Raising Ducks: how to integrate Ducks into your Urban Farm or Backyard

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A presentation about raising backyard ducks prepared for the 2015 South Carolina Organization for Organic Living’s (SCOOL) annual conference, CULTIVATE portion of the conference. 

In March 2015 we gave a presentation on raising ducks for backyard or small farm organic egg production. After the presentation, we promised attendees that we’d send out a copy of our presentation with helpful links and other useful info so they could get access to the information and data presented.

If you attended our duck presentation, please let us know if there is any other info you’d like to know in the comment section below. If you weren’t part of the presentation, but you or someone you know is interested in raising ducks, we hope this presentation & associated links (below the presentation) will be full of valuable information for you.

Either way, we hope you’ll become “duck evangelists” like us!


quicklinks: SCOOL presentation | vets | duck books | where to get duck(ling)s | other tyrant farms duck posts

SCOOL Presentation

Food n’ Stuff:

 Where to get Organic Duck Layer & Grower Feed 
  • Scratch and Peck Feed : This is an excellent feed (in terms of quality) and I found their customer service to be excellent the one time we needed to use it, but we offer this recommendation with caution — the same caution we’d give any whole grain feed…our hens didn’t like to eat it fermented and if it’s not mixed with water it allows your birds the opportunity to be picky eaters. This was unfortunately the case with our girls, who picked out the goodies they liked best, leaving the vitamins, minerals and other “fines” at the bottom of their dish causing chronic malnutrition that’s taken over 6 months to recover from. To be clear, this isn’t an issue with the feed, it’s an issue with the way our hens consumed it. If you’re looking for a high-quality whole grain organic feed, these guys have it. If you’ve never fed a whole grain feed before, make sure you keep an eye on them to ensure they’re eating everything, not just the grains or corn.
  • McGeary Organics: We started our flock on McGeary and loved it. We switched them off McGeary because I (Susan) liked the idea of a whole grain feed. We’ve since switched back to McGeary as our organic food source.
  • Mazuri Waterfowl NOT CERTIFIED ORGANIC, but it’s being added to this list b/c it’s recommended by every waterfowl rescue and vet we’ve spoken to. We’ve recently switched our flock to Mazuri due to chronic malnutrition in 3 hens. We’ll probably switch back to a certified organic pelleted or mash waterfowl feed like McGeary once we get these issues sorted out.

 sprouting grains & fermenting feed 

 treats & poisonous plants 

 Where to get Duck (and Chicken!) Diapers & Shoes 

the shoes are really helfpul in dealing with bumblefoot. They’re part of our “first aid” kit.

  • Party Fowl: Nettie makes extremely high quality items that stand up to all the abuse our ducks throw at them. I wouldn’t buy from anyone else. The diapers are most useful for the small flock owner who intends to treat their ducks as pets as well as egg layers; however the shoes are so quick and easy (not to mention inexpensive) when dealing with foot injuries I can’t image they wouldn’t be handy for someone with a larger flock.


 Items you should have in your first aid kit
full disclosure: the amazon links are affiliate links 

I’m not sure about the use of most of these products in a certified organic program. Check with your certifying agent if that is a concern.

  • Party Fowl – Open Toe Duck Shoe: We’ve found that it is far easier to spray the affected area with Vetricyn and put a shoe on, than it is to wrestle a bird onto it’s back for five minutes while you wrap it’s little flipper in vet tape (a non-adhesive bandage that you wrap the foot with that sticks to itself) & dodge poop. Trust me, it’s worth the $10.
  • Vetricyn: A great product that isn’t limited to fowl injuries; can be used on dogs, cats, etc. Safe for eyes and won’t make them sick if they lick or accidentally eat it. Also worth the cost.
  • VetRX: A botanically-based product that offers effective relief from respiratory disease, crd, croup, scaly leg mites, and favus eye worm. It’s not a treatment for respiratory problems per-se, but can help make your pet comfortable in much the same way that vicks vape-o-rub makes you comfortable if you have a cold. Also smells nice.
  • Rooster Booster: Electolytes and Lactobacillus
  • ProBios: Another excellent probiotic to regular use.
  • Nutridrench: This is a rapid, rich nutritional supplement. We use it if we have a sick bird and they need a quick vitamin pick-me-up, much the same way you’d take Emergen-C or a botanical health tonic if you feel a cold coming on. We’ve found much smaller containers at the local Tractor Supply.
  • VetWrap: Wrap for injuries. You can also find this locally at any feed n’ seed or Tractor Supply.
  • Polysporin: Do not use neosporin or any ointments containing “pain relief” medicine on your birds.
  • Toxiban : Toxiban is a kaolin clay and activated charcoal-based suspension intended for use as an adsorbent of orally ingested toxicants. It is highly effective in treating accidental animal poisonings. Read more about it here.
  • Silvadene (Silver Sulfazadene)  requires an RX from a vet : Topical silver cream that works wonders against bacterial and viral infections. We’ve also used Curad’s silver solution ointment , but prefer Silvadene.
  • Metacam (meloxicam)  requires an RX from a vet : Excellent anti-inflammatory. Helps with egg issues, swelling due to injury, allergic reactions, etc…

Greenville, SC Avian & Poultry Vets

If you’re going to raise birds, you should always have a plan in place for dealing with injuries or illnesses beyond what you’re able to deal with through first-aid and following forum/blog advice. In many cases, having a vet is part of that plan. Vets that deal with farm animals on a regular basis will often make house calls, like many of the vets in the list below.

