Homesteading Skills Raising Animals

The Homesteaders Guide to Raising ducks

The Homesteaders Guide to Raising DucksRaising ducks is much more common than it used to be. They can be found not just on homestead’s and hobby farms, but also in urban backyards, gaining more popularity as towns and cities start relaxing their ordinances on keeping poultry.

Many people do not consider raising ducks because they believe they require a large pond. The easy solution  is to pick suitable duck breeds for which you will only need a small paddling pool to keep your ducks and ducklings happy and healthy. This can be tucked away in the corner of the garden or yard if you only have a smaller space or do not have suitable land. Think about where you locate your pool as it will need draining occasionally..

For the first few weeks after ducklings hatch they are the cutest and most beautiful creatures. At the very beginning just like all babies (humans included) they don’t do anything except feed; sleep and visit the bathroom.

Ducklings are very delicate creatures they can’t be ignored just because you don’t have time. They require constant care and attention regular feeding space and safety. They are not wild ducks and therefore they cannot roam free.

Keeping Ducks

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Domestic ducks are unable to fly and are generally not as strong as wild animals. They cannot fly off to find food so if you are raising ducks make sure they are regularly fed; watered and attended to otherwise they will not survive.

Feeding ducks anything that is not natural will kill them, so avoid the temptation to treat them with things that you would like, such as chocolate. If you have young children the children must know what the care regiment is for raising ducks. When keeping ducks; only allow small children to be with your ducks when supervised as they can be rough with them on occasion.

If you have dogs and cats in the house or in your backyard this is not considered a good idea when keeping ducks. Dogs and cats will always view ducks as food and if they are left alone dogs will inevitably be end up injured or maybe even killed.

Since raising ducks requires as much attention as any other pet you need to be able to find the time to devote to them. It maybe difficult to find someone who would consider or be able to look after your duck for you if you go away for long periods. You must consider this aspect before you consider raising ducks.

Vet fees are one of the major expenses in keeping ducks. Ducks are inevitably always treated as exotic pets and the veterinarian will often bill you an ‘exotic rate’ for care of them, so you must budget for this. Domestic ducks are often left at a local pond and because a neglectful owner doesn’t have time or can’t afford to take care of them. Please as always do your research on how to properly look after your ducks before deciding to purchase them.

duck eggsDucks will incubate their eggs for about 28 days, and then the eggs will all hatch within 24 hours or so. Ducklings must have somewhere safe to cohabit with each other; wild ducks and domestic ducks cannot be mixed. As domestic ducks need human beings to look after them, your ducks will learn to live in an enclosed space.

After about six months the males will start to get aggressive, they may nip and chase the other ducks around. You need to step in to stop this behaviour straight away because as time goes by it will become more difficult to control. Aggressiveness must constantly be checked. You should tap your misbehaving duck on the beak with your fingernail and say ‘no’ on each occasion they misbehave. By being firm  with them they will get the idea.

You have to be very careful when raising ducks; they are incredibly delicate. Never be rough with them. Some books recommend holding the ducks beak to gain control. That is not really a good idea as it can stop your duck from breathing. Your ducks must and will eventually learn though that aggressive behaviour will always be met with tough love, and that YOU are the ‘leader of the pack’ so to speak – this can take an awfully long time. So, continue to show them affection by feeding them from your hand and after a while ducks will begin to realize that you are caring for them.

Duck Accommodation

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During the wintertime ducks need plenty of heat to keep them warm, but they also need some ventilation. An infra-red light bulb can be used to heat their area; make sure the bulb cannot be reached by the ducks otherwise they can touch the light and be burnt. However if it does get too warm the ducks must have room to move to a cooler area.

For when the weather becomes more extreme they will need a good shelter,This has to be waterproof and windproof with some sort of flap on the doorway; so adults can get in to be protected from the inclement weather and out from go outside whenever they feel like it. It is possible to utilize your garage, shed or basement as long as  you keep them warm and fed. Some ducks are more adaptable to the cold air than others. If it gets very cold the ducks will gather together in a huddle. It is important to keep your ducks warm in the winter to prevent them from getting ill.

Always keep the duck house clean and dry; this will prevent your ducks from getting sick. Pay attention for mold as it is an indicator of cool damp air and these conditions will make your ducks ill very quickly.

raising ducksMake sure you  have a plan in place in early fall so that if cold winter arrives all of a sudden or a few days of inclement weather appears the shelter is already ready for them.

