Buying ducks for the first time? If you’ve never bought ducks before, you might not know the best places to get ducks or how to go about it. Buying ducks is relatively straightforward, but here are a few pointers and tips.
Eggs, Ducklings, or Adults?
There are three primary ways you can obtain ducks: as fertile hatching eggs, ducklings, or mature adults.
Hatching eggs are cheaper than ducklings or adults. You will need an incubator to hatch them. Hatching can be a very fun and rewarding experience, but also a difficult one, especially if you’re new to hatching. You won’t know how many eggs will hatch. Hatch rates of 50% or less are common with shipped eggs, and there’s a chance none will hatch. You also won’t know their sex. So if you want to end up with three female ducks, you would have to buy around nine eggs to get a decent chance of ending up with three females.
Ducklings are a popular choice. Like with hatching eggs, you will have the fun of watching your ducks grow up, and you’ll be able to handle and tame them from the beginning, so if you want your ducks to be pets, you’re more likely to end up with friendly ducks if you start with hatching eggs or ducklings. One potetial disadvantages is that you’ll have to wait months before getting any eggs. When purchasing your ducklings, you may or may not be able to choose what sex you want, depending on the breeder or source.
Adults or adolescents may be unfriendly and difficult to tame, but it varies. Of the adult birds I’ve bought, some became friendly very quickly, while others took longer to warm up to me, and a few remained skittish. You probably won’t have to wait long before they lay, but you can’t expect them to lay immediately either, as the stress of moving will usually stop a duck from laying for a few weeks or even a few months. Be sure to ask the seller how old they are. It’s impossible to tell the age of an adult duck for sure, so unless the seller can tell you, you won’t know if you’re getting a one-year-old or a seven-year-old that is no longer laying. Also, you can usually be sure of the sex of an adult duck. If you want pet ducks, finding unwanted adult ducks that people are trying to rehome is a great option. Unwanted adult drakes are particularly easy to find, as people often have trouble selling or giving them away.
A common source of ducklings is farm stores or feed stores, such as Tractor Supply. They often sell ducklings, especially during spring. This is a quick, cheap, easy option, but the quality and health of the ducklings may be questionable, and you likely won’t know the ducklings’ breed or sex. If there are breed choices, they are often limited.
Feed stores get their ducklings from large hatcheries. It’s often better to buy directly from a reputable hatchery. Metzer Farms is one of the best duck hatcheries in the United States. Other hatcheries that stock ducklings include Murray McMurray Hatchery, Meyer Hatchery, Ideal Poultry, and Cackle Hatchery. Hatcheries often allow you to order the exact numbers and sexes you want. Some hatcheries will allow you to buy adult ducks or hatching eggs, but day-old ducklings are more common. One drawback is the risk of ducklings dying in shipping due to unforeseen delays or bad weather. Most shipped ducklings will arrive alive, but there are always occasional mishaps.
Often, the best source of ducklings is small-medium private breeders, farmers, or backyard duck keepers who happen to be selling ducks. Look for duck breeders and farms in your area. Many won’t ship their ducks, but some will. If you buy from a local farmer, you will avoid the risk of shipping and may even have the opportunity to visit the farm and see the birds and how they’re raised. Private breeders are also the best source of high-quality birds bred for the SOP or for good production. (Some hatcheries have good-quality birds as well, but they breed for quantity more than quality.) Some breeders will sex the ducklings they sell, others won’t.
You can also find ducks for sale in classified ads and places such as Craigslist or Kijiji. I found my first ducks from a paper on a bulletin board inside our local grocery store. I’ve also bought ducks I saw for sale on a Facebook group for farmers in my area.
Sometimes you can find ducks at auctions or by talking to people at poultry shows. If you’re looking for pets, consider buying unwanted adult ducks that people are trying to rehome. Also consider looking at waterfowl rescues, if there are any near you.
If you’re planning to buy ducks from a farm or private breeder, you may have the chance to examine the ducks and their living area before purchasing.
Be sure they look healthy. Their feathers should look clean, bright, and smooth. They should be active, moving around and taking an interest in their surroundings. Their eyes should be bright with no discharge. Nasal or ocular discharge is a major red flag and can be a sign of respiratory disease, which can be a nightmare to deal with. Also, if you’re getting adult ducks, check their feet for bumblefoot. I recently bought seven ducks and didn’t find out until later that all seven had bumblefoot.
Ask the owner if they know whether the parents of the ducks are related or not and if they’ve been careful to avoid inbreeding. If you are buying a male and females, try to be sure your male is not closely related to the females.
Bringing them Home
If your ducks are shipped, be sure to arrive at the post office and pick them up without delay. Notify your post office a day or two ahead of time that live birds will be arriving and tell them to call you as soon as the birds arrive.
If you’re transporting your new ducks yourself, be sure you have something appropriate to bring them home in. I remember when we were planning to buy geese for the first time. I’d never even seen a domestic goose in person before. My dad was sure two geese would fit in a large plastic milk crate. After all, he said, “the male Muscovies are really big and they fit in these.” We got to the farm and were all shocked at how large the geese were. They did fit in the crate, but only just barely.
I also remember a time someone brought me ducks in a 55-gallon plastic barrel. They’d only traveled about a mile, so the ducks weren’t in the barrel long, but it wasn’t ideal.
And someone else delivered ducks to me with their feet tied together (?!) in a feed sack!
Good options for transporting ducks include crates and large cardboard boxes (with holes for ventilation, and rope or tape to be sure the box will stay closed). Keep in mind that the ducks will be very stressed and will likely produce copious amounts of poop due to stress, and may spray it all over your vehicle if they are in something without a solid bottom or sides. A dark enclosure is ideal to keep the birds calmer. Ducks are much calmer when they can’t see what’s going on. Don’t put food and water in the cage; it will spill and the ducks will likely be too stressed to eat or drink anyway. If you’re traveling a long distance, you can make stops to give the ducks a chance to drink or perhaps eat.
Try to have your ducks’ new home set up, stocked with food and water, and ready for its new residents before the birds arrive. This way you can leave them alone after putting them in their pen rather than stressing them further. They will need some time to get adjusted to their new surroundings.
If you already have other ducks or other poultry, it is highly recommended to quarantine your new ducks before introducing them to your existing birds.
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