INTRODUCTION TO KEEPING DUCKS

By jtn42248 · Jan 2, 2015 · Updated Feb 5, 2015 · ·
Rating:
4.73333/5,
  1. jtn42248
    So you have decided that you want ducks. Good decision! But you need to be prepared for the special challenges
    that raising ducks include. I have two "flocks" of ducks. One that I call my adult ducks and the other a group of 16
    Cayuga ducks that I hope to establish as a breeding group. I had never had ducks before I got the adult flock and am
    the first to admit that their purchase was an off-shoot of chicken math. Little did I know the challenges of brooding
    and raising ducks. I hope this article will provide you with some information learned in my journey toward duck
    ownership, help you avoid some of the mistakes I made and make your duck adventure what it should be...fun.

    First you want to look at why you want to venture into duck ownership. Do you want eggs, meat, pets?

    If you want ducks for eggs then you want to look at some of the hybrids that are "designed" specifically for the
    production of eggs. These include the Khaki Campbell, the White Layer and the Golden 300. These ducks can
    produce in excess of 250 eggs per year at maturity.

    My adult flock has three Khaki Campbells and one crested Blue Swedish. You will want to consider mixed breed
    flocks as well. So long as you are not breeding for show and won't mind having mixed breed ducklings. Khaki
    Campbells lay lots of eggs but tend to not go broody. While Blue Swedish lay fewer eggs but will brood the Khaki
    eggs.

    [​IMG]

    The original group included a Blue Swedish drake that proved to be too agressive toward the Khaki drake and had to
    be rehomed.

    If ducks as meat birds is your choice then look at the Pekin. This is the Aflack duck, probably the inspiration of
    Donald Duck and often what people think of when they think duck. They are the primary meat breed in the United
    States.

    As for ducks as pets, because they are cute and fluffy as ducklings. Well, just about any breed of duck can be
    raised as a pet. However certain breeds are known for their calm demeanor which certainly improves their pet to
    owner relationship. These breeds include Swedish breeds, Buff, Cayuga, Jumbo Pekin, and others.

    If your desire for ducks is driven as an off-shoot of chicken math then bless you. As someone who planned on getting
    5 chickens for eggs and ended up with a mixed flock of 62 chickens, ducks and geese with more to be added this
    season I fully understand and support your decision however crazy your friends and family may think you are.

    So your mind is made up. You have decided on the breed or breeds of ducks you want to get. You have done your
    research and decided which hatchery or breeder you will be getting your ducks from. You place your order and sit
    back to wait for the little darlings to arrive. Easy! Not yet.

    As with all baby fowl you need to be ready for their delivery but unlike most other fowl you will be dealing with water
    fowl...the key word there is water. They like to get wet!!! In a brooding environment this can present a bit of a
    challenge. If you are only getting a couple of ducks then many people have found a spare bathtub or shower make a
    pretty decent brooder. It is easy to clean, has ready access to water and the ducks seem to really like it. However, if
    you are getting more than just a couple of ducklings you will need a real brooder that is setup for ducks. Their
    brooder will rapidly be wet from one side to the other and keeping their bedding dry and clean can present a major
    challenge.

    You will find many solutions to ducklings and water in their brooder here on BYC. My solution was to not worry so
    much about their bedding getting drenched as much as how to have bedding that was easy to remove and put dry
    bedding down. My solution was old towels.

    [​IMG]

    As you can see their brooder is lined with towels. This proved to be absorbent, easily removed when drenched and
    dirty, put down clean dry towels and launder the dirty ones for reuse later. I used a simple dog dish for their feed
    which for my Cayugas was just chick starter feed with Brewers Yeast sprinkled on/in it. Unless you have access to a
    good water fowl feed that has adaquate Niacin you will need to supplement with Brewers Yeast for healthy bone and
    feather development. In addition a simple chick waterer which they used but more important was the small bowl of
    water deep enough for them to dunk their entire bill in to wash out their nares (nose) and eyes. Note that I placed a
    small rock in the bowl to keep them from being able to actually get in the water. Ducklings being brooded without
    their mothers do not have the ability to oil themselves and can get water logged and chilled quickly.

    In addition to the above you will need supplemental heat for the first part of the ducklings lives. Every hatchery and
    many threads here on BYC have instructions on how to set and adjust heat for young ducklings. You will learn
    quickly how to "read" your ducklings behavior and adjust your supplemental heat accordingly. Ducklings grow
    quickly, a lot faster than chichens, and depending on the time of year and the outdoor weather, may be ready to go
    outside sooner than chicks.

    My Cayugas were more than happy to move out of the brooder and into their pen at six weeks of age.

    [​IMG]

    If the weather is warm at night they can be moved outdoors before they are fully feathered. However, again you want
    to make sure that your ducklings are not in an environment where they can get chilled.

    Before you know it you will no longer have cute fluffy ducklings but will now have healthy, happy ducks.

