DUCKS! Advice wanted - Mothering Forums
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Country Living / Off the Grid > DUCKS! Advice wanted
SweetSilver's Avatar SweetSilver 08:20 AM 02-23-2012

Well, it's that time of year to send in the order.  Because we are showing in the fair this summer we need to get going and order. My girls decided to order some ducklings along with chicks so we can diversify our "farm" winky.gif


We've read the books, but I'd like some advice from those of you who have raised them yourself. It will be a small flock.  The girls get to order 2 each, and I think I'll get a couple as well.  We need to start small in part because to show them they need to be calm and fewer ducklings will make this easier.

Martha27's Avatar Martha27 04:48 PM 02-23-2012

I got two pekings one year with an order of hens I was getting just for fun b/c I'd never had them before. I ended up selling them within 2 months b/c they were sooooooo messy! I had heard they were messy so I wasn't totally caught off guard but it was really more than I wanted to deal with at the time. They were pretty neat as little babies, but then got afraid of us even after lots of handling so that was a little discouraging too. The kids always wanted to pet them and they'd just run off and poop some more :)

If you have the space and can designate an area for the ducks it would probably work out better then what we had, we tried to integrate the two poultry flocks and it didnt work, also we were renting a place and I constantly worried they were too messy and I was always cleaning up after them

brambleberry's Avatar brambleberry 05:29 PM 02-23-2012

We had ducks for a while and really enjoyed them, but found they eat more than chickens for the amount of eggs laid, so we eventually got rid of them in our "need to simplify life now that we have a baby" campaign.  They are supposed to get more of their diet from forage than chickens (60% vs 40%), but they eat way more total food.  They are super fun to watch, though, and don't tear up the garden as badly as a chicken will if they get loose (but can still do damage).  They're also easier to keep contained than chickens.  We loved their eggs.  They're harder to crack but have a slightly richer flavor.  Get Welsh Harlequins or Khaki Campbells if you want eggs, pekins or Muscovies if you want meat.  Other breeds are pretty and may be fun to show, but are probably not very practical.  Ducks are more skittish than chickens, which may be a challenge for showing, but they do get better as they get older.  Muscovies are fun if you want them to raise their own ducklings - they really do a super job of it with little work from you.  Just make sure they have a place where the other birds won't try to lay in their nest while they're brooding.  And yes, they are messy.  Make sure you have a well drained area under the waterer. 

SweetSilver's Avatar SweetSilver 07:50 PM 02-25-2012

OK, I am well warned about the mess!  What about predators?  We have fenced areas. but just the other day our house here in town (we are moving in May to our property) was visited by a wayward muscovy duck I called Stan.  We maintain some considerable puddles for the girls out front, and he loved the clover in the bottom!  Well, he could fly pretty well for such a big guy.  It was a lot of fun for a few days!  Do ducks come back at night like chickens?  Coyotes are a big threat, but also worried about weasels.  What about housing?  Are they as low-maintenance as the books say?


I'm sure I'll have more questions.  I don't think feed is such a big deal.  I mean, this isn't like a major food operation, just a few ducks mostly for fun.  Anyway, right now I am feeding 2 old biddy chickens and getting no eggs in return (lots of poop, though!  Looove the poo......) and their feed is nothing compared to cats who do nothing but kill birds (including the chickens!  Poor Fairybell!)


And bedding, what about bedding?  Where do they like to sleep when they aren't broody?

brambleberry's Avatar brambleberry 10:29 AM 02-26-2012

Ducks need a little help getting inside at night sometimes.  In my experience, once they are older and well trained to go inside there's no problem, unless you have pecking order fights going on and the less dominant get kept outside by the dominant ones.  So you might have to check up on them regularly to make sure they are all going in.  They will come back to the house, just not necessarily go inside every night.  Ducks do have a strong instinct to sleep by water, and since we don't have anything bigger than a goldfish pond at our place we've never had a problem with that, but I've heard of people not being able to get the ducks to sleep inside because they insist on sleeping by the pond.  Muscovies can be a little more wild than others, but they can also fend for themselves better.  When our muscovies were free-ranging, the females would go off and find hidden nesting places other than in the hen house, and we would just see them once or twice a day while they were brooding.  We don't have high predator pressure around here, but there are plenty of things that like to eat poultry, and we were amazed that the muscovy hens hid their nests well enough that nothing got them for the entire 4 weeks or so that they were brooding.  When the ducklings hatched the moms brought them back to the hen house at night.


