If you've taken the time to read our brief guide on choosing duck breeds, we hope you're somewhere close to choosing the right duck breeds for you and your farm.
Where to Buy Your Ducks
Once you have an understanding of the type of ducks that you’d like, it’s time to find the best outlet for buying them (pssttt... it's eFowl.com!) You can buy ducks directly from breeders, quality shows and sales, or from hatcheries. If you buy day-old ducklings, they will need sufficient heat and water as well as starter crumbs. Be wary of access to swimming water. If your birds are still very young, chances are they are still in the downy stage and are not waterproof yet. Once their preen glands develop, they can handle swimming without the risk of being bogged down and drowning.
Feeding Your Flock
Feeding your ducks is something that should probably shift as your birds grow and develop. Use starter crumbs or starter rations for your 4-6 week old ducks. Starter crumbs have everything a young bird needs to grow into a healthy adult duck. There are also special breeder or layer pellets that you can use to better suit your birds if you have specially designated breeder or layer flocks. If you have an area that the birds can use to scavenge for things like snails, slugs, and other small pests, ducks make great foragers who can naturally supplement their diets quite effectively.
Watering Your Ducks
Drinking water is a obviously must. Make sure to have clean and accessible water for your ducks at all times. When owning ducks, water isn’t just used for drinking. Ducks need water to activate their preen glands, which helps them stay waterproof. They also need it to keep their feathers healthy and clean out their eyes and nose. Your heavier ducks might use swimming water for mating but your smaller ducks will probably just use it to seemingly relax. Either way, a clean body of water is essential in owning ducks. Imagine owning a dog and never taking him outside, that’s what it would be like owning a duck without water for it to splash in! It’s important that the water is deep enough for the birds to comfortably float in as well. Unless you have a naturally flowing body of water, which most people don’t, it’s also crucial to keep the water clean. Having a pool or body of water that allows you to clean it regularly will help keep your ducks happy and healthy.
If you’re keeping a layer flock, it’s a good idea to collect your eggs every single day to keep them in the best condition possible. It is often difficult to get ducks to lay in an actual nest box, but they will lay in their house, so keeping it as clean as possible is also in your best interest for that. If you’re using your ducks for meat, they will most likely be slaughtered at 7-10 weeks of age depending on the breed. If you wait until after their juvenile molt the birds will be incredibly difficult to pluck. The slaughtering of table ducks is similar to that of chickens but can be more difficult. You should receive training or help from an experienced duck owner or farmer before attempting on your own to ensure that you give your birds the most humane slaughter possible.
Defense Against Predators and the Elements
Ducks are cute and rather defenseless animals. Let’s just say there’s not many animals below ducks on the food chain. This is why a proper “coop” setup is key because they need security and protection from predators like wolves or raccoons. Unlike chickens, ducks roost on the ground so their “homes” don’t require as many ammenities, just enough space to comfortably rest and be safe from potential predators. It’s important to make sure your coop has good ventilation, as the heat from your ducks and other airborne bacteria should be able to easily escape the structure and not build up. Make sure your structure is at least 3 feet high and gives each bird at least 4 square feet of space to sleep.
Ducks can be messy and smelly, but the best way to minimize this is by frequently cleaning your duck “coop” or house. Not only does this decrease the odor but it helps prevent your birds from getting sick or infected. Ducks can easily contract Bumble Foot as well, which is an infection in a cut on their webs usually caused by sharp rocks or debris that they walk on. Maintaining a clean coop as well as using a smooth surface for your ducks to walk on will dramatically reduce the prevalence of Bumble Foot in your coop.
Along with things like Bumble Foot, there are a few different infections and diseases you should look out for if you decide to own ducks. Worms and mites can be a common issue and having treatments on hand is never a bad idea. Also, a poorly ventilated coop can result in many different respiratory diseases in your birds. A hot and humid home for your ducks mixed with moldy bedding is a perfect storm to create respiratory problems in your flock. Your ducks can also fall victim to crop binding, which is caused by a gizzard worm or piece of grass or debris getting caught in their gizzard. Having some grit for your birds is a great way to help them digest things like this and avoid the health issues that come with it. If you see sudden deaths in one or more of your birds you should definitely contact a veterinary professional or poultry diagnostic laboratory to get an accurate diagnosis to avoid further infection of your flock or even someone else’s in your community.