Decide why you want to breed ducks.,
Consider call, cayuga, pekin, rouen or muscovy ducks if you want a pet.,
Consider Pekin, Muscovy, Rouen or Aylesbury ducks for meat production.,
Consider Khaki Campbell or Indian Runner ducks for egg production.,
Consider Indian Runner, Khaki Campbell, or call ducks to biologically control pests.,
Make sure your ducks can access water.,
Feed ducks appropriately.,
Lock up ducks at night.,
Keep ducks enclosed in the garden.,
Do research on your breed.,
Develop a system of identification for your ducks.,
Use trap nests to record when eggs are laid.,
Record information regarding individual ducks.,
Select ducks with good conformation according to their breed.,
Select young and vigorous breeders.,
Choose breeders mainly based on weight.,
Keep the correct ratio of drakes (males) to ducks.,
Minimize the time between generations.,
Know the mating season.,
Watch for mixing breeds.,
Calculate the number of birds to be mated.,
Mate ducks for two weeks before collecting eggs for hatching.,
Collect the eggs daily to ensure they are as clean as possible.,
Set up an incubator for the fertilized eggs.,
Turn the eggs at least three times per day.,
Check for fertility after one week.,
Incubate for around 28 days.,
Do not interfere in the hatching process.,
Keep the ducklings in the incubator for twelve hours after hatching.,
Move the ducklings to a brooder.,
Leave the ducklings alone as much as possible for the first three days.,
Provide food and water.,
Raise your ducks for their intended use.
You may want to keep ducks as pets, for meat, for egg production or as an organic way of controlling pests in the garden. There are four main types of duck: domestic, dabbling, diving and sea ducks. Domestic ducks are the type most people choose for their needs. All breeds of domestic duck are descended from the common Mallard duck except the Muscovy duck.
Non-domestic ducks, or “Wildfowl”, spend a long time on the water and will need their wings pinioned when they are very young or else they will fly off. They require a large pond or lake and are unlikely to tame.;
, All of these breeds are visually appealing and make good pets.
Call ducks are named for the noises they make so be careful of getting a call duck if you do not want to upset your neighbors. They are small and gray or white, and many people choose them for their smallness of size but they are good fliers and will need their wings clipped every so often.
Cayuga ducks have beautiful iridescent green plumage and are very quiet, but can be hard to find.
Pekin ducks are large and white and one of the most popular breeds of ducks. They are calm and have a relaxed temperament.
Rouen ducks have the same coloring as mallard ducks (green neck and head and iridescent areas on the body) and are very calm and sociable.
Muscovy ducks are very quiet and have been bred in many different colors. They are descendants of tree birds and thus might need their wings clipped periodically to keep them from flying away.
, You will want to choose a breed that matures quickly, produces tasty meat and are heavier. Many people prefer ducks with a white plumage because it is easier to get a clean looking carcass.Pekin ducks are one of the most popular ducks for meat production because they are ready to butcher at 7 weeks, high meat-yielding and have a white plumage. They also lay a decent number of eggs in the year (varies according to location- in the UK they are low layers) so they are a good general purpose duck. They can be crossed with Aylesburys for great meat-producing ducklings.
Muscovy ducks produce tasty dark meat that is leaner because their oil glands are underdeveloped. They are poor egg producers whose eggs take 35 days to hatch as opposed to 28 days but are very good brooders and mothers and so do not require an incubator. They can be crossed with Pekin for a very good meat-producing duck but their progeny will be sterile. They must be butchered by 16 weeks of age or their meat becomes too firm.
Rouen ducks are good meat-producers but take 12-15 weeks until they are ready to be butchered. They also are decent egg layers (~100 eggs per season) but have colored feather shafts and the carcasses will be harder to clean.
Aylesbury ducks are prized for meat production due to their large size and while plumage but true Aylesburys are very rare and most are rather mixes of Aylesbury and Pekin, which also makes a good duck for meat production. White crested ducks are said to be a mix of Aylesbury and Pekin ducks. They are not great egg layers.
, These breeds can sometimes even surpass the production levels of egg-laying chicken breeds and ducks produce a larger, more nutritious egg than chickens.The Khaki Campbell duck is quite hardy, excellent foragers, can produce over 300 eggs a year and do not require special care or lighting to produce many eggs. They produce an pearly white egg and are the main breed used for commercial egg production. Their meat has a typical “game” flavor and is not usually eaten.
Indian Runner ducks are upright birds that have a running gait. Some strains can produce over 300 blue-tinted eggs a year. They are great foragers, small in size and hardy.
The Welsh Harlequin duck is a rarer bird but a good egg-layer as well as good meat bird and has a placid nature.