Bedding depends on what you have available in your area.  Wood shavings are ideal since they stay fluffy and absorb well.  Sawdust works but doesn't compost in place as well (we practice deep bedding) - it helps if you regularly crack it with a digging fork.  Wood chips are fine.  Straw is good.  Chopped straw absorbs better.  Dry leaves would work... whatever carbonaceous material you have access to.  


Most ducks sleep on the ground, but muscovies perch like chickens.

iowaorganic's Avatar iowaorganic 05:23 PM 02-27-2012

We have had ducks a few times- never had them for eggs though- I might have to think about that one.  the first time we kept them separately  as ducklings and chicks and later ran them together.  I didn't think they were really any more messy than broilers.  I liked having them together because the ducks kind of herded the chickens out in the morning and in at night.  The other time we had them I was just feeding them out to butcher and they were in my extra chicken tractor.  I bedded them with straw since it was november and they did just fine.  

We did butcher them both times- and my kids love to eat duck meat.  I think it is their favorite thing to eat!  That is what they want for any holiday or birthday :)  Be sure to save the fat though- it is amazing for frying potatoes....

SweetSilver's Avatar SweetSilver 09:07 AM 02-28-2012

Originally Posted by iowaorganic View Post

We did butcher them both times- and my kids love to eat duck meat.  I think it is their favorite thing to eat!  That is what they want for any holiday or birthday :)  Be sure to save the fat though- it is amazing for frying potatoes....

Oooooh..... we'll see about that one!  So far we don't intend to butcher any, but the girls understand about it.  We gave up our accidental rooster to friends when he started crowing (in town!).  Big mistake, Roscoe-Tinkerbelll!  Our friends have a machine that takes the skins off, feathers and all because they don't like the skin.  I don't eat the skin, either, but I like it there to cook.  I couldn't imagine cooking duck without the skin  To the point-- I would have to butcher them myself to get them dressed the way I like, or raise enough to pay a butcher.  We'll see.  Those potatoes sound pretty enticing, though.


Chicky2's Avatar Chicky2 01:55 PM 02-28-2012

We have muscovies (we had more, but had a bad predator attack--fox, so hard to catch!), and now only have a pair, but she is setting her heart out on those 17 eggs!  We LOVE our ducks.  The hen lets us pet her, and they forage well.  Messy, yes, but hey, we live on a farm, lol.  Poo is just part of it.  We are sooooo excited for these to hatch in a few more weeks!  Ours stay w/the chickens, btw, and they all roost in the outer part of our barn, but it is enclosed for safety. 

SweetSilver's Avatar SweetSilver 02:17 PM 02-28-2012

Our hens (chickens) hatched some surrogate eggs.  It was so fun to see theie delighted confusion the first day, and their protectiveness the second.  We had Buff Orps broody at the same time and only 4 eggs, 2 of which hatched.  2 chicks and 2 mama hens.  So funny watching them jockey for position in one nesting box, sitting on top of just 2 chicks.  What a palace those chicks had!  The fluffy underneath of two whole hens, like having a living room *and* a rec room!  It is funny how a nearly-reptilian-bird can convey so many "emotions".

talia rose's Avatar talia rose 03:56 PM 03-02-2012

I LOVE this thread! Thanks everyone! We are getting our first ducks this spring to add to our chicken flock. So excited....

NikonMama's Avatar NikonMama 10:37 PM 03-10-2012

We got 4 Ancona ducklings two weeks ago, and OMG are they messy.  I expected mess, but they are largely more messy than I expected.  BOY do they stink to high heaven also.  We are brooding them in our house, and I have to change their bedding 2-3 times a day to keep our house from being so smelly you can't stand to be in here.  I'm glad it is getting warm enough outside so they can spend most of the day in the chicken tractor outside, so that is less time they are making a mess and stinking up my house.  I can't wait until they are big and old enough to free range with the chickens. 


They also projectile poop like it is an olympic sport.  horrors.gifAny brooder they are kept in needs to have solid walls.  We keep ours in an xl wire dog crate, and I zip tied cardboard around the bottom of it for that reason. 


