Rescue ducks vs buying from stores & breeders

Rescue ducks vs buying from stores & breeders thumbnail
Tyrant Farms is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Overview: Just as your local dog and cat rescue operations provide a great place to get a family pet, wildlife and waterfowl rescue operations are a great way to get backyard or small farm ducks. In this article, you’ll learn about the pros and cons of getting your ducks from a rescue operation versus a breeder or farm supply store — including information gleaned from our own experience adopting domestic ducks from a local waterfowl rescue! 

Where do domestic ducks come from?

In our article Where to buy ducklings or ducks for your backyard or small farm we provide an overview of the five ways people obtain ducks: 

  1. Large/national breeders,
  2. Farm supply stores,
  3. Small local/regional breeders and farms,
  4. Waterfowl/wildlife rescue operations,
  5. Individuals in your area (backyard poultry keepers). 

We don’t have hard data on this subject, but our perception is that option #1 and #2 (large breeders and farm supply stores) are how the vast majority of domestic ducks are purchased in the United States. And in our opinion, the worst possible way you can get ducks is via farm supply stores

Our six rescue ducks from Carolina Waterfowl Rescue cruising the grounds at Tyrant Farms, their forever home. All of these ducks likely started their life journey at a large duck breeding operation or farm supply store before being raised and abandoned by humans. 

Our six rescue ducks from Carolina Waterfowl Rescue cruising the grounds at Tyrant Farms, their forever home. All of these ducks likely started their life journey at a large duck breeding operation or farm supply store before being raised and abandoned by humans. 

Animals are not like candy bars: please do not impulse buy them.

Why is it a bad idea to buy an adorable duckling from your local farm supply store?

Most people buying ducks this way are making an impulse purchase and are therefore not adequately prepared to raise ducklings or care for ducks for the decade or more that they can live. Even worse, many of these purchases are made at Easter so people can take pictures of their kids with baby ducklings, with little thought or care given to how they’ll actually care for the animals thereafter. 

Farm supply stores don’t sex ducklings, so most people have no idea whether they’re getting males or females. Since it’s very difficult and potentially even harmful to vent sex 3+ day old ducklings (see our article How to sex ducklings and ducks), nearly everyone purchasing ducklings at farm stores has a high probability of getting one or more males. 

As we detail elsewhere, the absolute minimum male-to-female ratio you want in your flock is 1:3. Any higher and you’re going to end up with over-mated and potentially injured girls. And the drakes are going to spend most of the year trying to kill each other. This is a recipe for backyard duck disaster — and a recipe that’s going to make even well-intentioned people more likely to dump their male ducks at the nearby pond.  

But as long as farm supply stores get economic signals showing there is consumer demand for ducklings, they’ll continue to supply them regardless of the harms or externalized costs. Their only focus is on the cash register, not what happens later.       

What happens to ducks after an impulse purchase?

Assuming impulse-purchased ducklings don’t soon die due to human negligence, they’re very likely to be dumped at a nearby public pond/park within weeks or months (or surrendered to a rescue). We see and hear about this happening around the country every year, especially after Easter.

(See: Are you ready to abandon your Easter ducklings yet?)

Domestic ducks are not suited to survive in the wild.

Domestic ducks are not suited to survive in the wild.

The people who dump their ducks might think they’re “setting them free.” However, this is like dumping your pet poodle in a forest and expecting it to survive.

Domestic ducks can’t fly. And ducks raised by people have no idea what to eat or how to protect themselves in the wild, where competition for scarce resources is fierce and dangerous predators abound.

Thus, a high percentage of domestic ducks dumped at a pond inevitably end up dead or injured in a short period of time. If they’re lucky, they’ll end up at a waterfowl/wildlife rescue before it’s too late.

In the meantime, if they happen to survive and mate with a wild mallard duck, they then create “genetic pollution,” e.g. generations of offspring who are less fit to survive in the wild. To make matters worse, all the extra ducks dumped in local ponds and parks also create more water and soil pollution due to the extra excrement and dead bodies.     

