Ducks have a lot to offer homesteads, both large and small. They produce copious amounts of extra-large rich and creamy eggs, deliciously flavorful meat and make entertaining “farm pets,” as well. Avoid mistakes when purchasing ducks cause frustration and wasted money for you and a potential deadly tragedy for the poultry birds.
Common Mistakes When Purchasing Ducks to Add to Your Chicken Flock
Chickens have long been the staple and traditional meat and egg poultry birds in the United States. A growing number of homesteaders and backyard keepers are venturing into using ducks in their food self-reliance plan – or adding them into an existing chicken-based poultry bird food production operation.
Regardless of where you live or how many ducks you want to purchase, being knowledgeable and prepared before bringing the birds home and attempting to raise and benefit from them is a must. Avoiding mistakes when purchasing ducks and the five most common can help you avoid the common epic pitfalls of duck keeping.
Not Knowing Why You Want Ducks One of The Common Mistakes When Purchasing Ducks
Getting ducks (or any animal) should never be an impulse purchase. It would be best if you defined the purpose ducks will serve on your homestead or in your backyard BEFORE picking up the adorable yellow fuzzy ducklings at the local agriculture supply store.
There are 5 reasons to purchase any farm animal.
- Food – to eat the eggs, meat, or milk the animal produces.
- Safety – to protect the homestead, the family, or the livestock.
- Breeding – as a homestead side hustle or full-time business for-profit endeavor
- Pets – to enjoy watching or as a companion animal
- Education – as part of a 4-H, homeschooling, or a family “farm to table” learning experience.
Ducks are certainly not the type of animal that you would keep for protection, but they are excellent meat and egg producers – and can be fun farm pets to watch on the pond, as well. If you want to teach your children agriculture science and how food is raised and grown, so it appears on their dinner plates, ducks can fulfill this role as well.
Failure to determine exactly how you plan on using the ducks begins at the checkout counter and continues exponentially once they arrive on your homestead. The “a duck is a duck” theory will get you into trouble quickly. You need to purchase the type of duck breed that will suit your available keeping area and serve your predetermined usage needs.
Mistakes When Purchasing Ducks In Buying The Wrong Duck Breed
Not all duck breeds are created equal when it comes to food production or keeping practices. Even if you or your beloved child falls in love with a certain type of adorable duck at the store or when browsing an online hatchery, resist the urge to make an impulse purchase just on looks alone.
We horse people have a mantra we at least attempt to always remind ourselves of when shopping for another trail buddy, “You can’t ride color.” That basically means do not judge on looks alone. The cute a button breed of ducklings right before you vying for attention might be a meat breed that needs a vast free-ranging space, and you want to coop keep egg layers.
Being educated about breed information before purchasing ducks will help prevent you from making a huge mistake right at the beginning of a new duck husbandry endeavor.
While all duck hen breeds will lay eggs and every duck breed offers meat, some are far more accomplished at one or the other.
Breeds To Consider When Seeking Egg Laying Duck Breeds
- Khaki Campbell
- Welsh Harlequin
- Indian Runner
- Buff Orpington
- East Indie
- Abacot Ranger
- Hook Bill
Some of the duck breeds on this list, like the ever-popular Pekin, are what are commonly called multi-purpose or dual-purpose ducks. Duck breeds in the multi-purpose category are equally (or nearly so) accomplished at consistently producing a high quantity of eggs and offering a high yield of robust and tender meat.
Breeds To Consider When Purchasing Ducks For Meat
- Silver Appleyard
- Khaki Campbell
- Swedish Blue
- Buff Orpington
- Swedish Yellow
Assuming All You Need To Become A Breeder Is A Drake And A Few Hens
Not all duck breeds, even if they are excellent egg layers, are successful sitters. The Pekin duck breed is my favorite to raise due to its egg-laying, meat, free-ranging capabilities, and demeanor. But, Pekin hens are notoriously lousy sitters. The occasional hen may attempt to sit her eggs for a little while but gets easily bored and distracted and will abandon them for days – or forever.
If you purchased ducks to start a breeding operation for profit or as family meat producers (and even for eggs, as well), you need the ducklings to mature, mate, and create more and more ducklings. The cost of keeping the ducks will exceed their value if you have to continuously keep buying more ducklings because the hens you own cannot or will not successfully sit their own eggs.
I cannot recommend highly enough the need to factor in the cost of a large incubator with a self-turning arm when purchasing ducks – even if are wise enough to invest in a breed that is known to sit eggs successfully.
A large incubator capable of holding at least a few dozen duck eggs will typically cost between $100 and $150. Even if the successful hatching rate is around 50 to 70 percent, that is to be expected for newbie keepers (due to the inferior response duck eggs have to mere slight fluctuations in humidity), the egg hatching machine could pay for itself in one round of hatching.
