It all started a few years ago when my son decided to take on a waterfowl project for 4-H. We were familiar with raising chickens, but we didn’t have any experience with raising ducks.
So in this post I’m sharing what I’ve learned over the years in case you ever interested in raising ducks of your own, whether it’s for 4-H purposes or simply to have as pets.
The best beginner ducks
In my experience, Pekin ducks and Khaki Campbell ducks are the best beginner ducks.
Pekin ducks are beautiful large ducks, avid eaters, and quite the entertainers. They are homebodies, they like staying near the house, feeding all day and love taking naps.
The male often spends hours socializing with the ‘other’ duck during mating season.
Khaki Campbells are another suitable breed for beginners. Unlike the Pekins, they are more adventurous and might wonder around your property, especially during mating season. However, they do come back when called, if trained earlier on as ducklings. They are also easy to handle and make wonderful show ducks for 4-H.
If you decide to start off with hatchlings in late spring, then you can keep the little ones inside the house for the first couple of week, in a large container lined with wood shavings. Provide them with heat by attaching a red lamp about 20″ above the base and include a small waterer and a feeder containing starter feed. The starter feed contains more nutrients then the regular pellet feed, which they will be consuming a few weeks later. Be sure to keep their container clean and give them fresh water daily.
The ducklings will eventually need to be housed in a larger space. A small shed (or duck coop) with a fenced-in enclosure works best. Be sure to add a fence above the enclosure and preferably under as well, to prevent predators from climbing in, or from digging their way in from underneath. Place wood shavings or hay at the bottom of the shed for added warmth and comfort.
Ducks love water, so if they do not have access to a pond or creek, include a water source in their fenced area, such as a small baby pool (or large shallow container). Keep in mind, that ducks are very messy! So change their water daily in order to keep it clean. Also, as ducklings, they won’t be able to climb in and out of the pool with ease. Adding a wooden ramp and a few rocks inside the pool provides them easy access in and out of the water.
Get to know your ducks
Ducks are very entertaining and just like any other pet they each have their own personality. So get know them by interacting with them and handling them often. One way to do this is to hand feed them daily, which is the perfect way to develop a trusting relationship.
Side note: avoid leaving food in coop or in the enclosure as this will surely attract rodents and predators.
Our ducks are free range, they forage most of the day in the back yard. However, we do feed them every morning and give them treats whenever possible.
Practice your duck call
Yes, it sounds silly, but it works (especially if they like to wonder around). To train them, simply quack whenever they are at a distance and have some food on hand to give them when they come back. That way they know that whenever they are called and come back to the house, they will be greeted with some food or treats.
Springtime and mating
If you have ducks and drakes, then chances are they will mate in the springtime. In my experience, Khaki Campbells are great settlers and are very caring towards their young.
Meet ‘Pow’ (yup, the kids named her) our resilient Khaki Campbell! She raised her sibling’s 4 ducklings following an unfortunate racoon attack, then later she had 12 ducklings of her own!
What happens in the wintertime?
Winter, cold weather, no problem. Ducks are winter hardy and can tolerate being inside or outside even in cold weather. You can use a red heat lamp inside the coop at nighttime if the temperature drops to -15 degrees, or insulate the coop for additional heat retention during harsh winter days.
Will they fly away?
We never had any of our ducks fly away. They are capable of flying and could fly over a fence of 4 feet or so for example, but they do not fly long distances. Other types of ducks like the smaller call ducks could however fly away, in which case you could keep them in a fenced-in yard or you could clip their wings. However, make sure you have this done by a an experienced duck farmer, do not attempt to do this yourself!
Side note: If you will be using your ducks in 4-H competitions, best to find out what your club’s rules are regarding wing clipping and 4-H Day waterfowl presentations.
Fun for the whole family
We definitely have enjoyed having ducks in our back yard for the last few years. They do make wonderful and very entertaining pets.
So, if you are thinking of getting ducks as pets, then I hope this post encourages you to take the leap.
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