In short: the destructive pattern of impulse-buying ducklings or ducks really needs to stop.   

Our rescue Pekin and White Layers are gorgeous mallard-derived breeds, but they don't need to pollute local ponds or the gene pool of wild mallards.

Our rescue Pekin and White Layers are gorgeous mallard-derived breeds, but they don’t need to pollute local ponds or the gene pool of wild mallards.

Picturing the problem… and maybe a solution

Imagine this: there’s a 1-cup glass on a table with 2 cups of liquid slowly pouring into it from above. The glass represents the total number of domestic ducklings or ducks that people can responsibly care for in a given year. However, the liquid pouring in represents the sum total of all domestic ducks created/bred by humans in a given year.

There are two straws in the glass. One is being slowly slurped on by intending or existing responsible duck caregivers, e.g. people who have a pretty good idea what’s involved in raising ducks and are prepared to provide optimal care for the long haul. The other straw has been abandoned; the person who ordered the shared drink decided they had better things to do than actually drink it. 

But the liquid keeps pouring into the glass until the glass overflows on the table. This overflow represents the ducks who were requested by the collective market, but abandoned by those who didn’t fully consider the consequences and commitments created by their initial desires.    

How to clean up the mess? First, we can all try to educate people to reduce overall demand from anyone not adequately prepared to raise ducks. Second, responsible duck caregivers can help clean up the mess by slurping their straws in the spillover, not just the glass.

As demand for new ducklings decreases, the bartender (breeders, farm supply stores, etc) will slow their pour. And as demand for abandoned “spillover” ducks increases, waterfowl rescue operations will have more support. Then the mess starts to disappear…       

A window into a better future? Ok, that was too obvious. Ducks looking into window

A window into a better future? Ok, that was too obvious.

How to help waterfowl & wildlife rescue operations 

Currently, waterfowl/animal rescue operations are the only entities dedicated to cleaning up all the “spillover” from the domestic ducks people demand but don’t actually want. And they really need your help to keep going. 

What do they need? First and foremost, they need responsible people to adopt domestic ducks from them. Additionally, they need people to:

  • donate money and/or supplies
  • donate time and expertise (volunteers)
  • spread the word about what they’re doing and the challenges they’re facing.  

For instance, when we arrived at Carolina Waterfowl Rescue (CWR) to pick up our adopted ducks, their staff was currently caring for over 700 abandoned domestic ducks in addition to countless other domestic and wild animal species. 700!! 

Unfortunately, we could only adopt six domestic ducks. But in addition to the adoption fee, we also gave CWR a sizable donation because we know how hard, expensive, and important their work is.

Humorous side note: we also donated a giant bag of Viva paper towels, since the CWR website and social media channels mention how they’re always in need of paper towels. (We switched to washable cloth towels in our home, so we had an abundance.) The receptionist and vet tech at the front desk were absolutely elated by the paper towel donation (they were running low) and immediately tore open the bag to start using them. 

Ducks are adorable. They also poop every 11 minutes and want to turn the world into a mud puddle, so paper towels are handy if you run a waterfowl rescue operation.

Ducks are adorable. They also poop every 11 minutes and want to turn the world into a mud puddle, so paper towels come in handy if you run a waterfowl rescue operation.

Adopting rescue ducks versus buying from a breeder or farm supply store

The decision to adopt rescue ducks versus buy from a breeder or farm supply store involves pros, cons, and tradeoffs. However, if at all possible, we’d like to encourage you to get your ducklings or ducks from a rescue operation instead of a breeder or store. 

Below are positives, negatives, and considerations for each option:

Option 1: Large breeder (example: Metzer Farms)

  • You can get a sexed run. (Example: all females)
  • You can get the exact breed/s you want. (Example: All Welsh harlequins.)  
  • Ducklings ship in the mail, which can and does lead to mishaps like a package of dead ducklings showing up.
  • You need to be prepared for and know how to raise ducklings, which is not a simple process.
  • You’re creating more demand for the creation of additional domestic ducks in a world that is already spilling over with them. 

