Are you thinking about raising ducks? We’ve had ducks for over a decade and helped countless other families successfully raise ducks, too. Here are 11 things you should know before you get ducks…
We’re duck evangelists who absolutely adore our flock of spoiled poultry. However, the point of this article is to talk you out of getting ducks IF you’re not going to be good, committed duck parents.
The last thing we want to happen is for someone to get ducks/ducklings on a whim, then 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. In short, we want you to have a good idea what to expect and to be prepared to raise ducks BEFORE you get them.
Thus, this article provides a high level rundown of what’s involved in raising ducks (and ducklings) and what you need to do to get prepared. If you still want to get ducks after you know what’s involved with being responsible duck parents, then carry on!
11 things you should know before you get ducks
1. Adult ducks require a lot of care.
If you’re thinking you can just set your ducks free to take care of themselves, think again. Ducklings and ducks require a lot of care such as:
A. Ducks have to be put up in a secure location/coop at night and let out in the morning.
Ducks 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. We also prefer large flake pine shavings versus all other duck bedding we’ve tried or considered.
A well-designed coop and/or run also keeps your ducks safe from predators. Note: You can also keep ducks permanently in a secured run with a laying nook or coop inside. (See: How to build a long-lasting predator-proof duck coop and duck run.)
B. Ducks need quality duck/waterfowl-specific feed and fresh drinking water provided daily.
Ducks (and especially ducklings) have specialized nutritional needs. Ideally, you can also provide them with fresh greens daily or at least a few times per week (chopped lettuce, kale, etc.). We’ll take a deeper dive into this topic further down.
C. Ducks need water to swim in for optimal health.
Ducks take water baths, chickens take dust baths. Your adult ducks will at least need access to a kiddie pool to swim in. Or you might consider building a self-cleaning backyard duck pond using our design.
Do note that “wild” ponds also contain wild animals that can and will eat ducklings and adult ducks alike. Snapping turtles and birds of prey kill adult ducks on ponds. Countless animals from bass to snakes to turtles will eat ducklings.
So having an existing pond on your property for your future ducks may not be an asset — or something that you’ll want to allow your ducks to have access to without putting protective systems in place first.
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.
That’s why we created our step-by-step guide to raising ducklings.
3. Most vets aren’t avian experts.
Even under the best care, ducks will occasionally get sick or injured, requiring medical care.
Over the years, we’ve learned how to identify and treat common duck medical problems. If you raise ducks, you’ll probably end up doing the same.
To help you get started, we created a duck health guide and recommended duck first aid supplies kit and ancillary articles such as 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, and/or
b) is beyond what you can effectively treat at home,
they need to be brought to a vet immediately.
However, 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/training about birds (including ducks). Ideally, you can find an avian vet in your area before you get ducks using the AAV.org’s avian vet finder.
If you happen to live anywhere near Greenville or Spartanburg, SC, we highly recommend our ducks’ vet, Dr. Hurlbert at Healthpointe Vet Clinic in Duncan, SC.
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 should NOT only get one duck.
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?.
5. If you don’t properly prepare in advance, your ducks will be killed by predators.
Ducks are indeed “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 eat your ducks — IF they’re given the opportunity.
Think living in an urban city environment will keep your ducks safe? Nope. Urban environments are even more densely populated by predators like raccoons than rural environments. We’ve had plenty of friends find this one out the hard way.
We even had a friend living in downtown Greenville, SC, who got geese to protect her ducks from predators. The geese were mauled to death by raccoons.
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 10+ years we’ve been duck parents. 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 instead.
That’s because domesticated ducks can live for a LONG time. While the lifespan of a wild mallard is 5-10 years, a domestic duck can easily live for over 10 years, with some reports of smaller breeds living for up to 20 years.
Our oldest ducks are almost ten years old and are still going strong. See: What to expect as your ducks age.
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.
7. Ducklings and 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 nutritional requirements than chickens.
That’s why we wrote:
- Complete guide to raising ducklings (which includes detailed instructions on what to feed ducklings from hatch day to maturity),
- What to feed adult ducks to maximize their health and longevity, and
- Top-10 garden plants for ducks and chickens (if you want to grow some duck favorites in your own garden).
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 at the store (assuming you can find them).
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.
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, or consider them pets/family members. That’s not what they’re set up for.
If you’re like us, instead of trying to produce the cheapest possible duck eggs from your flock, you’ll instead aim to provide your ducks with the highest quality of life. You’ll also enjoy the highest quality eggs as a happy byproduct. (We like to say that our pets make our breakfast!)
However, that level of attention and care comes at a high price if you try to calculate your cost per egg! For a deeper dive on this topic, please read our article: Will you save money on eggs by raising your own poultry?
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.
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 our article How to choose the best duck breed (or breeds) for you. In this article, we even help you calculate a numerical score to determine the breed that’s the best fit for your needs and wants!
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 also 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.
Depending on the severity of your affliction, you may even 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. (“Sorry, friends. I can’t go this weekend because our duck sitter wasn’t available.”)
- 9 tips and tricks for keeping indoor pet ducks,
- How to diaper a duck – with instructional video, and
- 5 tips for going on vacation without your ducks (yes, it is possible!).
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. Then you’ll get even more ducks.
So before you decide to get your first ducks, you should know that ducks are a gateway drug to more ducks for most people who try them, even if you don’t inhale.
11. You may not be able to legally own ducks where you live.
Obviously, all of this is rendered moot if you can not legally own ducks. For instance, your Home Owners Association (HOA) may have restrictions against having backyard poultry. Or your municipal/city regulations may have poultry restrictions. For instance, people living within the city limits of Greenville, SC, where we live can not have more than seven poultry in their yard.
This is something you need to check into BEFORE you get ducks. Otherwise, you might be forced to rehome them, which will be a painful and challenging process.
Wrapping (and flapping) up
If you decide to get ducks after reading this article and the additional resources we linked, then welcome to the duck 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.
Want to see a video summary of this article? Check out our Google Web Story about things you should know BEFORE you raise ducks.
More duck articles you’ll want to take a quack at:
- Where to buy fertilized eggs, ducklings, or ducks for your backyard or small farm
- Will you save money on eggs by raising your own ducks/poultry?
- How to choose the best duck breed (or breeds) for you
- Complete guide: how to raise ducklings
- 3 tips to get your ducks to like you
… or browse the latest and greatest duck articles on Tyrant Farms!