INTRODUCTION TO KEEPING DUCKS

By jtn42248, Jan 2, 2015 | Updated: Feb 5, 2015 | | |
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  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.

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Comments

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  1. 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.
      Crazy Mama likes this.
  2. 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!
  3. Bullseye
    Newbie on here so hi and a great thread berry helpful
      Miss Lydia likes this.
  4. Cadbury22
    Cute duck pictures.
  5. 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. :)
  6. 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?) :)
  7. needlessjunk
    Great overview of ducks!
  8. Miss Lydia
    Great article jtn.
  9. Amiga
  10. 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.

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