, All ducks will eat snails, slugs and insect pests in gardens but certain breeds are better foragers and cover a large area. Ducks will also clean algal slime and duckweed from ponds.
Indian Runner ducks are very active and some of the best foragers and have been known to even eat flies from the air. They cover large areas of land and can be used to control pests in fields. They are often used in rice paddies in Asia and have even been used to control pests at an organic wine farm in South Africa.
Khaki Campbell ducks are also good foragers. They can control pests on both land and water and eat large quantities of slugs, snails, insects, algae and mosquitoes.
Call ducks are also decent foragers but are of smaller size than other ducks and so will eat smaller prey.
, Domestic ducks do not need large ponds or lakes but they will need a small pool so that they can duck their heads in. They have no tear ducts and rely on this water to wet and clean their eyes. You can use a small kiddies pool or other plastic tub to hold water.
Plastic tubs are actually better for your ducks because the water can be replaced easily, keeping it clean from mud and feathers.
Move the plastic tub around so that your grass does not turn to mud.
, Ducks that do not obtain the appropriate nutrition will not grow properly. This is especially true for ducks being used for meat or egg production. While some breeds are good at foraging for food, they will still require additional feed. Feed ducks commercially prepared duck pellets.
If you feed chick crumbs they must not be medicated as this can seriously harm your ducks.
Ducks used for production will need a higher protein content (~16% and can come from raw oats but no more than one-fourth of diet) than other ducks.
Egg layers will also need higher calcium content to effectively produce eggs and you can supplement this in their feed.Provide a clean source of drinking water close to the feeding areas. It helps to raise this off the ground to avoid it getting filled with mud.
, Ducks should be locked up at night to protect them from predators. They do not need perches but the doorway should be as wide as possible to accommodate the whole flock going in together. It is important that this area be kept well-ventilated.
The house should have about four square feet (3700 square cm) of floor space per duck and be at least 3.5 feet (1 m) tall.
They can be spooked by lights at night so face openings away from the moon or lights if possible.
Place the enclosure against a wall or fence to help herd ducks indoors at nighttime.
Use a layer of clean straw as bedding and change it out regularly to keep it clean.
If you want to collect the eggs then you should provide nest boxes. These make it easier to find the eggs.
, Some predators will attack ducks so it is important to protect them with a fence. The fence should keep predators out as well as keep ducks in. The heavier meat-producing ducks cannot jump very high but some of the lighter breeds such as call ducks can get up to 6 feet (1.8 m) in the air.
Ducks can be kept in the same enclosure as chickens. Different breeds of duck can also be kept together but be careful when keeping the smaller breeds with a male of a bigger breed because he can injure the ducks., Different breeds have different sizes, conformations, egg production rates, fertility, hatchability, feed consumption and productive lifetimes. Research your breed to find the expected characteristics of your ducks.
, Keep track of your ducks through proper identification. In a small group you may recognize individual ducks but if you cannot, it may be helpful to use wing or leg bands to mark individual birds.
, Trap nests are designed so that ducks can go in but cannot come out until released. This way you can record the identity of the duck and whether or not it laid an egg.
, Keep track of the number of eggs a duck lays, the number of ducklings hatched by a particular duck, the number of ducklings which were then marketed for sale or after butchering and the age of those ducklings when they reached suitable weight for slaughter.
All this information will help to choose the most effective and productive ducks to breed for production.
, Breeders should have sound bones, straight toes and tight, well-fitting scales on the feet. Breeders should not have crooked breast bones or split wings.
, Younger ducks will have bright colors on their legs and bills, a pliable, gristly breastbone and a soft and easily dented windpipe. Older ducks will have dull legs and bills with hardening of the skin, a hard breastbone and strong windpipe.
Breeders should not have been treated for any major diseases. Breeders must be healthy with thick sleek feathers, bright eyes, dry nostrils and plentiful tail furnishings (according to the breed).
, The main factor when selecting breeders should be weight as this is highly heritable. Do not allow ducks to mate who display deformities, abnormal size or other defects.
After weight you should consider the other factors that you have recorded such as number of eggs laid and ducklings hatched.
, This will require a little research for the particular breed of your ducks. Heavy breeds such as the Muscovy and other meat production breeds will usually have a ratio of one drake to five ducks maximum. Lighter breeds such as the Khaki Campbell and Indian Runner can have a maximum ratio of around one drake to ten ducks.
Keeping too many drakes with too few females can cause injury to the females as they can be mated too often.
If you are attempting to cross breed, be careful about the size difference between the drake and ducks because this can also potentially cause injury.
If you have too many drakes you can keep them in a separate pen during the breeding season.
