Have you ever had duck eggs? They are larger than a chicken’s and have a delightful flavor that most prefer over chicken eggs. And once you have a duck egg, you will want a small flock of your own. So how do you get started with this task? Let’s learn how to raise ducks in your backyard.
Check The Laws
The first thing you should do when raising ducks is to check your local laws. Some counties and cities have no regulations on these docile birds. But there are a few states and cities that dictate what breeds of duck you can’t have and how many. Especially in areas where they have deemed certain breeds an invasive species.
If you already have chickens or other fowl, it’s also worth checking about regulations on how many birds you can raise. A few cities have laws about how many birds total you can have per acre. And your chickens and ducks would be counted as one flock.
Why Raise Ducks?
Now that you have all the legalities away, it’s time to look at duck breeds. Not every duck breed is suitable for every person. If you want a duck that lays a lot of eggs, you want a breed that reflects that. You will need to decide why you want to raise ducks.
If you raise ducks for eggs, the most popular breeds are:
- Khaki Campbells
- And Welsh Harlequin
For meat ducks, you will want breeds like:
- Pekin Ducks
- Or raise Muscovy ducks.
And if you want a pet duck, Pekins and Welsh Harlequins are known for their calm temperaments. Once you learn more about the specific breed you get, you can move on to preparing and caring for them.
Most people choose to start their ducks as hatchlings. Beginning at this young age allows your ducks to bond with you and your family. They are more confident and docile than buying adult ducks. But they do require a little bit of care before heading out to the coop.
Ducklings will need a similar set up as chicks. A brooder large enough to house them until they are 7-9 weeks old will do the trick. A cardboard box or metal watering trough is sufficient for the few weeks they are in it.
You can line this brooder with a bit of non-slip cupboard liner and top it off with pine shavings. Spot cleaning daily will keep the brooder and your ducklings clean. And the shavings are cheap enough to change out once a week.
They will also need a shallow feeding dish and waterer at all times. Your ducklings can eat either waterfowl crumbles or chick starter if you already have it. Both of these feeds should be unmedicated because ducklings eat a lot and easily overdose. And while chick starter is healthy for ducklings, it lacks in niacin. So to solve this issue, add a sprinkling of brewer’s yeast into your duckling’s food bowls.
And finally, you will also need a heat source for your babies. They like it at a cozy 90 degrees until they are about four weeks old. At four weeks, your ducklings can perfectly handle the inside temperatures and don’t need a lamp anymore.
Duck Coop And Run
The biggest question on how to raise ducks in your backyard is about where to keep them. At 7-9 weeks old, your ducklings will have all the feathers they need to regulate their body temperature. So it’s time to move them outside if the weather is consistently above 50 degrees. But what type of coops do they need?
With a few modifications, you can raise ducks with chickens. But if you don’t have chickens, a duck coop is simple to make and cheap to build. You can buy a prefabricated coop or create one from free plans you get online. In either case, the biggest thing to watch for is size.
Your ducks will need 4sqft of space per bird inside the coop. And another 10sqft in the run per duck on the outside. This is enough space that they won’t feel cramped, and it reduces the risk of disease. And unlike chickens, ducks don’t roost. So you will have to make sure that every duck has a nesting box on the ground to sleep in and lay eggs.
If you have chickens, the only modifications you will need are nesting areas and ramps. Your ducks will need longer ramps for the chicken coop to make the climb easy. And nesting boxes close to the ground away from the roost makes the perfect sleeping arrangement.
What To Feed Your Ducks
Your ducks are happy to eat the same layer feed for those of you raising ducks with chickens. Chicken layer feed has the perfect 15-16% protein that your ducks will need. They even love much of the same treats and foraging bugs. But unlike chickens, you don’t have to worry about your ducks destroying your garden when trying to forage.
The only difference in feeding your ducks is in the containers you give them. Chicken feeders and waterers are too small for a duck’s wide bill. Instead, you should choose an open bowl or dish for your duck’s food. And the same would go for the water dish.
Except with the water dish, you will also want it to be at least 6 inches deep. The reason for this is that your ducks will dip their faces into the water throughout the day. And while it may look like playing, it’s actually for practical reasons.
Ducks clear out their nostrils periodically of dust and dirt. They do this by swishing their heads and bills around in the water. Sure it might make a huge splash, but it’s very refreshing. Ducks also need clean water available to help digest their food. If you look carefully, you will see that your ducks take a mouth full of food and mix it with water. Scientists studied this action and concluded that it helps ducks take in more nutrients and digest faster.
So when raising ducks, you will have to spend time every day cleaning out the water bowls. And while you are at it, you might as well move the dishes around. If you don’t move the waterer enough, mud puddles will form and create a sloppy mess for you.
Raising Ducks In Winter
All of us have that image of ducks heading south for the winter. Where the weather is warm, and water is aplenty. But your ducks likely can’t fly well depending on their breed. So how do you keep ducks warm in winter?
You weatherproof your coop the same way you would any chicken coop. Check for drafts and adjust the ventilation is the best way to prevent your ducks from frostbite. But your primary concern is the water dish freezing over. It doesn’t matter how cold it is outside; your ducks will want to make a splash in the water.
You don’t have to worry too much about when it comes to ducks getting wet. They have the most amazing waterproofed feathers that keep them warm. And a duck’s feet are specially designed to stay warm in freezing conditions. But you do have to worry about the water freezing solid. If your ducks can’t get to the water, they could dehydrate and become prone to respiratory infections.
You also have to worry about the backsplash freezing in puddles on the ground. Frozen water is a fall hazard to chickens, ducks, and you. But a layer of straw around the waterer will keep everyone safe.
Do Ducks Lay Eggs In Winter?
When raising ducks for eggs, you might wonder if they continue to lay throughout the winter. In many cases, you can encourage your ducks to lay all winter long. During the winter, we usually have less daylight. This reduced daylight time also reduces the number of eggs your ducks lay.
But you can trick your ducks into thinking that the daylight times haven’t changed at all. All you need to do is all light to the coop for a few hours in the evening every night. With this light, your ducks will continue to produce an egg a day.
I Have A Pool. Can I Still Raise Ducks?
Watching your ducks play in the pool might seem like fun. But it can have adverse side effects if you aren’t careful. Pool chemicals are a nasty thing for any animal. They can dry out the skin and upset the stomach if swallowed. So you will want to keep the ducks out as much as possible. How to raise ducks in your backyard with a pool is easier than it seems.
The best way to keep ducks out of pool is to buy a reflective pool cover. They won’t get in, and your pool stays clean. Another trick is to give your ducks a kiddie pool. Giving a readily available option will deter them from seeking out other water sources. But don’t just give them the smallest pool possible. Get one that is at least 2 feet deep and easy to clean. A pool of this size will make your ducks happy and content campers.
How To Raise Ducks As Pets
Raising ducks as pets is easier than you think. Ducklings naturally imprint on anyone who handles them often. It’s easiest to start with day-old hatchlings and play with them every day. Once they can leave the brooder at four weeks, take them for small outings. Hand-feeding is also another great option. But pet ducks aren’t like chickens. It’s in a ducks nature to latch on to humans that care for them. In no time, your ducks will come running for cuddles and petting.
And That’s All Folks
How to raise ducks in your backyard is easy peasy. With their calm and docile natures, you will wonder why you didn’t start raising ducks sooner.
Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Backyard Chicken Board!!