Ducks

10 things you should know before you get ducks

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Thinking about getting ducks? We’d love to welcome you to the family! But first, there are 10 things you should know before you get ducks…


We’re duck evangelists who absolutely adore our flock. However, the point of this article is to talk you out of getting ducksIF you’re not going to be good, committed duck parents. The last thing we want to see is people getting ducks/ducklings on a whim, only to abandon them at a nearby pond (which is an almost guaranteed death sentence for a domesticated duck) or have them get killed by predators in their own backyard.

Below is a rundown of what’s involved and what you can expect if you get ducks. If you still want to get ducks after you know what’s involved with being responsible duck parents, then carry on!

Ten things you should know before you get ducks

1. Adult ducks require a lot of care.

Ducks have to be put up at night and let out in the morning. They don’t roost like chickens, but they still need a safe, secure house with bedding that gets topped up regularly to prevent foot injuries caused from standing in their own poo.That’s why we built the QuackerBox for our ducks.

Ducks need quality duck feed, fresh greens, and water provided daily.

Ducks need water to swim in for optimal health. Ducks take water baths, chickens take dust baths. Your ducks will at least need a kiddie pool to swim in, or you might consider building a self-cleaning backyard duck pond using our design.

Our ducks taking a swim on a snowy morning in their self-cleaning backyard pond. Things to know before you get ducks - ducks need water.

Our ducks taking a swim on a snowy morning in their self-cleaning backyard pond. You don’t have to go to these extremes to provide your ducks with water to clean and play in, but ducks do need a daily water source for optimal health.

2. Baby ducklings require even more care than adult ducks. 

Ducklings are like human babies in that they require far more care than adults. Without proper food, warmth, shelter, and living conditions, they’ll become sick, injured, or die.

Ducklings might be the cutest animals in the world, but they're also among the most vulnerable, requiring lots of care from their adult duck or human parents.

Ducklings might be the cutest animals in the world, but they’re also among the most vulnerable, requiring lots of care from their adult duck or human parents.

That’s why we created a detailed step-by-step how to raise ducklings guide.

3. Most vets aren’t avian experts. 

Even under the best care, ducks will occasionally get sick or injured, requiring medical care.

If you learn how to ID and treat common duck medical problems, you can treat minor problems yourself. That’s why we created a duck health guide and recommended duck first aid supplies kit and another article about how to SAFELY give your ducks oral medication via pills or syringes.

If a duck is suffering from a problem that:

a) you can’t identify, or

b) is beyond what you can effectively treat at home,

they need to be brought to a vet immediately.

Unfortunately, most vets are not avian vets, e.g. vets who specialize in birds. They likely know a lot about common pets like cats and dogs, but they don’t have a high degree of medical knowledge about ducks. Ideally, you can find an avian vet in your area. You can use this resource to find an avian vet near you

If you happen to live anywhere near Greenville or Spartanburg, SC we highly recommend Dr. Hurlbert at Healthpointe Vet Clinic in Duncan, SC.)

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Two of the girls getting themselves all spiffed up for their favorite avian vet, Dr. Hurlbert at Healthpointe Veterinary Clinic. Jackson in front, was Svetlana’s best friend and soulmate. Mawy (originally named “Mary,” but she has trouble pronouncing “r”) is in the back. A recommendation for other duck parents out there: be proactive in your approach to your ducks’ healthcare. Obviously, this starts with a great diet, clean living conditions & water for bathing, plus plenty of outdoor time. If possible, it should also include a checkup with an avian vet every year or so, especially if you have any concerns about the health of your animals. Jackson is one healthy and robust little beast, and has mostly emerged from her grief over the loss of Svetlana. Our concerns with Mawy are: 1) she hasn’t laid eggs since we made her go broody last May, and 2) despite appearing healthy overall, we aren’t thrilled with her feather health/condition, and noticed she had less oil on her oil gland than the others. (FYI: a duck’s oil gland is located at the base of a their tail, which is why they rub that spot with their heads and then rub the oil over their feathers to keep them waterproof.) Thankfully, Mawy checked out with top marks, but we’ll be administering high quality fish oil daily (EPA + DHA = 250mg) to see if we can get her oil-producing abilities back up to speed in that department. Dr. Hurlbert said it may take up to two months for the supplementation to take make a noticeable difference. #ducklife #duckit #ducksofinstagram #welshharlequinducks

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4. You can’t just get one duck.

Ducks are highly social creatures who need other ducks around to feel happy and safe. That’s why it’s a bad idea to get only one duck.

A single duck is not a happy duck! Ducks are highly social animals that need other ducks around to feel safe and happy.

A single duck is not a happy duck! Ducks are highly social animals that need other ducks around to feel safe and happy.

How many ducks should you get? Should you get male or female ducks? What ratio of male-to-female ducks should you get? We help you answer those questions in our article, Should I get male or female ducks or both?.

A few of our flock out for their nightly garden adventure foraging in the gardens.

A few of our flock out for their nightly garden adventure foraging in the gardens. We currently have five female ducks and one drake (male duck).

5. If you don’t properly prepare in advance, your ducks will be killed by predators.

Ducks are, well, sitting ducks to virtually all predators. Neighborhood dogs, large cats, raccoons, possums, hawks, owls, coyotes, bobcats, ferrets… there is a long list of animals that want to and will eat your ducks — if given the opportunity.

