Raising Ducks for Meat
and Eggs or Both with Information on Duck Breeds
on raising ducks
meat, eggs or just as backyard pets. Know what duck breeds
suit your needs, how to feed, house and take care
of your duck.
People keep ducks for different
reasons. Some keep ducks for breeding, others keep ducks for the meat
or duck eggs, or both. Others may keep ducks to keep down the fly
population on a farm that has livestock, and others may not even know
why they are keeping
ducks, except for the pleasure they bring to the family and their
Keeping a duck is like any farm animal,
you have to give thought to where they will be housed, their safety
from predators during the day, swimming facilities, food and health,
and any offspring that might come about during their duration.
Photo courtesy of Cepheus
RAISING DUCKS and some Questions and Answers
How long to ducks live?
Ducks live for a number of years, but of course that can differ from
species to species and whether they live in captivity or in the wild.
On average, however, a duck will live around 15 years.
A Pekin duck will live 9-12 years, a Mallard 15-20 years and Muscovy
ducks 10-20 years.
How long do duck eggs
take to hatch?
For most ducks, your
eggs will take 4
weeks to hatch. This is the time where ducks appreciate water where
they can frolic in, as the moisture from their feathers seems to be
important for egg setting. If you are keeping Muscovies, Muscovy ducks
take 5 weeks to hatch.
What do baby ducks eat?
or baby ducks should be fed a commercial duck starter which should be
pelleted rather than given as a mash. They can also be given fruit and
vegetable scraps but these must be cut up really small for the
ducklings. They also enjoy insects and worms. Do not feed them onions,
rice, whole grain, dry bread or wild or caged bird seed.
What is a group of ducks
ducks are on the water they are known as a raft, a paddling or a bunch
of ducks. If they are in flight they are known as a brace, a team, a
bed, a flight or a flock of ducks. You can also get a badling
are many types of duck breeds about and as a novice duck owner-to-be
you are probably overwhelmed as to which duck breed will best suit.
Ultimately, your choice when raising ducks, will come back to the
question you should be asking yourself, right from the start; "Why do I
want to keep ducks?
" Do you want ducks for eggs, ducks for
meat or ducks for snail and fly catching?
When and Where to get your day-old Ducklings
Ducklings are easily sourced through a neighboring farm, breeder or
your local feed dealer. The best time to get your ducklings in would be
from April through to July.
If you want to raise ducks for meat then you
would need to decide on
the number of ducklings you will need to buy for your operation. But on
a small-scale, getting in 1 dozen ducklings 3 times a season you could
start eating duck from mid-June through to late fall.
Ducklings are hardy to raise, and need 3 weeks of artificial heat
before you can put them to pasture.
If your duck lays eggs and leaves the nest, you can put them under a
broody chicken, as long as the eggs haven't been left for too long.
However, due to the large size of the duck eggs a chicken can only
comfortably sit on 7-9 duck eggs. You will need to make sure that the
eggs are sprinkled with water regularly, especially towards the last
Duck Breeds for Eggs
you are raising ducks for eggs then you are after you can't go
wrong with the Indian
are probably the best egg-laying ducks around. They lay around 225-330
eggs a year but produce more heavily during spring and summer.
Some will say that the Campbell
is the better layer, but they are probably even in egg production. The
Campbell is a placid bird with fair mothering instinct, whereas the
Indian Runners are a little nervous but make excellent mothers.
Duck Breeds for Meat
If you are raising ducks as meat birds Aylesburys, Pekins, Rouens and Duclairs
table birds weighing in at 4-5 kg for an adult Aylesbury drake. Pekins
fastest growing bird out of the 4, although don't weigh as much and
Pekins and Aylesburys are the
only 2 breeds that produce white meat. However, neither Pekins or
Runners make good sitters, and you are probably better off with Muscovy ducks or Aylesburys,
my personal favorites, as they are good dual purpose birds. Muscovy
drakes will weigh 4.5 kg at maturity, and females will weigh 3 kilos.
Another reason why I like Muscovy ducks is
that they don't quack,
and so therefore the perfect bird if you live in the suburbs and you
are worried about annoying your neighbors. However, they are a bit
flighty, so it is prudent to clip one of the wings regularly.
Just remember to keep the right ratio
of ducks to drakes if you are breeding ducks. One drake to
2 ducks to start with or one drake for every 5 or 6 ducks will keep him
If you do keep ducks for meat, make
sure that you
like duck! Even 1 duck can hatch 25 - 30 ducklings in a season, as they
hatch ducklings twice a year. If it is your aim to raise ducks for meat
then you will be provided with tasty duck meat from spring until late
You can start slaughtering your ducks
after week 9 or 10.
Usually but week 10 they are fat enough, but you will need to determine
this by examining your ducks carefully. There is no point at
slaughtering at this age if they don't have enough meat on the bones.
However, something else to consider here is that at about this time
your ducks will start to moult. No matter how much you feed them after
this period, they won't put on much weight and whatever weight they do
gain will be done very slowly.
If you are allowing your ducks just to
food without any additional feeding your ducks will take a lot longer
than 9 or 10 weeks to gain weight for slaughter.
Duck Breeds for Eggs and Meat
If on the other hand, you are raising
ducks for both meat and eggs, the dual-purpose Aylesburys win hands
down, producing about 170 eggs a year and have the advantage of having
a placid nature too. However, Orpingtons,
Saxonys, Cayugas, Appleyards and Crested ducks can
also claim the title
of good dual-purpose birds.
