You’ve taken the dive and set your mind on raising ducks. Now it’s time to plan your flock! Simply running to the feed store and nabbing some ducklings is a common but dangerous mistake. Planning comes first.
First, decide what kind of ducks you want. Then decide how many ducks you can handle and care for, and whether or not you want drakes. Then, plan and build your accommodations. Decide what you will feed your flock and how you will manage them. Finally, get your ducks!
The first step in planning for a flock of backyard ducks is to research and select the right breed. There are many available duck breeds, each with different characteristics and traits. Common backyard duck breeds include the Pekin, Khaki Campbell, Indian Runner, and Muscovy, among others. Which one suits you best will depend on how many eggs you want, if you want meat, if you need a quiet duck, if you need a flightless duck, if you want a pet, and so on. Click to our Duck Breed Guide for a duck breed comparison chart and guides to each duck breed.
How many ducks?
If you’re raising ducks for eggs, how many eggs do you need? Say you use about two dozen eggs a week, which is 1248 eggs a year. Perhaps you’ve chosen Ancona ducks, which may produce 250 eggs a year. Dividing 1248 by 250, you need about five females, plus one male if you wish for offspring. In total, you need six ducks (and more if you want to sell the eggs). Remember that not all the ducks will be laying all at the same time. During the winter, most breeds don’t lay much, if any.
If you are raising ducks for meat, consider how much space the growing youngsters will take. Remember that some ducks can hatch twenty (and sometimes more) eggs in just one clutch, and until they are large enough to butcher, those youngsters will take up a lot of space. Estimate how many youngsters you want per year before planning the size of your structures.
Some people just want their ducks as pets, with eggs as a side benefit. In this case, you probably don’t want very many, maybe only three or four. Still, if you want ducklings, plan accordingly.
Do not get only one bird. Ducks are social animals and live in flocks, so you must have at least two unless you plan to spend lots of time with your duck - hardly feasible unless your duck lives in your house. Often, it’s also not a good idea to get just one male and one female, because some males will overmate their single companion.
Your flock size also depends on the space available. If you live in a city, you may have a limit as to how many fowl you can raise. Do not get more than you can reasonably house or take care of. Crowding leads to trouble and problems!
For example, let’s say you only have a yard that is 20 by 20 feet. That is 400 square feet. Ducks need about 4 square feet inside (if they are only inside for the night) and 15 square feet outside - minimum. Always go with larger if possible! But for this example, let’s use the minimal sizes. So will our six Anconas fit in it? 4 x 6 is 24, so the inside area should be 24 square feet. The outside area (15 x 6) should be 90 square feet. In total, you need about 114 square feet. They’ll fit! Of course, since you have more space, you can make it larger so they’ll be happier and so you have space for ducklings. The more space, the better.
Drakes or not?
It isn’t necessary to have a drake to obtain eggs, but it is necessary to have ducklings. Unlike chickens, drakes do not crow. They don’t make much noise at all, and they are much quieter than quacking females.
You only need one drake for every 7-10 females. If you have too many drakes, they will fight and may beat up or overmate the females.
Ducks need a safe and comfortable place to live. Depending on your location and the weather, you might need a simple duck house, a small coop, or a more elaborate duck shelter. Ensure that the housing provides protection from predators, adequate ventilation, and enough space for your ducks to move around comfortably.
Ducks love to roam, so you should plan for a dedicated duck run. This fenced area should offer protection from predators and provide ample space for your ducks to forage, swim, and explore. Include a small pond or kiddie pool for them to enjoy a dip in the water. While swimming water isn’t absolutely necessary for your ducks’ survival, it’s an important amenity for their well-being and quality of life.
If you’re starting with ducklings, be sure to prepare a brooder before they arrive. “Temporary” housing such as a cardboard box could end up being permanent housing if you’re not careful. Ducklings will outgrow a cardboard box very quickly. It’s better to have a sizable brooder ready.
Click to Duck Housing: Everything You Need to Consider to read more.
Ducks need a balanced diet to stay healthy and produce high-quality eggs. Their diet typically consists of a mix of commercial poultry feed, grains, vegetables, and access to clean water. Ducklings require specialized starter feed, so be sure to research and provide age-appropriate nutrition.
Most duck keepers feed their adult ducks chicken layer feed. Feed formulated specifically for waterfowl may be available and is an ideal choice. All-flock feed may be another option. In addition to commercial feed, most duck owners also treat their ducks to vegetables and fruit and allow them to forage in a yard. Some duck and chicken owners even raise earthworms or mealworms to feed their ducks, and the most independent, DIY-type duck owners sometimes even grow all their own ducks’ food or buy raw grains and mix their own food. Ducks may also need some supplements, particularly added niacin, free-choice grit, and free-choice oyster shell or another source of calcium. Click to Feeding Basics to learn more and decide what feeding plan to follow for your flock.
Local Regulations and Permits
Before bringing ducks into your backyard, check local regulations and zoning laws. Some areas may have restrictions on the number of ducks you can keep or specific requirements for keeping poultry.
Be prepared! You may want to make a first-aid kit, particularly if you can’t access a vet which specializes in avian care. Find a source of bedding for your duck coop - straw, wood chips, sand, or some other option. Make sure it is a reliable source.
Plan what you will do when and if you have ducklings. No one wants to get rid of their babies, but keeping all the drakes can be a challenge, and selling excess drakes isn’t always easy either. It can be hard to give them away, much less sell them. And you definitely can’t just release extra ducks into the wild: they’ll die. They are domesticated creatures.
Raising a flock of backyard ducks can be a delightful and enriching experience, provided you take the time to plan and prepare. From selecting the right breed to providing shelter, nutrition, and veterinary care, a well-thought-out plan is crucial to your ducks’ well-being and your satisfaction as a duck owner. Follow these steps, consult with experienced duck keepers, and enjoy the wonderful world of backyard duck-keeping.
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