Think living in an urban city environment will keep your ducks safe? Nope. Even urban environments are full of top duck predators like raccoons, possums, and hawks – and we’ve had friends who’ve found this out the hard way.

The Quacker Box, a moveable duck tractor fortress we designed and built to keep our ducks safe from predators at night. Need coop before getting ducks.

The Quacker Box, a moveable duck tractor fortress we designed and built to keep our ducks safe from predators at night.

That’s why we created 17 tips to keep your ducks safe from predators. Our home is surrounded by predators but we’ve never lost a duck to predation in the seven years we’ve been duck parents — and we don’t want you to either.

6. Ducks can live for a long time.

Want to get a pet that only lives for a couple years while your kids are young? Don’t get ducks, get hamsters. 

Domesticated ducks can live for a long time. The lifespan of a wild mallard is 5-10 years. A domesticated duck can easily live for over 10 years, with some reports of smaller breeds living for up to 20 years. Our oldest duck is seven years old and is as spry as she was her first year.

On the flip side, be prepared for you and your family to fall in love with your ducks and be completely heart-broken when you lose a duck you love.

Svetlana the duck enjoying kisses from The Tyrant. Svetlana was the most sociable and intelligent duck we've ever known. Losing her in 2018 was one of the hardest things we've ever endured.

Svetlana the duck enjoying kisses from The Tyrant. Svetlana was the most sociable and intelligent duck we’ve ever known. Losing her in 2018 was one of the hardest things we’ve ever endured.

7. Ducks have specialized dietary needs.

Feed a duckling chicken chick food and it will likely end up crippled due to lack of niacin. Adult ducks also have different macro nutrient requirements than chickens.

That’s why we wrote:

Our ducks get to eat insects, slugs, worms, and greens when we let them out to forage our gardens in the evenings. However, we still make sure they get specific food and supplements to optimize their health.

Our ducks get to eat insects, slugs, worms, and greens when we let them out to forage our gardens in the evenings. However, we still make sure they get specific food and supplements to optimize their health.

8. Nope, you won’t save money by getting ducks or producing your own duck eggs.

Yes, duck eggs are amazingly delicious and more nutritious than chicken eggs. Yes, duck eggs are also expensive.

However, if your main reason for getting backyard ducks is to save money on duck eggs, please do NOT get ducks. Why? Because you won’t save money.

Go ahead, give me your credit card. What's the worst that could happen? Things to know before you get ducks.

Go ahead, give me your credit card. What’s the worst that could happen?

Farming operations are designed for maximum efficiency: warehouse living environment, bulk duck feed prices, rapid culling of sick or older birds, etc. They don’t give their ducks names, give them optimal care, and consider them pets/family members. That’s not what they’re set up for. 

Instead of trying to produce the cheapest possible duck eggs from your flock, aim to provide your ducks with the highest quality of life and enjoy the highest quality eggs as a happy byproduct. (We like to say that our pets make our breakfast!)

9. Not all duck breeds are created equal.

Each duck breed has different attributes. Some produce more eggs. Some are better foragers. Some have a calmer temperament and make better pets.

Jackson the duck, one of our Welsh Harlequins. Jackson is happy with bill pets, belly pets, flipper rubs, head scratches, and other human affections. Just make sure you reward her with tomatoes afterwards.

Jackson the duck, one of our Welsh Harlequins. Jackson is happy with bill pets, belly pets, flipper rubs, head scratches, and other human affections. Just make sure you reward her with tomatoes afterwards.

Depending on which duck attributes are most important to you and your family, you should pay careful attention to the breed(s) of duck you get. We chose Welsh Harlequin ducks, but there are lots of other great breeds out there that would also fit our needs.

Before getting ducks, check out Metzer Farms’ detailed duck breed comparison chart.

10. Ducks are a gateway drug to more ducks.

Ducks are hilarious, adorable, quirky clowns that you’re very likely to fall head-over-flippers in love with — especially if you use our 3 tips to get your ducks to like you. To fully prepare yourself for being owned by ducks, perhaps you should read Bob Tarte’s classic, Enslaved by ducks: How one man went from head of household to bottom of the pecking order.

Ducks may well become an undiagnosed addiction. Your first thoughts in the morning will be about ducks. You’ll think about ducks throughout the day.

Little known fact: ducks are the most addictive substance in the world.

Little known fact: ducks are the most addictive substance in the world.

Depending on the severity of your disease, you may find yourself abandoning all reason and having diapered ducks rampaging through your house, tormenting your other pets, sleeping in your bed at night, and destroying any chance your once had of a normal social life. (“I can’t go this weekend because our duck sitter wasn’t available.”)

There is no hope and no treatment should this become your fate. All you can do is connect with other duck addicts on social media, at which point you’ll be jealous of people who have even more ducks than you do.

Before you decide to experiment with your first ducks, you should know that ducks are a gateway drug to more ducks for most people who try them.


If you decide to get ducks after reading this article and the additional material in the links, then welcome to the family! You knew what to expect before you got ducks, did the work to be prepared, and went in with eyes wide open.

You’re going to make awesome duck parents! If you ever need help or have a question, please let us know how we can help.

Before you should get ducks, you should have an idea of what's involved and be prepared. Here are 10 things you should know before getting ducks. #tyrantfarms #raisingducks #backyardducks #homesteading

KIGI,

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