Ducklings also need heat to keep them healthy. As your ducklings develop into adults, their feathers will give them more installation and therefore they will need less heat. In the meantime if you can get hold of poultry brooding lamps they will suffice for keeping your ducks warm.

If you have a small pump available use it to keep your pond thawed or perhaps a small heater which is a better alternative. Ponds must be kept thawed out and topped up so toxic gases can leave and oxygen can enter the water.

During the summer your ducks will need shade to protect them from the sun. Not only do they like  the shade but just like humans, domestic ducks are vulnerable to sunstroke. If they stay in direct sunlight they should always have fresh water and some sort of shelter to shade them.

What to feed ducks

When raising ducks you will notice that they grow very quickly to adult size. Even though they look like adults they will still be ducklings, and you need to be as careful with them as if they were still the cute little yellow balls of fuzz you had in the beginning. Although still young they are still growing and will need a lot of food so keep your feeders clean and make sure there are no sharp edges on them, use duct tape to ensure that the ducks can’t injure themselves. Make sure the feeder is secure in their area and keep your ducks well nourished.

What do ducks eat?

Pellet food should contain a lot of protein. If you want duck eggs, the food should not be more than 18% protein. Ducks do not need excessive amounts of protein as it affects their wings. There is a condition called ‘angel wing’ which makes their wings sit up instead of lying down and is caused by excessive protein. However if they don’t get enough protein they will not be able to lay eggs.

When your ducks are older they can start to eat green vegetables and most green plant life, anas-penelope-171258_1280especially if they are free to roam outdoors. Green vegetables will always be part of the diet from now on. You can also feed them hard boiled eggs which must be chopped. They will eat a lot of creatures in your garden; ducks will always search for worms; slugs and snails and other tasty insects. Be careful not to your allow ducks to over eat or they can die.

There are a number of  things that you should not feed  ducks; corn for example will make them ill by interrupting their digestive tract. They can eat cracked corn however and this has some protein content in it. It is important to change out the food the ducks don’t eat. Empty your duck’s feeder regularly so that food does not go stale or contract bacteria. Generally avoid feeding your ducks with seeds and as mentioned before, do not feed them anything that you would eat chocolate particularly.

Ducklings

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When the ducklings are one day old their yoke sack becomes exhausted and so until the ducklings are 4 weeks old you must provide a chick crumb specially formulated for ducks and geese. Under no circumstances use medicated chick crumb as this contains coccidiostat which is harmful to ducks.

After about three weeks, start to mix in some growth and finisher pellets until the ducklings are 16 weeks old. After 16 weeks move to duck layer pellets and start them adding some cracked corn  to the feed.

If you are keeping chickens alongside your ducks you can allow the adult chickens and ducks to feed from your chicken pellets with cracked corn at night as the nutrients are similar. Feed some grit and oyster shells to your ducks just as you would do with chickens.

All ducks need a lot of water to help them to digest their food. They also use it for cleaning themselves. Water helps ducks swallow when eating and must be changed daily as young ducks will make a mess of the water and cause mould and possibly disease into their accommodation.

Do not forget to put some sort of ramp into the pool. The young and healthy ducks will never have a problem getting in and out; but the older ones and the heavy ones can find it a little bit more difficult. Ducks love to dunk their head in water and this helps in the preening process and cleaning of their beaks and nostrils.

Duck Breeds

If you are breeding ducklings remember ducks are not as broody as chickens. They are less reliable at sitting on their clutch (although Appleyard and Muscovy ducks are better at this) so you will probably need to keep an eye on them so that the eggs are well cared for. If your duck is hopeless at sitting on her brood you may have to consider putting the eggs with a broody chicken or ‘electric broody hen‘.

Ducklings need special quarters; if you have 10 or more are young ducklings you will need at least 5 ft² of space, eventually moving them up to small kennel sized accommodation as they get older and grow. You need to ensure that the accommodation you have will keep them dry and is very sturdy. Any litter in the accommodation should be made of straw rather than paper. The straw will need to be changed daily.

Make sure the water is deep enough for your ducks to immerse their heads and put any food in some form of hanging tube feeder to prevent waste. Make sure there’s always some available.

Before keeping ducks make sure you’re ready to take care of them. There are a number duck breeds to choose from and you need to decide which breed is suitable for your homestead. Some breeds are quite solitary and do not like interacting with humans.