I give mine a bath in our bathtub each day.  I run it with warm water, deep enough for the biggest one to just touch the bottom (but my smallest ones can't touch and they do just fine).  They like to swim under water, and it helps keep them clean (and less stinky).  I'm using adult incontinence pads as bedding in their brooder.  Easy to change that way.  I bought a package of 120 of them at Sams for $23.  I have to use 3 at a time to cover the bottom of the crate, and I tape them together.  They like to play with the paper, though, and will peel it back so often the poop still gets onto the tray underneath. 


They are very sweet, though.  :)  Good luck!!

SweetSilver's Avatar SweetSilver 09:36 AM 03-11-2012

Chicks stink to high heaven as well though I've never smelled duck poo.  No way would I raise them in the house, unless I could brood them in the bathtub like I've heard others do, littler and all.  That way the fan can be on all the time.  However, this method is out for our chicks as the house is going up for sale soon.  


I've decided to only purchase the banty chicks we need for the fair right now, then once we are at our property purchasing the rest of our hens and the ducks.  I understand that duck chicks are not as cold sensitive as chickens and we can brood them outdoors in May, possibly, depending on our weather which is the last few years has not been all that grand.


We visited the big feed store in town, and they had all the first chicks for sale.  So adorable!  Ducks were sold unsexed, only in a mix of breeds.  Maybe that won't be all that bad.  If we buy so late in the season I think we will have to take what we can get.  I have my eye on the Buff Orpingtons and a couple of Muscovies and one more breed (2 of each).  Even though we don't butcher, I like the idea of the Muscovies being so faithfully broody, just like our Buff Orp chickens.  Our occasional Muscovy visitor, Stan, is so sweet.  I love the way he wags his tale and gives a little hiss when he sees me and comes up to see what I have for him.

OceansEve's Avatar OceansEve 05:09 PM 03-15-2012

Chicks don't stink anywhere near what ducks do! Seriously! I was brooding my turkies with the ducks and I finally had to resort to moving the ducks to the bathtub. I am rinsing it out 4-5 times a day. It's ridiculous. I grew up with a friend who's mom had tons of ducks on their property and it was NASTY! I thought a few won't be so bad, I'm second guessing myself. Hopefully once they have free range of the five acres I won't mind them so much :p Even if you brood them outdoors keep in mind the brooder is going to need a LOT of attention. I had an order in for swedish hatching eggs, I changed it to mostly cornish game and very few ducks. If you want to get diverse maybe try turkeys? I am really happy with mine, they are extremely friendly and I love their chirping even over the chicks.

SweetSilver's Avatar SweetSilver 06:06 PM 03-15-2012

Originally Posted by OceansEve View Post

If you want to get diverse maybe try turkeys? I am really happy with mine, they are extremely friendly and I love their chirping even over the chicks.

I'm sure some day.  We want ducks because........ they are so cute as babies.  orngtongue.gif  That's what the girls say anyway.  They eat slugs.  We are from the PNW.  Here, slugs eat us.  For our very survival, we need ducks.  I'm kidding, as if you didn't guess.  Not about ducks eating slugs, though.  Our weather is very, very wet from November through February.  It just rained almost 24 hours straight today and it's mid-March.  Ducks, however stinky, would be a good fit.


OceansEve's Avatar OceansEve 06:27 PM 03-15-2012

Originally Posted by SweetSilver View Post

I'm sure some day.  We want ducks because........ they are so cute as babies.  orngtongue.gif  That's what the girls say anyway.  They eat slugs.  We are from the PNW.  Here, slugs eat us.  For our very survival, we need ducks.  I'm kidding, as if you didn't guess.  Not about ducks eating slugs, though.  Our weather is very, very wet from November through February.  It just rained almost 24 hours straight today and it's mid-March.  Ducks, however stinky, would be a good fit.


good! Hopefully the rain will wash away most of the duck poo! :)


SweetSilver's Avatar SweetSilver 08:16 PM 03-15-2012

Originally Posted by OceansEve View Post

good! Hopefully the rain will wash away most of the duck poo! :)


Hopefully the poo will be welcome, however stinky.   Once poo becomes troublesome, that is a sign to me that perhaps there are too many birds in too small an area.  That is my experience with chickens, anyhow.   Not to contradict the stinkiness issue (I am definitely well warned!).  We have a larger place to move to in a couple of months, and we have the option of relocating them to the orchard or somewhere not so close.  But the girls want ducks!  They seem quite sweet, the ones I have met in person, and I think, well, why not?  


