How to Raise Ducks (and why you should!)

Ducks are, first and foremost, a very fun animal to have around. Not only are they loaded with personality, but they are also better egg producers than chickens as well as butchering out into a richly flavored luxury meat.

Ducks can also glean a higher percentage of their nutrition from greens, roughly 30-40%. These traits make them ideal for those wanting to maximize food production on small acreage or to become more self-sufficient.

Raising Ducklings

Ducklings should be brooded similar to chicks. Start them off with a temperature of 90F, dropping the temp by 5 degrees each week.

I recommend moving all birds out of the brooder and into either grow-out housing or their adult housing at 3 weeks. Make sure they continue to have supplemental heat until fully feathered, typically around 6-8 weeks of age.

Ducklings love to make a mess with their water. You’ll need to give them fresh water and dry bedding more frequently than with chicks.

You should feed either a waterfowl starter or a chick starter (medicated or unmedicated). The medication now used in medicated chick starter is amprolium, which is safe for waterfowl. In the past the medication contained arsenic which was fatal to waterfowl.

You may need to supplement with extra niacin as well to prevent leg problems. You have a few options for doing this:

  1. Infant Vitamins without Iron – 1 dropper full per quart water
  2. Brewer’s Yeast –  approximately 3 cups per 10 pounds feed or a generous sprinkle on top of their feed daily
  3. NON-time release Niacin Gel Capsule Supplements – 100 mg per 1 gallon water – squeeze the gel out of the capsule and into the water

Typically you won’t need to supplement your ducklings as long as they have plenty to eat and fresh greens daily.

Feeding your Duck Flock

Adult ducks can be fed on a diet of layer feed if there are no males present. If you keep males in the flock you will need to feed flock raiser with oyster shell available free choice for the females to eat as they need.

Ducks are excellent foragers and will greedily eat worms, slugs, snails, weeds, and grass. They are also notorious for their love of frozen peas.

Ducks and Water

Ducks love to play in the water! And poop in it. 😀

A simple kiddie pool will do just fine for your duck flock to bathe in if, like me, you don’t have a natural water source like a pond or creek.

Provide access to their clean bathing water at least 3 times per week. The dirty water can be poured out onto your grass and will make it grow quite lush.

Ducklings should only have limited, supervised access to warm bathing water until their oil glands develop around 6 weeks unless they are being raised by a broody duck (snuggling in Mama Duck’s oily feathers will waterproof the ducklings down). 

Clean drinking water should be available at all times. Make sure you use a water container deep enough for them to submerge their heads. We like to use buckets that are just a few inches shorter than the adult ducks so they can’t climb in and poop in it.

Production Qualities

Many breeds of ducks will outlay chickens in both frequency and egg size. The top laying breeds can average over 300 eggs per year with eggs weighing around 2.5 ounces. That’s roughly 47 pounds of eggs from 1 duck in 1 year. The average chicken lays 33 pounds of eggs in their pullet year.

Keep in mind that, like in chickens, higher egg production = lower meat production. The best meat breeds for ducks tend to lay fewer eggs while the best laying ducks tend to have lower meat yields.

Ducks are good producers of rich, tasty meat and are something of a luxury in the United States. Their average dressed size is between 4 – 5.5 pounds for the heavy breeds of ducks. Hybrid Pekins typically reach butchering weight in 49 days with a typical dressed weight of 5.25 pounds.

Want to learn more about raising ducks for meat?

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