    [​IMG]

    So, lets just sum up a bit:

    1. Decide to have ducks and match your breed choices with the reasons you are getting them. Eggs, meat, pets.

    2. Ducks are flocking birds so don't get just one duck. They will be lonely without a duck buddy.

    3. If you get ducks straight run or intentionally get males to breed limit your males to one for every 4-6 females to
    reduce competition that can result in injury. Also even one male with too few females can result in over breeding and
    injury to the female.

    4.Setup your brooding space in advance of the arrival of your ducklings. Make sure you design it to be easy to clean
    and keep dry.

    5. Ducklings grow into full sized ducks fast so be sure you have their duck house and pen ready as well.

    Enjoy your ducklings and the ducks they will grow to be. When they are little try to handle them each a few minutes
    each day so that they will learn who you are and will be more friendly as they grow older. Don't be too upset the first
    time you see ducks mating. The drake is not really trying to kill the female. Ducks have done this for centuries and
    prospered.

    And, finally, the most important part of learning how to have ducks. Subscribe to groups/threads here on BYC. They
    are filled with information, people who have volumes of experience to share and become virtual/digital friends that will
    last a lifetime. Never hesitate to ask a question, the only stupid question is the one that does not get asked. Search
    for what you need. There are threads specific to duck breeds as well as generic duck threads available.

    More important, have fun. Ducks are fun and funny creatures and if you watch them and associate with them long
    enough you may find that you are fun and funny and a better person for it.

    Share This Article

Recent User Reviews

  1. ronott1
    "good article"
    4/5, 4 out of 5, reviewed Sep 4, 2018
    Well written and informative!
  2. Anonymous
    "Nice info."
    4/5, 4 out of 5, reviewed Aug 2, 2018
    Good read with nice info. Love the bullet points on summing up.
    Miss Lydia likes this.
  3. Anonymous
    "Nice read."
    3/5, 3 out of 5, reviewed Jul 24, 2018
    Good read.
    Miss Lydia likes this.

Comments

To make a comment simply sign up and become a member!
  1. SailorNoMore
    What a good article! The use of towels is great. Thank you for the photos.
  2. KLC321
    I was offered 3 Indian Runner ducks. My friend has a dog who is too interested in them. She doesn't know a lot about ducks but thinks there may be 2 males&1 female. I have 8 chickens&1 rooster. I have a separate house forthem but was planning on having them all free range on our fenced 5 acres. I was excited about getting them but After reading this article I'm wondering if I should pass on them. It sounds like there could be problems. Advice would be greatly appreciated as I have no experience with ducks.
  3. aliciaFarmer
    Thank you!!

    I have three ducklings eh route because... chicken math. My husb said I "could" get 12 chicks. 39 chickens and less than three months later, he said no more, so ducks are happening. I was starting to panic that I may be crazy, but reading this has helped to set my mind at ease and I thank you for that. I love the idea of towels, thank you!
      Hickspanic Chick likes this.
  4. Ducksandchickens
  5. MotherOfPeepPeeps
    Ok... Chicken math. Yeah.

    I had been thinking about getting 4-5 chickens for a while when I finally purchased 10 chicks on impulse durring a TSC dogfood run.

    They had ducks at TSC too, and I thought very hard about it... The were so frickin' cute! But I did good and resisted that impulse.

    Then I stumbled across @KikisGirls duck eggs adventure and I really want to try out incubating and ducks! Duck eggs pop up frequently on my local Craigslist, so I am starting to find it harder and harder to resist.

    I'm thinking maybe just one or two for pets, and if my pets provide eggs that is an awesome bonus!

    What breed is the most quiet laid back duck? I have really close neighbors, and I've heard ducks can get pretty noisy. This is the only thing that has prevented me from acting on the impulse to bring ducks home so far.
      Ducksandchickens likes this.
  6. Toru
    It is very nice article. It was so funny when you sad about 5 chickens turned to 62 chickens. I am not super crazy, but I have 90 chickens and 60 ducks. I like them all. They are different breeds, but each one of them are absolutely darlings with huge personalities.
    I use paint pans as basin for water spill. The shaving stay dry. I got this tip from YouTube. Also, I keep ducklings in kids swimming pool, medium size. The pool works for week and half, after that the ducklings could get out. That tip came from one of YouTube videos.
    Thank you for the article.
      Ducksandchickens and Eryniel like this.
  7. Little duck farm
    Question about introducing 3 week old ducklings to day old ducklings, should
    I keep them separated till the day olds are a few weeks old or can they be together right away?
    1. jtn42248
      I would keep them separate but in an environment where they can see and hear one another for at least a few days. Then, with constant supervision, allow them to move together at their own pace. Be prepared to separate them if needed.
      Little duck farm likes this.
  8. bluejeans
    I liked your article blue swenskas were my first ducks to years and years ago. I always like seeing them. They were great ducks to if you wanted some eggs and meat. Towels huh interesting good idea. ive always used peat moss as it can absorb lots of water and ducks stay dry and i like the duck fertilizer in it for my green house purposes plants and trees. Thanks for taking the time and writing .
  9. N F C
    Nicely written!
  10. garagegirl
    I don’t have a comment it’s actually a ? I have 2 male ducks that they have been together their whole life they are about a year old.
    Last night one of them got ate by something.