OceansEve's Avatar OceansEve 03:40 PM 03-17-2012

lol Well once you get some be sure to update us :) A little duck poo goes a LOOOOOOONG way :p

KellyandKatie's Avatar KellyandKatie 10:46 AM 03-20-2012

Hello from the PNW!  I have a pretty pair of muscovies you can have if you want to take a drive up to Bremerton area- otherwise in your neck of the woods there are some really nice farms raising some really nice scovy ducks too


We have had several types of ducks over the years and always love our muscovies the best


they are such great mamas, my Old Hen has hatched mothered from 18 ducklings to baby chicks too- such wonderful mamas, and my Old Hen also acts as a midwife to the newer younger hens and helps them turn their eggs, but does not try to take over their nests when she has her own, I love good mamas


They do eat and mess plenty- but they are stellar foragers.  My drake has twice now killed full grown rats that have gone into the coop.  My hens LOVE to find nests of baby rats or mice and eat them right up, they do not just forage- they hunt!

Moles too, they love em.  

yes, and slugs and all that other stuff too.

But they also have very smart habits to their foraging, like my favorite ducky thing they do is grab a branch in their beak and then shake it so the berries and bugs fall off, then they gobble those up.  My good drake will do that for his hens, he's a good boy. 

You can get mean drakes with any breed of ducks, but if you draw a mean one, they are not worth keeping around, there are so many wonderful sweet ones that are just wonderful.


Muscovies do not quake unless very young or very terrified.  They hiss, but not out of aggression, its just how they talk.  They wag their tails a lot too, they like to talk.


My hens just follow us around just to be with us, maybe to see if we will lift heavy rocks to look for worms for them.  They also get up on our roof and clean out our gutters. 


They also can fly and tried to follow my DH to work one day.  He had to turn back three times to convince one of the hens to go back home and not follow him.  They like their people.


They will sit (and poop) on your doorstep if you let them. 


They lay nice big eggs, but they are cluster layers, so they will lay like crazy and then fade off ( not all breeds are like this)


what else can I tell you?  Preditors, yes, they will roost in trees, but they will also be the first to get picked off when raccoons/coyotes etc come,  so lock them up right, everyone likes to eat ducks and tehy are slow slow on the ground


they are stronger than the chickens, but much nicer than chickens.  Chicken beaks are sharper, and chickens never touch each other for love, only to inflict harm, but ducks will groom each other and do touch each other out of love, so they do enjoy being pet as well - and are just nicer than chickens to each other

SweetSilver's Avatar SweetSilver 08:12 PM 03-20-2012

Originally Posted by KellyandKatie View Post


They do eat and mess plenty- but they are stellar foragers.  My drake has twice now killed full grown rats that have gone into the coop.  My hens LOVE to find nests of baby rats or mice and eat them right up, they do not just forage- they hunt!

Moles too, they love em.  

yes, and slugs and all that other stuff too.


????!!!!!!!  This is a wonderful bit of knowledge.  I figured they ate frogs and slugs and things, but rats and moles?  Wow!


Thanks for sharing your stories about your muscovies, they sound wonderful.  I might just take you up on the offer one day, but we are in the middle of moving and planning and selling and rebuilding (and baby chicks and taxes).   So, very busy.  But one of these days.  They sound wonderful.  Except for the pooping on the porch part, but chickens will do that too.  Mine used to when we'd give them the yard.  They'd come and beg for raisins.  Well, and the flying to work part sounds frustrating, too.  Yeah, it's hard to believe they can fly-- they are huge!


Stanley turned out to be a Minerva-- a hen not a drake-- and she's been sighted up and down the Black River.



NikonMama's Avatar NikonMama 09:56 PM 03-23-2012

We've had our ducks for 4 weeks now, and they are great!  They are all very sweet, but are currently in the "OMG humans are scary!" stage.  We definitely ended up with 3 ducks and one drake, our drake's voice is just starting to change.  He's getting raspy and has always been quiet, whereas the other three are huge loud mouths and definitely quack.  Our drake is SO sweet!  I handle him all the time so he's used to me, and he just sits there and enjoys it.  They still sleep in the house at night, but they are outside all day now since it has been nice outside.  Even in the rain, they are out b/c they LOVE the puddles!  They have already been trained to go in and out on their own.  All we have to do is open the crate and open the door, and they just walk right outside in the morning, and at night they walk in and straight to the crate.  Our chickens are almost a year old and still won't go in their coop most of the time!  lol  They definitely love people, b/c they follow us all over the place when we go outside.  It's really cute!  If we go too fast or go around the corner where they can't see us, they YELL at us, like "HEY, wait up!"  lol  I love my chickens, but ducks are much sweeter and more friendly. 

FarmerBeth's Avatar FarmerBeth 08:17 PM 03-27-2012

Another muscovy owner piping in: Mine also hunt rodents.  There was also an interesting study here in Canada (forget which university) showing that muscovy ducks are more effective than fly tape at controlling flies in dairy cattle barns - don't know, but they sure do eat a lot of insects.  Mine don't go in the barn unless I put them in, act unafraid and allow cuddling but seem more wild thn other duck breeds we've had (malllards and Indian runners).  Mine share housing with the chickens, but I don't leave water in the barn for them to make a mess with (I put the water out first thing in the morning and then all my birds free range).  I liked all the ducks, but the muscovies have been my favorite.  I like how they are assertive (they've chased away straying dogs) and they are great flyers.  My only big issue is that they do need a girl to mate with.  I started out with two boys (told I had a matched pair of ducklings, but they weren't sexed properly) and they really hassled the hens until I found a girl.  I'm getting another five ducks,and four buff Brahma bantam chickens, with my own hens brooding eggs.  I must have gone a little crazy, but I'm loving it!

Chicky2's Avatar Chicky2 10:44 AM 03-28-2012

We also raise meat rabbits, and our last batch of Muscovies tore up the insulation!  They realized that they could tap the bottom of the insul009.JPGation, and little mousie snacks would fall down for them to eat.  ;o)  We needed to replace the insulation anyway, lol.


So our muscovy hen Duck Duck sat on her clutch of eggs and Goose, the proud papa waited patiently while she refused to get off the nest.  Her nest was AWESOME, too, complete w/lots of guinea feathers.  She hatched out all 17 eggs.  One duckling got out of the nest the first night and died, though.  Then one just disappeared, but so far we still have 15.  Duck Duck and Goose take them everywhere.  Yesterday my dog (lab) Sunshine was in the barn while my dd and I were letting our chicks out of their brooders for the first time.  My dd yells for me to come look and Duck Duck was repeatedly attacking my dog!  Sunshine was shaking like a leaf because she knew better than to snap at that duck, but whatdoyado when you are being attacked?  She warned Duck Duck several times to stop and I finally had to shove (gently of course) the duck off of her so she could get out of the barn!  Poor doggie!  I really want to get a video of that!



talia rose's Avatar talia rose 03:44 PM 03-28-2012

thanks for your pictures chicky2! so cute....we have avoided a rooster with our chickens and buy chicks from the feed store instead of hatching, but maybe we will try hatching ducks? do the male ducks have the same issues as roosters? i imagine there's no crowing? are they less aggressive?