Option 2: Farm supply store

  • Unless you know how to sex ducklings, you won’t know if you’re getting males or females. 
  • You probably won’t know what breed you’re getting because the store doesn’t know either. 
  • Pick up your ducklings and drive them home the same day, no shipping required. 
  • You’ll need to know how to raise ducklings. 
  • You’re signaling demand for impulse-purchased ducks and the creation of additional domestic ducks in a world that is already spilling over with them. 

Option 3: Waterfowl or wildlife rescue

*Note: Each waterfowl rescue operation has unique policies, and the policies within the same operation may vary depending on how many ducks you’re willing to adopt. See CWR’s adoption policies for reference.

  • You’ll know whether you’re getting male or female ducks, but you’ll likely be asked to adopt at least one male. 
  • You can probably select breeds, but sometimes it’s hard to determine the exact breed in the case of hybrids. 
  • If there’s a rescue operation within driving distance, you can pick up and drive your ducklings or ducks home – no shipping. 
  • You can get mature ducks and skip the difficult process of hatching eggs or raising ducklings. 
  • You’re reducing demand for new ducks while: a) helping clean up the mess from irresponsible duck purchases, and b) providing much-needed support for ongoing waterfowl rescue work.

Can rescue ducks become socialized to humans and make good pets? 

Rescue ducks can make excellent pets depending on a wide range of factors, namely:

  • individual and breed temperament,
  • the care approach and dedication of the caretaker(s), and
  • the prior background/experiences a duck has had with humans. (Animals that have been abused are rightfully less inclined to trust humans.) 

If you’ve followed our website or social media channels, you know that we adore our ducks and consider them pets and family members. We’ve also been known to diaper ducks and bring them inside for movie night (An Original Duckumentary is a flock favorite). 

Yes, having ducks that are used to being handled earns us fluffy cuddles, but there’s also a practical reason we want tame ducks: so they don’t get stressed when we do regular health inspections (such as looking for bumblefoot), bring them in for a vet visit, etc. 

What has our experience been so far? The first few days, our new rescues were clearly terrified of us and we didn’t try to handle them at all. Instead, we moved very slowly and deliberately around them and brought them tasty treats throughout the day with the intention of helping them form positive associations. 

After a week, they’ve started to warm to us. They now get very excited when we come into the yard because, in their minds, we’re walking feed and treat machines. The Tyrant couldn’t resist the fluffy enticements of a Jumbo Pekin, so a bit of cuddling has commenced — and been well-received!

When it comes to pure cuddle temptation, Jumbo Pekins may top the list of duck breeds. There are none who can resist.

When it comes to pure cuddle temptation, Jumbo Pekins may top the list of duck breeds. There are none who can resist, certainly not The Tyrant.

However, it’s still too early to say whether our rescue ducks will eventually become as tame as the Welsh Harlequins we raised ourselves. Things are looking good so far, and we’ll continue to provide future updates! 

Relevant reads:

Final thoughts 

We currently have 11 backyard ducks (including our six rescues). That’s all the ducks we can optimally care for in our space. However, any ducks we get in the future will be coming from Carolina Waterfowl Rescue. How did we integrate our new ducks into our existing flock? We’ll detail that topic in our next duck article. 

We’ve never ended an article by asking you for a favor, but we will here. If the information in this article seems helpful and important to you, would you mind sharing it to help spread the word? And more importantly, would you please give even a small donation to Carolina Waterfowl Rescue and/or the waterfowl rescue operation nearest you? 

We appreciate your support!       


Flap on over to other helpful duck articles:

and more duck articles from Tyrant Farms…

stay in touch

Like what you're seeing here? Please be sure to subscribe to Tyrant Farms so we can let you know about new articles you'll love.