Following the breed-specific drake to hen ratio for the purchased duck breed is vital to a breeding operation’s success and the sustained flock numbers in a meat duck endeavor. There is NO drake to hen ratio that works for all breeds. Some breeds recommend a one drake to three or even five hen ratio.
Other breeds staunchly recommend just one drake for eight to nine ducks due to the mature males’ amour nature. Over procreation can not only harm the drake, but it can also severely injure the sex organs of a hen and even cause death.
Ducklings are rarely ever (if not never) sexed when sold at a store, by a local breeder, or from a hatchery. Sexing ducklings should be left to only those who are well-trained due to the irreparable harm that you can cause to the poultry bird if it is done improperly. It is basically a guessing game as to the sex of day-old birds commonly sold in any of the venues noted above.
When starting a breeding operation or wanting solid breeders to develop an ongoing supply of meat, spending a little more time and money to find ducks old enough to be visibly sex by their plumage, sounds, body style, etc., also be well worth your while. It is far too easy to end up with all duck hens or too many drakes when buying ducklings.
Splitting up the ducks into two flocks, each with their own drake, is also a viable way to increase breeding and meat production without overly taxing any poultry birds.
Space Considerations Are Common Mistakes When Purchasing Ducks
The little ducklings you bring home are going to grow rapidly. Ducklings are born larger than any variety of chick – even the massive Brahma. They also gain weight and grow taller at a far more substantial rate.
While the ducklings can be kept in a brooder, plastic baby pool, or plastic tub in place of a brooder for a few weeks, they will need a true duck house and run or coop and run in no longer than two months from hatching – far sooner for heavyweight class ducks (true meat ducks) like the Pekin and Cayuga breeds.
It is best to have the coop and run and a water feature already set up before ever purchasing ducks. Even to build a small duck house and run could take an entire weekend, depending upon the amount of help you have with the project and basic woodworking skills.
If you are purchasing enough ducklings or mature ducks to start a whole flock at once, the house – coop and run will have to be large enough to give the birds at least 4 square feet (at their mature size) of movement space and still accommodate a minimum of one plastic baby pool and several waterers.
The run can be smaller if the ducks are going to free range daily. But there still needs to be ample room for the ducks to move about on days they might not be able to free-range due to predators being spotted on your homestead. Predators include stray cats around your backyard, or if you are gone on vacation, or sick and cannot follow your routine.
Purchasing a duck breed that is suited to your available space is equally important. A breed that thrives in a coop and runs environment will not be vocally demanding, act out destructively, or develop laying or mating problems if kept contained.
But a free-ranging-prone breed will likely develop all of the above habits if they are either kept cooped up too long or are not permitted a large space to roam about and forage for food. Again, knowing the breed and its attributes and drawbacks will help you choose one that fits the space you have for a coop and run, as well as their free-ranging tendencies. Also, consider the breed’s procreation habits so you are prepared for a possible high hatch yield multiple times per year.
Husbandry Maintenance Calculations is One The Common Mistakes When Purchasing Ducks
Ducks are fairly independent creatures in the wild. When ducks are domesticated and kept in a coop and run, there will be work for you to do. These chores can be daily and weekly to keep them healthy and happy.
Even if you have kept poultry birds for a long time, that might not prepare you for the upkeep associated with duck husbandry. Ducks, regardless of the breed, are a LOT messier than chickens, turkeys, or guineas.
First, duck droppings are larger and more liquid in texture than chicken droppings. Because of this difference, bedding will need to be changed at least once a week in the coop. This is because it will become a hotbed for mold, bacteria, and mildew growth. Living in filth will ultimately cause illness and death in the ducks. Laying of eggs and meat that are not safe to eat when in such an environment.
Ducks and Chickens Coops
The coop run will also become a muddy, murky, and stinky mess more rapidly than when keeping chickens or turkeys. Again, you have the droppings to contend with, but that is not the only reason. Jumping in and out of the plastic baby pool and splashing will turn a dry run into a mud pit. Ducks cannot be without water for more than eight hours. Removing the baby pool, even if the ducks have a pond outside of their enclosure, is not an option.
Ducks And Water
Prepare the ground for the pool splashing and muck. This is done by putting in a layer of gravel under and one foot around the diameter pool. This helps facilitate better drainage. Keeping a layer of straw on the ground will help keep the area safe and clean. The straw will need to be replenished regularly for the ducks.
Hanging waterers with a fountain feature can prevent an additional mess from occurring. Ducks can also use a livestock tub for drinking water. Ducks will splash water from their drinking waterer. They will also try feverishly to get into any water they find. When available ducks will dunk their head and neck in a nice baby pool.
Keeping ducks can be an advantageous and even lucrative proposition – if you plan accordingly before purchasing the poultry birds. Fight against the impulse buying urge until you have done your research. Choose the right breed. Prepare the best living quarters for them ahead of time. Ensure you have a clear idea of how the ducks will be used. Realize the time it will take for their regular care. And the cost before you decide. Taking all of this into consideration to avoid the common mistakes when purchasing ducks.
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