bellymoon's Avatar bellymoon 04:58 PM 04-24-2012

We adopted two 5 mo old Khaki Campbell ducks last fall. We think they're actually more Indian Runner than total KC, though...maybe mutts. They really have that tall winebottle shape and run instead of waddle. We always thought we'd start with chickens, but when the ducks became available, we just couldn't resist. We LOVE them! They're both females and look like they'll each lay an egg a day for about 10 mo out of the year with no extra night light. When they're not laying, the two of them go through a 50lb bag of food in about 3 mo. Now that they're laying, they're eating more, so maybe about 1 every 2 mo. We have lots of coyotes, bobcats, weasles, owls and hawks here, so we have them in a 12x12' outdoor pen fully enclosed on sides and top with wire fencing that's burried into the ground about a foot. My dh built them a 2x4' night box that's wired on one half and enclosed with plywood on the other half, so they can self-regulate with temps. We figured they'd need it for both nighttime predator protection and cold protection. They had no problem with minus 13 this winter and actually stayed in the open-air side of the pen for part of that night. Folks we talked to around here said they only ever had lean-tos for their ducks. We just herd them in each night, easy. We use straw for bedding in the box and in the pen. Seems to work fine, although I think I'd rather have wood shavings -- I understand that ducks can be susceptible to fungus that grows on wet straw. I have "the glove" that I remove the poopy straw from the box each morning into a compost bin, rake the outside pen every couple of weeks. They never smell, but we're in the SW, so maybe it all dries up quickly? The soil they're on drains very well. For eastern or clay soils, I'd recommend putting a layer of pea gravel and/or sand down -- might help with the smells.


We have a kiddie pool for them that we siphon onto our berry plants about once a week. The plants are doing great. Because their poo is watery, it can be added directly to the soil with plants -- won't burn them.


I've found them very easy to care for and super entertaining. They're very personable. They actually seem happier if we're out in the yard. We just sit and watch them and call it duck tv. They're not very good kitchen scrap eaters. They love all the greens from our garden though -- even the ones that have bolted, so we feed them those and any bugs/grubs/crickets we find. I can't wait to find out if they eat squash bugs! Dh saw one nab a yellow jacket out of the air the other day and eat it.


They're pretty quacky -- mostly in the morning when they're ready to be let out of the box. We're on 2.5 acres and our neighbors still hear them; not sure if I'd recommend them for an urban yard.


We have 5yro and 8yro boys -- pretty rambunctious. The ducks let them catch them and hold them, but the ducks don't really like it. They love the boys feeding them greens, though!


In the end, if you don't count labor, we come out roughly even on costs, compared to buying organic eggs at the store. (we feed them organic feed) But we get all the joy of them and know they're living the high life.


root*children's Avatar root*children 08:03 PM 04-24-2012

What a great thread - I've so enjoyed reading it all (and seeing the photos!).  We have 10 hens (chickens) now, and are planning to add Khaki Campbells to the mix in a few weeks.  Well, not directly in the mix, you know, but get them in a brooder then :)  Anyhow, I was thinking of getting a half dozen, but now after reading all this, maybe I'll start with less, just 3 or 4 and see how I like 'em.  Any tips for co-habitation of Khaki Campbells and chickens?

SweetSilver's Avatar SweetSilver 08:19 PM 04-24-2012

bellymoon (and every one else) thanks for your advice!

root*children's Avatar root*children 10:51 AM 05-28-2012

We've sadly found that our ducklings are hawk bait :(  I shoulda just bought more to begin with, because now I don't want any more brooder babies this season.  But we're down to 2 Khaki Campbells from the original 4 from hawks snatchin em up.  Guess they'll stay in the run for now, instead of free ranging... Please someone tell me that when they're full grown, the hawks won't mess with them??

talia rose's Avatar talia rose 12:00 PM 05-28-2012

oh sooo sorry....

SweetSilver's Avatar SweetSilver 01:24 PM 05-28-2012

Once hawks learn about a nifty food source, they come back over and over again.  Same with raccoons-- except they attack at night when chickens and ducks are sitting...erm....ducks.


Try a darker duck breed, like Call or Mallard, or another mottled breed.  Good camouflage.  Just like chickens, some duck breeds have better self-protection instincts.


Our duck plans have had to be pushed off another year.  We are in the process of moving, and it is doubtful we will have the infrastructure for new chicks or ducklings.  So, by Buff Orpington pullets will have to wait until next spring as well.  We are barely able to house the new flock as it is, and the new garden is going to require a lot of work--we still have mounds and piles of debris, native plants to relocate, just generally trying to make the immediate area not look like the mud pit of a monster truck rally!

iowaorganic's Avatar iowaorganic 06:05 PM 05-29-2012

After revisiting this thread I am seriously contemplating getting a bunch of ducks to run in our barnyard and perhaps pasture.  I would love to not have so many flies around when I want to milk (although I do milk outside mostly now).  I also had no idea about the rats...We have an excellent mousing cat who does get rats- but why not be proactive right?

Tags: Country Living
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