  • Reply
    Star Pedron
    July 8, 2023 at 3:17 pm

    Hi all! Loved the more detailed account of the adoption. And we’re already working on an updated version of our coop, based on your new Inn. I do have a couple of questions that I’m hoping you can point me in the right direction to get answered (with resources that are trustworthy).

    1) our pond, modeled after yours, can’t handle the growth of the “green goo” even with filters and bio safe enzyme assistance. We tried adding duckweed, as a tasty, nutritious pond plant to help. But duck week is so small and tasty, that even with its prodigious reproduction ability, it’s gone in a day or so after letting the Flock Boss and her 5 minions in the pond. Other ideas for Duck beneficial water plants that would work in summer heat of 85-110F in the summer?

    2) Do you have access to waterfowl rescue organizations that might be closer to us here on the West Coast/Central Valley?

    We love our 6 (2 males, 4 females) but we do keep them separated most of the time. “Adult time” visits are fully supervised. And they all actually sleep nights in the house with us. It’s funny when they line up at the door when we’re not “on schedule.” We’ve made a few mistakes as neophyte Duck supporters, but been lucky to find your blog to help us out. Thank you for all you do and share.

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      July 10, 2023 at 1:13 pm

      Hi Star! Answers to your questions below:

      1. With the addition of six new rescue ducks to our flock, our pond and filter/bog ponds (which are overdue for a cleaning anyway) are having trouble keeping up with all the extra duck waste – especially since the new rescues seem to want to spend 90% of their time in the pond. Presumably, a clean pond and bathing water were probably not luxuries they ever had access to, so now they’re the proverbial starving man at a buffet.

      Three rules we’ve discovered about putting pond plants in a backyard duck pond:
      1) If you put a plant that is edible to ducks in your pond, your ducks will eat it to death in about 1.5 minutes. You’ve discovered this rule with duckweed.
      2) You can put non-edible pond plants in your duck pond but you’ll still want to protect the plants. (More on this below)
      3) You can put edible or non-edible plants on top of your filter media in your filter ponds IF you install some sort of physical barrier around the filter ponds to keep your ducks out. (We use temporary fencing with garden stakes as a physical barrier.)

      What pond plants do we use and recommend? This is by no means an exhaustive list, just the two we’ve had success with:

      Our favorite pond plant for our filter ponds that is also edible and apparently quite delicious to ducks is pickerelweed, specifically Pontederia cordata. (It’s also edible to humans, fyi.) Pickerelweed is a very fast-growing perennial that goes dormant in the winter. However, a single rhizome clump can easily vegetatively reproduce so as to cover the entire surface of a filter pond in one growing season. The plant is also well-known for its ability to clean water and consume contaminants like nitrates. Again, pickerelweed is great for your filter ponds but you’ll need to put up physical barriers to keep your ducks out of your filter ponds if you want the plants to have a chance to get established. (Your ducks really shouldn’t be in your filter ponds anyway.)

      Our favorite plant for our actual duck pond is yellow flag iris (Iris pseudacorus), which is actually supposed to be poisonous to animals, possibly including ducks/waterfowl. We might get grief for recommending this plant since it’s considered highly invasive, but there’s no way for it to escape our system given the plant’s location and method of spread, e.g. we can keep it fully contained. If you can’t keep it contained, maybe try something else like cattails (which are edible to people).

      Even though yellow flag iris is a poisonous plant, our ducks still enjoy ripping at its leaves and pulling up the rhizomes – they’ve been doing this for many years, apparently with no ill effects. So to get the plant established, we put the rhizome starts in a ceramic pot on one of the pond ledges with stones holding the rhizomes in place and keeping the ducks out. The rhizomes have since spread out of the original pot and onto the ledge establishing a large colony, which is fine for us (more water cleaning potential!). Our new rescue ducks were particularly enamored by our yellow flag iris colony and were ripping it to shreds, thus causing our pond pumps to quickly clog due to the long fibrous leaf innards being sucked into the pump impellers. So we’ve now added temporary fencing around the base of the iris in the pond to keep the ducks off. (You can always count on ducks to build out your to-do list!)