    So my question is should I get him a new friend perferrably a female.
    Or try to put him with my other 2 males and 2 females? Which are not too much older than he is. Now here is the deal when I got the 2 I tried to introduce them to the 4. The males of the 4 picked on the duck that died not the survivor.

    ***** Here is what I have done I picked up the lonely duck and started to take him out of his pen, he was very scared I didn’t want to traumatize him any more he seen his friend get eaten.

    Or I could take 1 of the females and put in with the lonely one but then she will be stressed. I really don’t want to get anymore ducks.
    Thank you for any advice
    1. jtn42248
      Sorry about the duck you lost. I am sure his friend is really feeling alone. But, the standard for ducks is one male for every 4-5 females. Otherwise you are risking overbreeding and injury to the female. I would suggest you get another male companion to replace the one lost, go through the introduction of the two and hope that they get along together. Because of their age there is little chance they will ever bond the way the original two were, but they will be companions to one another.
      Miss Lydia likes this.
  11. Phaedra Winters
    What breed of duck is that blue hen in the first picture with a crest and where did you get her? She is gorgeous:love
    1. jtn42248
      She is a Crested Blue Swedish and she came from Ideal Poultry. Her name is Marion and she is the mother to several of the mixes that I have now. One a Blue Swedish/Cayuga mix named Uno and one a Blue Swedish/Runner named Goldie.
      Phaedra Winters likes this.
    2. Phaedra Winters
  12. Crazy Mama
    At what age do they breed?
    1. jtn42248
      My drakes started breeding the females at about the same time they started laying eggs. About 16-18 weeks.
      Crazy Mama likes this.
    2. Crazy Mama
      Thank you, I was very curious because one of my males would try to get my female Everytime they'd get in the pool and I would have to separate them.
    3. jtn42248
      Good luck with the separation. Ducks will breed in water, on dry land, in their coop overnight, anytime you have your back turned. Duck sex is not attractive but is necessary to continuation of the species.
  13. harmesonfarm
    Great article. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

    I have also ended up with ducks as a offshoot of chicken math (lol) and have found I love them! We have also started with Cayugas, and I absolutely agree with the use of old towels for the brooder...nothing else worked like a charm.

    Good Luck on your duckie adventures!
  14. Bullseye
    Newbie on here so hi and a great thread berry helpful
      Miss Lydia likes this.
  15. Cadbury22
    Cute duck pictures.
  16. crazychicken5
    I would love to let one of my chickens hatch duck eggs, and start a little flock. we started with 5 chickens, and ended up with 16. I'm starting to realize I may be addicted to poultry. :)
  17. AClassicalLife
    Here's another consideration: What if someone's primary reason for getting ducks is bugs? And they want to know who the best forager is? Or if they are interested in helping out a heritage breed? (Or both?) :)
    1. xdmsd3d
      I love Moscovy. They have become my favorite breed. They eat mosquitos. Their quack is unique, the males do not seem to trash a nest while momma is off getting food. and they come in a large variety of color patterns.
  18. needlessjunk
    Great overview of ducks!
  19. Miss Lydia
    Great article jtn.
  20. Amiga
  21. eaglegreen
    Amiga--I thought this is the duck forum. If not, where is it? Nothing has changed in their environment except cold weather! So, maybe they're taking a rest.
  22. Amiga
    Could be a number of things - stress (cold, illness, trauma, changes in their environment), could be it is time to take a rest from laying. Greens help, sounds like you give them that. Feel free to share over on the Duck Forum - many people, much experience to be shared.
  23. eaglegreen
    Well, I was a sucker for a friends' "oh they're so cute! You have to come see them!" I hadn't planned to get anything, but ended up with 8 bantam chicks, 3 standard chicks and 6 ducks! I'd raised chickens before, successfully. But ducks. . . .nah. I got them all raised, wish I'd spent more time holding them when they were young. The store I bought them from said they'd be Pekin's, or Khaki somethings. Never a word about them becoming Swedish Blue's, Rowen, and Black Indian Runner. Two of the Swedish Blue's got curly tails and became dinner #1, and #2. The other four are my "Quacker Box" flock. They've been laying like crazy, and sort of all of a sudden, dropped off the edge. What gives? Do they react to days starting to get longer? or days being cold? or not enough greens in their diet? (I give them sprouts, and peas. . . .). They get plenty of water to swim in and drink, and laying mash. What do I need to do for my girls??
  24. donaquijote
    There are also some wonderful books available on Amazon that give lots of good information on caring and raising ducks as pets, and for their eggs. Please check out these information rich books!
  25. TwoDogFarm
  26. mymilliefleur
    Very helpful article! Thanks!
  27. jtn42248
    Thanks for your kind words. I think I may actually be blushing.
  28. Amiga
    This is one of the best summaries of duckling and duck raising I have seen. Hits the highlights, very friendly tone, encouraging and direct!
      Miss Lydia likes this.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by: