more eggs to enjoy. This can also mean raising meat ducks, too.

For beginners, you should understand that ducks are easier to raise even if you have a small yard. They are also highly sociable so you can raise three ducks for a start. Here’s an interesting fact: You won’t need a male for a female for them to lay eggs! However, you will need a drake for the eggs to hatch into ducklings.

Laying Habits of Ducks

It’s impossible to be talking about eggs without talking about ducks laying them. Unlike chickens, ducks have a continuous production of eggs although they don’t lay as often as chickens do. The only time ducks take rest is during the winter season and then they get back laying eggs once spring starts. Their eggs are usually big and their ducklings are hardier birds compared to chicks.

Ducks are the early bird types because they would be laying eggs even before the entire household has woken up. If you are a morning person, then you’d probably love ducks because of this.

Are duck eggs delicious?

Ducks and chickens have one thing in common. Both poultry can give you delicious fresh eggs. Meanwhile, eggs from ducks are around 30% bigger than medium-sized chicken eggs. You can also have it scrambled, heated or fried the way you do to a chicken egg. Due to its high fat content, pastry chefs opt to use these eggs. Take note that more fat means more cholesterol and calories compared to a chicken’s egg. But, it does taste a lot richer!

What are fertilized duck eggs?

Fertilized eggs are very popular in countries including Vietnam and the Philippines. They are cooked just like your ordinary boiled eggs but with something interestingly different inside. Although you can also fertilize eggs coming from chickens, the richer taste of duck eggs make it a widely chosen specialty food.

Fertilized eggs are colored off-white with some gray streaks seen on its shell. Asian markets often have these for sale. These eggs have passed 18 days of incubation under a heat lamp. When an egg is more than 20 days old, you probably wouldn’t want to eat it! It may have the same taste but it can be very freaky as the embryo has already become larger. At this point, it is already good for hatching.

Benefits of eating duck eggs

Duck eggs contain vitamins, protein, iron and Omega-3. This can be the most important benefit that you can get from eating a duck egg. Also, these eggs can stay fresh longer compared to a chicken egg because of their thick shells. Here’s something exciting – if you happen to be allergic to chicken eggs, then eggs from ducks can be a great alternative. Yes, you read that right. Substituting a chicken egg can be the key to ultimately enjoying a sunny-side up for breakfast.

Raising Ducks for Meat

Raising Ducks for Meat

Ducks are good meat sources. Among the many breeds, the Pekin duck is the best choice offered by specialty restaurants. Aside from their rich, tasty eggs, ducks can actually be a viable source of meat. Raising ducks at home for their meat can be a great idea. However, you have to take note that it can also cost a lot of money compared to simply buying a pound of duck meat at the grocery store.

Don’t get me wrong on this. This does not mean raising duck meat is not worth it. Of course, when you raise a free range duck, you know what it eats and how it was grown. This can be an advantage on your end knowing that what you eat is indeed of good quality.

Frequently Asked Questions about Raising Ducks

Frequently Asked Questions about Raising Ducks

Are ducks easy to raise?

Yes. Ducks are actually easier than to raise chickens. They also need less care compared to chickens and are more sociable. You can just let your duck run in your backyard freely and leave them with a layer feed to eat whenever they want to eat. They enjoy water and can also tidy themselves up without you exerting too much effort.

Ducks are also a great addition to your urban farm. They can withstand cold seasons, and are less prone to catching diseases like chickens are. A homestead would benefit from ducks as they are excellent foragers. The only downside in raising them is having fewer available supplies compared to that of chickens. This is because chickens are more popular so their supplies and needs are also widely available in the market.

What is needed to raise a duck?

First of all, you need to determine if you have enough space to raise free range ducks. After that, you will need to check your area’s restrictions regarding raising poultry within a residential property. Once those are cleared, then you can now decide which breed to go for.

Ducks love water but that doesn’t mean you need to have a whole river to raise them. You will need a good supply of water and a readily available source to begin with. Ducks love to dip their heads into the water and a chick waterer may not be deep enough for them. This is when you need a pool to address this water need.

Then of course you will need the basic food supplies that you can get from a local poultry shop. As for having a duck house, building one is not mandatory as most of them love to roam freely. However, in terms of protecting them from predators, you will have to build a coop especially for ducklings to take shelter. Predators lurk at night so it will be necessary to have somewhere safe for your ducks. Domestic ducks cannot fly and they walk awkwardly on the ground. During the day, they should be inside a pen to keep predators from coming after them.

How do you raise ducks for beginners?

Beginners will enjoy a variety of breeds to choose from. After determining the type of ducks you want to raise, it’s now time to learn the basics.