      Do note that even with: a) two fully functioning filter ponds filled with Matala filter pads, and b) water-cleaning plants in our duck pond and both filter ponds, we’ll still have to clean our filter ponds probably at least once per year and our pond once every 12-18 months. (We’re not quite sure the current frequency since this many ducks is new to us.)

      To clean our main pond, we turn off both pumps and turn off the water valves to prevent the filter pond water from sucking back into the pond. Then we use a submersible pump to suck out almost all the water. Then we clean out the muck at the bottom of the pond (lots of decomposing leaves, sticks, and duck solids). Finally, we fill the pond back up with a de-chlorinating filter attached at the base of the hose so as not to wipe out the biology in the pond and/or harm the countless salamanders that have taken up residence in the rocks.

      Then we clean the filters by: a) carefully removing the plants/rhizomes, b) removing and cleaning the filter pads, c) scooping out all the muck in the filter ponds. Clean filter pads go back in with plants placed on top. Then we turn the pumps back on. The evening of the clean-out, we’ll usually add some commercial pond bacteria (warm weather or cold weather depending on season) back in to the pond even though our pond likely has a pretty well-established microbiome.

      Hope this is helpful and isn’t information overload!

      2. Answer to your second question: check out for what appears to be a good domestic waterfowl rescue operation near you in Central Valley, California.

  • Reply
    July 7, 2023 at 9:22 pm

    Correspondence has been overdue. I enjoy reading anything about ducks. Your appreciation of ducks mirrors my own enthusiasm developed over about 60 years, with both Pekins and stray mallard ducklings while growing up on the lower Detroit River, essentially a wildlife refuge. Every duck in North America migrates through there at one time or another. Tens of thousands of canvasbacks, redheads, scaup, goldeneye, and others enjoy the balmy open river until the ice completely closes up and they move south. I have pictures with 5 or 6 species in one frame.

    Your suitcase photo and commentary, “…which begs the question, why on Earth would anyone ever want to travel without bringing all of their ducks?” is the stuff my sister and I have been joking about for decades.

    I read all four books by your supported author Bob Tarte and owe him a letter of appreciation as well. You both capture the nuances of duck behavior.

    Just came in after putting my two Pekins and Khaki Campbell to bed in a wire mesh, not wire cloth cage…the ritual that all of us follow to avoid nighttime slaughter. I sing bedtime prayers to them, like how good they are at calculus and that God considers them the pinnacle of creation.

    I also love your food articles. I only touched a fraction of the recipes and sources you discuss. Used to make gallons of maple syrup in NW Ohio; accidentally found a laxative that will blow you out better than a pre-colonoscopy drink (rose hips WITH the seeds) and think that wild ginger made me clumsy and messed up my visuo-spacial orientation.

    I wanted to touch on many more of your articles but just wanted to let you know they are deeply appreciated. Blessings to you all.

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      July 8, 2023 at 7:25 am

      Wow, thanks so much for such a kind and gracious note, June! Nice to connect with someone with a few extra decades of duck experience than we have under our belts.

      Your mention of wild ginger and its effects are also of interest. We find the plant beautiful but have never considered using it as a food or medicine due to various warnings of its carcinogenicity. Were you using ingesting it regularly or were the ill effects the result of one encounter?

Leave a Reply

Native Passion Fruit (Passiflora Incarnata): How To Grow, Forage, & Eat How to hatch goose eggs – tips, tricks, and troubleshooting How to hatch duck eggs via a mama duck or incubator Best EDIBLE plants to grow in shade (fruit, herbs & veggies) Understanding duck mating & courtship 9 amazing duck facts that will blow your human mind