You can mate ducks as a pair if you choose. The problem comes when there are multiple drakes and not enough space and females.
, You should mate young animals to keep the generation interval low and achieve the greatest genetic progress. First-year drakes and ducks are best for breeding but do not mate birds younger than 6 months old., While some domestic ducks will mate year-round, the typical mating season goes from late winter through spring to early summer. This is the most likely time that your ducks will show mating behavior and lay eggs.
Mating behavior will include head bobbing, pecking, neck biting and attempts at mounting by the male.
, Ducks will typically mate with any other duck including those of different breeds. If you want to create particular crosses you must keep breeds separate that you do not want mixed in. If you do not want your ducks mixing and you have multiple breeds then you should separate them during breeding season.
Muscovy ducks that mate with another domestic ducks will produce mule ducks. Mule ducks are sterile but can be good meat producers. Mixes between other domestic ducks will not be sterile.
, This will depend on the number of ducklings you want to produce. For most breeds, one duck can produce around 100 marketable ducklings per season.
You will get better results when you have less birds being mated and housed together. However, commercial breeders will have to have mass mating for economic reasons.
, This will allow the ducks proper time for mating and result in a high fertility in the eggs. It also gives the ducks and drakes time to settle down into mating.
, Collect eggs daily and store them in a cool, not cold, location while turning them once a day to prevent the membrane from sticking to the shell. They can be stored for 7-10 days before incubation. It is better to incubate them all at the same time so that they will all be at the same stage.
, Follow the instructions for your incubator (if you do not have them you might be able to find them online). Set your incubator to 99.5 degrees with a humidity of 86% to start out.
Run the incubator for a day or two before placing the eggs inside. This helps to check that it is keeping an even temperature.
Humidity can usually be maintained by filling the water pans on the incubator and following the instructions. You can also spray the eggs with water every time you turn them.
Muscovy ducks are very good brooders and mothers and will not necessarily need their eggs incubated. This also makes them easier to manage and breed.
, Eggs need to be turned. Some incubators will turn them automatically but if not then turn them an odd number of times per day.
Turning is most critical during the first week of incubation. Turn them as often as you can.
, Use the candling technique to check if your eggs are fertile and remove any non-fertile eggs. Make the room dark and get a small flashlight. Hold it up to the egg and wrap your hand around the meeting place so that no light shines into your eyes. If you see clear, distinct veins then the egg is probably alive.
Repeat candling once per week and remove any eggs that are not alive.
, Different breeds take different times to incubate. Mallards will take about 26.5-27 days, Runners will take 28.5 days, and Muscovies will take longer, around 35 days. All other breeds will take around 28 days.
, The hatching process can take 3-5 days or even a bit longer and the ducklings may stay in the shell for an extra day or two to absorb the yolk so be patient and do not worry.
Call ducks are notoriously bad at cracking through their shells. If you really think your duckling needs a little help then you must be very careful and use tweezers to try to create a small hole in the shell. If you see any bleeding or anything then stop right away.
, This gives them time to dry out fully and allows time for the other eggs to hatch undisturbed if they haven’t hatched yet. They will be stumbling and wobbling around but this is normal for newly hatched ducklings.
, You can use a plastic container with a small enclosure. A shielded 250-watt bulb should be used to provide the light and heat needed by the young birds for the first few weeks of their life. In week three they should no longer need a heat lamp.
If they are huddling together under the lamp then they are likely too cold and you should move the lamp closer.
If they move away from the lamp then that is a sign that the lamp is too hot and you should lift it higher.
When they stop sleeping under the lamp it may be time to remove it completely.
, Do not let ducklings follow anyone for the first three days either. This can cause them to imprint too heavily on you and cause problems later.
, Make sure to provide a drinker that is deep enough for the duckling to submerge its nostrils to clean them but not so deep that the duckling can drown. Food is not required in the first 24 hours but after that you can provide starter crumbs from your local feed shop. After ten days on starter crumbs, switch to growers pellets.
If your duckling is particularly weak or won’t eat, try feeding it a little mashed boiled yolk. This can help it start to eat its starter crumbs.
After 16 weeks you can switch the ducklings to normal pellets as you would feed an adult.
If you wish to allow your ducklings to swim then you must supervise them so they do not drown. Additionally ducklings do not yet produce the oil on their feathers that protects adult ducks from the cold so the water must be warm rather than cold. Mother ducks would normally apply oil to their ducklings feathers in nature.
, Whether you are keeping your ducklings as pets, for meat production, for egg production and/or as biological pest controllers, you can now continue to raise your ducks. You can move them outside when they are around 6-8 weeks old.
They should lose their down feathers before they are moved outside.
Predators can easily carry ducklings off so be wary when moving them outside.