Get water ready for your ducks and put it in deep water containers. Adults will need a water tub measuring around 4 to 6 inches to maintain good health. Meanwhile, ducklings need supervision when playing in water as they might drown.

Now let’s go to feeding. Within the first few weeks, your ducklings should only eat chick starter. On week three, feeding can be switched to a lower protein diet. When they are already at a laying age, then this is when you should switch their diet to layer feed.

It is also important to determine whether a duck is a male or a female. You can check out their distinctive features to respond to calls for help. This is especially important because males can be aggressive when mating with the females.

When they’re ready to nest, all you have to do is give them a space as they’d like to make their own beddings. You can also make use of your chicken coop if you have any.

Can you raise a duck in your backyard?

Yes, you can, provided there are no restrictions in poultry raising in your area. Backyard ducks can be the happiest birds if you give them enough water to swim on. They can also be the cleanest as they love to spend most of their time wading in the water or getting their heads in a tub.

Aside from having an area where you can actually raise these ducks, you have to remember that chickens and ducks are way different from one another. Thus, you need to ask yourself if you can live harmoniously together. On the other hand, you don’t need to worry about taking care of them because they can take care of themselves. Ducks are not like chickens that you can only feed with grains and chick feeds. They can forage on grass, insects, basically anything edible and suitable for their diet.

Is it expensive to raise a duck?

The amount you need to raise a duck will depend on what breed you choose. Let me give you some idea by using a Pekin duck as our example.

The cost to raise this breed starting from the duckling phase up to 2 months would go around $9.50 to $11.50 each. This can go higher or maybe lower depending which type of feeds you choose. Pekin produce hardy ducklings so they are often the most popular choice. These types of ducks are also quite nervous so expect a louder brood as they tend to quack more compared to other ducks.

Aside from the cost of raising the duck, you also have to consider the price per duckling. The typical price range would be around $7.00 each. This can be cheaper if you are going to buy ducklings in bulk. Some will give you a bulk price of $3.00 each but if you get lucky enough, you can ink a deal valued at $1.00 each.

Feeding duck costs

Now let’s talk about feeding costs as a part of the overall raising ducks process. Feeds will cost you $18.00 per 50 pound bag. You can get this from a local poultry feed shop or you can order it online. Should you choose to have it shipped, then be ready to pay the shipping costs on top of the price tag.

A more practical way is to find a mill that grinds their own feed. This is very ideal if you are raising a lot of ducks because the cost of feed can be expensive to nourish a huge number of livestock. If you are lucky to find a mill, then a 100-pound feed may cost you just about the price of a 50-pound bag. Good deal, huh?

If you are also raising chickens in your farm, then feeding chicken feeds can be a good option. Be sure to check out the label. If you see that it’s made for broilers and are non-medicated, then you can give it to your ducklings, too!

Now, let’s do the math for our feeding costs. Let’s say these ducks eat 2.5 pounds to gain 1 pound in their weight. Then, we are looking to butcher them once they reach 5 pounds. So that would mean 2.5 pounds of feed multiplied by 5 pounds of weight gain goal will equal to a total of 12.5 pounds of feed eaten by each duck.

Duck butchering costs

Now that your duck has reached its ideal weight and you’ve raised it for its meat, it’s time to have it butchered. The cost of butchering a duck is around $9.50. This includes processing, packaging, getting it frozen, ready for pickup. You will have to look for a state-approved facility to get your grown ducks butchered. Usually, the packaging will indicate the weight of the fowl. So, if you intend to sell it, customers would outright know the weight including other information indicating freshness and expiration.

You can also butcher ducks at home. This will be cheaper compared to bringing it to a butcher. However, you will need a big freezer for storage as you cannot cook it all at the same time. Also, you will have to endure feather plucking when butchering ducks at home. But if you don’t mind doing this, then give it a go to save some extra cash from butchering costs.

That's a quack, I mean wrap

Having ducks in your barn can be a new venture especially when you’re used to having just chickens around. It can be economical and a good way to have fresh eggs and meat as well as gaining income from selling surplus poultry.

As they are easy to take care of, it is no wonder why even urban breeders are getting interested in raising these fowl in their backyard. Take note that you don’t really need to buy brand-new equipment when you decide to raise ducks in you yard. You can reuse what is readily available or find second-hand items from local stores. 

Remember to house them or get them fenced to be safe from predators. Enjoy their eggs and learn to butcher for their meat. If you’re having second thoughts, get a back-read on this article. Good luck raising those cute little ducklings!

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Lisa Hayden-Matthews

Lisa Hayden-Matthews

A bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.

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