Small Duck Breeds
Another factor for raising ducks and
choosing a duck breed will
be based on how much space you can offer your ducks. If space is a
you should be looking at smaller breeds like Elizabeth ducks, or
Black East Indian Ducks.
There are also bantam ducks now, the Silver
Appleyard is one such example, as is the Miniature Crested duck.
A word of warning about bantams -
because of their light weight they are great fliers and any new birds
should be either clipped/pinioned/ or placed in a covered pen until
they settle. They are also best bought as pairs as single pet females
often fly in spring to find a mate. It is wiser to buy them as
ducklings. As they grow up in familiar surroundings they are less
likely to fly away as adults.
RAISING DUCKS and What to feed your Duck
Ducks are great foragers
and are quite
happy to eat the snails, flies and bugs in your garden. Unlike raising
, ducks they
won't destroy your flowers or your vegetables if you let them loose in
your garden, although they may nibble
at your new pea shoots and seedlings and other leafy crops.
you can put up with that, the advantages of having them there in your
veggie patch eating cutworms, caterpillars, slugs and snails far
outweighs the slight damage to your vegetables
by having them there. In
addition, they will be leaving behind their manure which is high in
nutrients and nitrogen which will go back into the soil.
Ducks will also have a go at eating any
fallen fruit in your orchard and this is a good thing too, because any
fruit flies that may think of laying eggs will soon be preyed upon by
your resident ducks.
However, foraging for food is not
enough for a duck if you want it to be a good layer, and to be a fat
bird for your table. You will need to feed your birds twice a day;
early morning and late afternoon.
Give each adult bird 180-200g of a
good grain mix. This can consist of corn, wheat, barley and flaked
oats. All will be warmly welcomed by your ducks. From time to time add
cut up spinach and leafy greens to their diet if they are not getting
that already from your veggie patch. Stale bread can also be given as a
treat from time to time.
RAISING DUCKS and The Importance of Water
Ducks are waterfowl and
need a pond or
a bath of water to dip themselves into every day. In fact, ducks spend
about 80% of their time on water and those that don't have access to
water start showing abnormal behavior. Not only that, but a duck that
doesn't have access to water to clean its eyes on a regular basis will
go blind. So raising ducks successfully means that you will have to
give them access to a small pond or the like.
Make sure that they have enough water
to swim and play in, and where possible it should be cleaned out once a
week and filled up again with clean water. Sinking an old plastic clam
sandpit that your children have out grown is one way of recycling and
providing water for a couple of ducks.
However, any pond built for your ducks
must be constructed in such a way that all ducks and ducklings can get
out easily. Therefore slanting the clam sandpit slightly allows for the
ducks to get out safely. If ducks are unable to get out of the pond
that you have created, they will tire themselves in trying to get out,
and will in fact drown.
ducks must be provided at all times, and kept clean. Ducks like to put
their whole bills into the water to drink, and therefore the water
needs to be at least 4 inches deep for adult ducks and at least 12
RAISING DUCKS and Good Housing for your Ducks
worst predator and
your duck houses should be constructed in such a way that your ducks
will be safe at night. This means that any fencing should be high
enough to prevent a fox from jumping over or even climbing over - yes
foxes can climb fences! And the fence should be buried at least 15-20
cm below the soil line to prevent him from digging his way into the
The duck house should be sturdy,
well-ventilated but not draughty. It should be water-tight and the
opening should be facing away from the prevailing weather. Litter
should be placed on the floor and removed once a month and included in
your compost heap. Nesting boxes can be placed whereby they can be
opened from the outside, which is very convenient for those collecting
the eggs. Unlike chickens, your ducks do not need perches.
RAISING DUCKS IN A
HEALTHY WAY covering Duck Care, Illnesses and Diseases
raising ducks they
will fall ill, although they are quiet hardy, and illnesses are rather
unusual. Most of the time problems arise when water has been allowed to
go stagnant, when they have been fed rotten food scraps, haven't been
fed the right diet, been wrongly dosed for worm medication or have been
bitten by snakes, or stung by bees, wasps, spiders or ants.
To prevent your ducks from getting
worms add a small amount Condy's
in the duck's drinking water
once a week. The crystals line the gut of the duck preventing any
parasites from sticking to it. Another excellent additive is a capful
or two of cider vinegar. However, if you are adding cider vinegar to
the water, make sure that the water is in a plastic container, and not
a metal one, as the vinegar will cause the metal container to leach. A
small amount of garlic given to your ducks from time to time is also a
preventative against worms and parasites.
Your birds should be housed in sanitary
conditions that are well-ventilated but not draughty. They must be
released from their duck house every day. These should be cleaned
weekly. Like all birds they can also be susceptible to mites and worms,
and should be treated for these accordingly. Any serious illness should
be attended to by your local vet.
Raising ducks is a rewarding
experience, and if you are into permaculture, they are a vital player
in your farm's ecology. They eat the snails, slugs and other nasty bugs
in your veggie garden without destroying your greens. In addition, they
provide great farmyard
to enrich your soil. Depending on the
breed, you will be provided with a clutch of duck eggs on a regular
basis, and a bird or two will grace your dinner table from time to
The humble duck is a very worthwhile
farm animal indeed!
RECOMMENDED BOOKS ON RAISING DUCKS
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