1O Things to Know Before Raising Domestic Ducks

When many think of ducks, they picture the friendly fowl in local parks that may come up for a snack of bread or cracker. It turns out there’s a lot more to them than that. Sociable, cute, and helpful, ducks have actually been living happily with humans for a long time. The earliest domesticated mallards date back to 4,000 years ago in southeast Asia and have been prized in many cultures ever since. It’s easy to see why, too; whether raised for meat and eggs or companionship and show, ducks and humans have had a happy relationship that won’t go away soon.

1. Friendly fowl

As anyone who’s spent much time watching these waterfowl knows, ducks are social animals. Their boldness in approaching a stranger for a tasty morsel shows these feathered friends rarely meet a stranger, and such friendliness makes them lovely pets. Remember that just as you’ve seen ducks in groups on the pond, these social birds need domestic companionship too, so it’s best to get more than one — ideally three or four. Otherwise, they’ll become depressed.

2. Sweet and smart

Ducks don’t just enjoy the companionship of their fellow fowl; they love their owners, too. If you want to help your duck thrive, some cuddle time will go a long way. They’re also intelligent enough to learn basic commands and play with toys, so enjoy interacting with them. As with many birds, ducks can become depressed or lonely, so make sure that between their comrades and you, your duck is getting plenty of play.

3. Wet and wild?

We’ve all seen ducks enjoying a nice swim on the pond, and while that certainly is their preferred home, ducks require less water to survive than many people think. The minimum amount of water that a duck needs is just enough to dunk their head and beak so that they can clean out their nostrils. That said, if you want a happy duck, make them feel at home with a roomy pond or pool.

4. Raising the babies

Ducks will enjoy the watery world you prepare for them eventually, but they need to grow up a bit first. When they start out as the fuzzy hatchlings that fit in your hand, it’s important that they be kept warm in an incubator and away from water where they might get chilled or drown. Keep them in a box with a corner light and a temperature of 80-85 degrees F, and introduce them gradually to the outdoors.

5. Protect from predators

As a waterfowl, a duck’s need for shelter is pretty minimal. A dog house of about two by three feet will do the trick for pairs, and 3×4 is roomy enough for four. What counts is that they have a place to escape bad weather and that they’re safe from curious cats and dogs. If you have a fenced-in backyard that’s free from predators, let them roam and enjoy the good life.

6. Feeding feathered friends

Just like humans, a duck’s diet progresses over time. For the first two weeks, your chick will need a special blend called “duck starter” to get them going, and for 3–7 weeks after that, “duck grower” will help them develop. After that, a low-protein pullet grower will suffice, and a small-stone mix called GRIT will help their gizzards process food. Throw them some unseasoned scraps or greens and you’ll have happy ducks.

7. Noisy neighbors

The expressive demeanor of ducks is wonderfully entertaining, but it comes with no small amount of chatter. Quacking when they’re happy, excited, or just when they feel like making themselves known, these birds are even noisier than roosters — and they love to join in on each others’ conversations. It’s part of their charm, but if you’re not prepared for all that clamor, you may find ducks more boisterous than you’d like, and so may your neighbors.

8. Best in show

Few people think of ducks as pageant animals, but the colorful markings on these fowl make them popular show creatures. From the deep green head and speckled crest of the Silver Appleyard to the slender, speedy Fawn Runner, it’s as enjoyable to watch these duck breeds prance about as it is to observe them frolicking in the water.

9. Making a mess

Ducks don’t emit much of a smell, but unfortunately, they make enough of a mess to compensate. They constantly graze on grass and grubs, so their belly is always churning. Expect a lot of droppings from your duck, and if you’ve given them a man-made watering hole like a children’s pool, be prepared to dredge and refill regularly to keep the mess well in hand. One side benefit: all that dung makes for perfect compost.

10. Side benefits: delicious eggs

Though keeping ducks as pets has bountiful rewards in terms of companionship, you might also enjoy eating the eggs your female ducks produce. Duck eggs are notoriously richer, creamier, and more nutritious than chicken eggs, and worth more, too. Depending on the breed, ducks can produce 170 to 210 eggs annually and will continue to lay all year long until they’re six to eight years old — roughly four years longer than chickens.

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