The Peking duck particularly likes to interact with humans; they appear to be very outgoing and as they are playful and social with other ducks this breed is very popular. The Khaki Campbell makes a great house pet and comes in a bronze colour, while the Cayuga has very similar personality characteristics but is green in colour.

If it is duck eggs you are after we could recommend the Runner duck; these make great pets and produce lovely duck eggs although this duck breed does need quite a lot of care and time spent with it.
There are several ducks breeds suitable for owning domestically and they each have different characteristics. It’s important to research which one is right for you.

CanardderouenRouen: This duck is very similar to a Mallard and it’s easy to be confused between the two. It is popular and can mix with other poultry as well. The meat is particularly tasty, they are easy to raise and can more or less look after themselves.

 

 

duck breeds

Peking: This breed is the most popular in North America. They are not really for good for laying eggs but are good for meat. They are white in colour. The males weigh nine pounds or so and the females can weigh as much as eight.

 

muscovy_duck

Muscovy:  This breed is not the prettiest. Their colour can vary significantly between blue and purple. They are excellent foragers. The males can weigh up to 15 pounds with females weighing up to 10. Its feathers are generally Gray and white with a pink or red crest.

DuckieByTrishBuff duck Can weigh around 9 pounds for both males and females. It is an ornamental duck of English descent.

 

 

 

crested-duck-538311_1280Crested: Their heads have little tufts of feathers on them. The crested duck is an ornamental breed and  are a blend of two other breeds: the Peking and the Aylesbury ducks.

 

 

Flickr - law keven - It's that Duck Again...-O)Call: Is smaller than most other duck breeds and is used for ornamental purposes.

 

 

 

photo credit: tlfotter

photo credit: tlfotter (CCL)

Appleyard: These are beautiful large duck with Silver feathering; brown eyes and the head of the males can be a deep beetle green. They also come in a smaller miniature version for little gardens. They are very friendly and a good ‘broody ducks’ during springtime.  They can weigh up to 8 pounds.

11212839464_e0320ebf79_mKhaki Campbell: Another English duck breed. It is very good for raising ducklings and for eggs. The They can produce up to 300 duck eggs a year but are not recommended for meat.

 

phot credit: soapydishwater (CCL)

phot credit: soapydishwater (CCL)

Cayuga: The females weigh as much as seven pounds and the male is approximately eight The Cayuga is a black color with some green hints. The Cayuga has come from American duck breeders and are larger than the Call duck.

 

Runner-ducks

 

The Runner duck: Females and Males can weigh up to about 4 pounds they are popular and good for eggs but not very good for meat both in flavour and size. It is a very good egg layer.

 

Some duck breeds are just like hens and lay in a few weeks at a time where as others are excellent layers and laying as many acts as a kind of chicken however don’t say because they tend to be harder and have more yoke to white than chicken eggs.

Unlike roosters, drakes are much easier to keep as they are much quieter more in keeping with their female counterparts. Ducks can live for many years some up to 8 years or so, but they will not produce duck eggs in those last few years. You do not need a drake to get duck eggs but if you are breeding, one male will be able to keep three females happy.

Where to Buy Duck Breeds

Buying ducks can sometimes be difficult as it can be hard to find quality sellers. While you can  often get them from pet stores getting them from a quality breeder is very important. Breeders raising ducks are much more experienced than pet stores and they know more about the ducks history and how to care for them. The pet store is not really a good place to get ducks from as they usually specialize in small fury animals, many ducks sold in stores contract diseases and end up sick.

You can also get ducks from farms or online retailers which are also a better source. Wherever you get them from though make sure that those selling ducks are reputable. Check out their website policies and guarantees.

Sexing ducks is one major issue purchasers have problems with. Many people think they are buying a female to discover that it is male; not good if it is eggs you are after! Check the website or the retailer so that you are reassured they know what they’re talking about. Ideally you will want to go to a website with photos if you purchase online.

Make sure your ducks can be delivered safely and to your address. You will need some kind of discount if you’re buying several ducks at a time. Check the condition of the ducks’ first. If you can visit them and pick them up yourself, do so.

There are a number of basic essentials to keeping ducks properly so they will always be healthy. You’ll need specific equipment for watering and feeding ducks. If you have a lot of ducks a number of items will come in handy; chicken feeders and water feeders for chickens are the easiest thing to get commercially.

Raising ducks and keeping ducks is a real joy and has the added bonus of giving you plenty of duck eggs for your local farmers market if you wish. You will find ducks good company, are likely to think of them as pets with their own unique personality’s and will bring many happy memories to you and your family.

 

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