  • HealthPoint Vet: This team is awesome and who we take our girls to. Dr. Hurlbert has ducks of her own, so you know your birds are being treated by someone who knows waterfowl well. She comes highly recommended amongst wildlife rehabbers and other area vets (as we found out when we were calling around trying to find someone who treats birds). Located in Duncan.
  • Dr. Fudge: We haven’t used him, but he comes highly recommended among other area vets. He’s a mobile vet, so he can be really convenient if you live far out, have a bird that doesn’t transport easily/well or have a larger flock.Mobile vet.
  • Electric City Animal Hospital: Comes recommended from a few area rescues. We’ve never used them, but have heard good things. Located in Anderson
  • Avian Vet Finder: If you are not local and need to find a certified avian vet

Our Welsh Harlequin Duck, Skipper, sick with a bacterial infection.

Our Welsh Harlequin Duck, Skipper, sick with a bacterial infection.

 Really Good & Helpful Links 

 health: diagnostics 

  • Majestic Waterfowl’s Diagnostic Chart: If your birds are ill, start here. Very helpful in narrowing down illnesses based on symptoms. There is also a wonderful book written by the founder/president of Majestic Waterfowl Sanctuary that you NEED to buy if you plan to get pet ducks. You can find it on here on amazon.

 health: legs & feet 

 health: eggs & vent

  signs & symptoms of egg binding:

Egg Binding - signs & symptoms
  1. rapid or labored breathing
  2. lethargic
  3. pelvic area will feel like a hard mass, or you can actually feel the egg that is bound
  4. swelling
  5. constipation
  6. fluffed up feathers
  7. straining/tail-pumping
  8. feces contain egg yolk could mean egg perionitis

This is a very uncomfortable and sometimes painful condition for a bird. If you notice your hen experiencing signs/symptoms of egg binding, please consider seeking medical attention. Our vet bill ran almost $300, which is very reasonable considering we had her tube fed, x-rayed, an extensive blood panel done and were given 2 medications + oral calcium. If you can’t afford a vet visit, you may be able to find a sympathetic vet who will give you something to help deal with the inflammation and pain without requiring a visit.

 health: babies 

 health: digestive system 

 health: general 


Kindle links (where available) are provided in addition to book links. A lot of times it’s easier to use a kindle when you’re searching for a symptom or a specific topic that may not be included in the index.

Download Kindle for iPad, Computer, etc… 

Also, be sure to read our ever-expanding list of duck articles

Recommended Duck Books

Recommended Duck Veterinary Textbooks

I really like to understand what’s happening to my girls when they are sick, how the illness will progress and what to expect as they get better. I also like to have an idea of general treatment protocol. The internet is a great place to find tons of info, but all you usually find are halfway educated guesses and the suggested treatments are often not backed in veterinary science. We have too much invested in our small flock to throw darts, so we use a vet and I read a lot of veterinary textbooks. I’d imagine texts like these could also be helpful if you live in a rural area where there are no avian vets but there are general vets that are willing to see your birds & help with diagnoses. We own both of these books in the kindle format and I do recommend them.

  • Backyard Poultry Surgery & Medicine: A wonderful textbook written for small animal vets, but has proven very useful for us in understanding illnesses in our own flock. Highly recommend. kindle edition
  • Clinical Veterinary Advisor: Birds & Exotic Pets: From the amazon listing – Concise summaries of hundreds of common medical problems help you consider differential diagnoses, recommend diagnostic tests, interpret results mindful of unique species differences, utilize important concepts of species-specific husbandry and nutrition, prescribe treatments, and provide follow-up care. kindle edition

Duck Breeds

Where to get Duck(ling)s


Breeders & Hatcheries

  • Timberock at Hopkins Farm: A breeder of heritage ducks, chickens, guineas and turkeys located in Simpsonville, SC. Among the list of breeds are Saxony and Silver Appleyard, both of which we’ve considered adding to our flock. I’m unaware if they utility breeder or show quality birds. I’m happy to update the listing if anyone wants to leave a comment in the comments section below
  • Duck Dance Farms.: A breeder of heritage ducks, chickens, and geese located in Burnsville, NC. Our mission at Duck Dance Farm is demonstration, conservation, and education. I’m unaware if they have utility breeder or show quality birds. I’m happy to update the listing if anyone wants to leave a comment in the comments section below
  • Metzer Farms: A waterfowl hatchery with a great reputation and high quality standards. They have both ducks and geese; this is where we got some of our girls. We were extremely happy with the condition they arrived in and they have been extremely healthy. Primarily Utility Breeder quality birds. Will only ship day-old ducklings; sexed or straight run.
  • Holderread Waterfowl Farm & Preservation Center: We specialize in purebred waterfowl that possess a unique blend of superb production and exhibition qualities. Birds bred by us are exceptional layers, fast growing and have won top honors at the largest poultry shows in North America and Europe, including Supreme Show Champions at the American Poultry Association’s annual National Shows. Our breeding program encompasses more than 20 heritage goose varieties and 40 heritage duck varieties, including some of the world’s rarest and most unique breeds. Utility Breeder, Show Breeder Quality, Show Quality and Elite Show Quality. Will ship adult birds, or straight-run ducklings.

Be sure to check out our other articles about raising ducks!

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  • Reply
    March 11, 2015 at 3:16 pm

    Very extensive info. Nice job!!

  • Reply
    March 11, 2015 at 1:09 am

    Got an error on my comment, so sorry if this is a repost. Modesto Milling also makes organic feeds.

  • Reply
    March 11, 2015 at 1:07 am

    Such a great list! FYI, Modesto Milling in California also makes organic feeds, including soy- and corn-free versions. It’s what I feed my Welshies.

  • Reply
    April Gordon
    March 10, 2015 at 8:32 am

    Terrific presentation much enhanced by charming photos.

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