Ducks are most commonly kept as egg and meat birds on homesteads or even in large backyards, but they can also be raised as entertaining and affable pets, as well. These adorable poultry birds can make great pets, as long as keepers do not expect them to behave like a pet store bird or a cuddly kitten.
Ducklings are often chosen as pets for children around Easter. Parents sometimes have a difficult time resisting the fuzzy little cuties when their beloved child is begging for one. But, before opening your wallet to spend a few bucks on ducklings, consider the long-term time and money investment keeping the duck well-cared for will require.
Keeping ducks as pets requires the proper set up, the right kind of breed, time, space, commitment – and never raising just one alone. Ducks are flock birds, they need companionship of their own kind and not just humans to remain happy and healthy.
Agricultural supply stores like Tractor Supply and Rural King, as well as professional breeders are prohibited by law in most states from selling a single duck to a customer. In many states, buyers are required to purchase a minimum of three or four ducks at a time.
Things To Consider Before Keeping Ducks As Pets
- Do not expect a duck to curl up on your lap and cuddle, but most breeds will be affable and enjoy spending time with their keepers. Some duck breeds enjoy having their bellies gently rubbed.
- The intelligence level of ducks far surpasses that of chickens. The ducks will like to follow you around and encircle you to have treats tossed to them.
- Watching the ducks swim and waddle about is great free outdoor entertainment. If you use a baby pool in the coop run that has a slide, some of the ducklings or ducks will spend hours hopping onto it and splashing down into the water – which is also very fun to watch.
- Ducks are not mean like a goose or rooster can be and do not bite out of anger. However, they may get your finger with their fairly strong rounded bill when you are petting them or feeding them treats. This act may startle a young child, but will not break the skin.
- Ducks enjoy shiny and moving objects – similar to chickens and pet shop birds, ducks often enjoy shiny objects like mirrors, playing with strings attached to bells, and similar shimmering objects as a form of entertainment.
- Another good reason not to keep ducks inside is due to all of the toxic smells they can come into contact with. The fragrances used in hairspray, after shave, and perfume can be incredibly harmful to birds because of the manner in which their olfactory glands work.
- You will be able to tell if your duck likes you if they make a happy sounding quack that sounds similar to a chirp when they hear your voice or see you coming. If the ducks come to stand right next to your or encircle you shows they think of you as a safe space to be and hold you in a position of trust.
- Some, but not all, ducks really enjoy listening to music. Playing music for your ducks to enjoy AFTER they have become accustomed to both you and their new environment.
Potty Training – Keeping a duck as an inside pet and putting a diaper on the bird is sadly becoming popular and the focus of widely viewed YouTube videos. If you are going to keep a duck as a pet you must respect the animal and understand that as a poultry bird it is still livestock even if you name the bird and love it dearly. It will be impossible to house train a duck, it just is not going to happen no matter how hard you try.
Ducks do not possess sphincter muscles, therefore control over their urination and defecation is simply not possible. Very shortly after foraged food or poultry bird feed enters the duck, it starts to come out on the other end.
Water Access – Putting a duckling in a bathtub or even a plastic baby pool in the garage once in a while will not create the proper husbandry scenario it needs to remain either healthy or happy. A duck must have access to clean water to swim in and dip its head into at all times. Once a duckling suprasses at least two weeks old and the body oils that help it dry quickly, it should never go without water for more than eight hours – at the very most.
Growth – A duckling will mature into a far larger poultry bird in relatively no time at all. In just a few months that cute fuzzy little duckling can be a nearly mature bird that weighs between 6 to 10 pounds.
Egg Laying – Some breeds of duck hens start laying eggs when they are just a few months old. Even if you were able to purchase only female ducklings (which is unlikely because these birds are rarely sexed like chickens when sold) she will still lay eggs. While the eggs will be unfertilized if the hen does not have access to a drake, she will still drop them all around the house, porch, or backyard that is serving as a living or free ranging area. Duck lay their eggs between dusk and dawn. Anyone walking in the duck living area will likely step on an egg or two if they are not placed inside of a duck house or a coop with an attached run at night. Mature hens typically lay between 3 to 4 eggs per week.
Noise – Some duck keepers warn folks that these poultry birds can become very noisy and loud. My experience has been the opposite, but my flocks have the run of a lot of acres and a large pond to hold their attention. If the ducks are kept in a space that is too confined and become bored or agitated, they will become much more vocal.
Mess – Duck droppings are large, frequent, and messy. This is yet another reason why keeping a pet duck inside is a truly terrible idea. Even when keeping ducks as pets in a coop and run environment you still will need to deal with the mess from droppings and from all the water they will splash out of the kiddy pool or small garden pond. The bedding in the house or coop will need to be removed and replaced with new clean bedding once a week to prevent bacteria, mold, or mildew that can make the ducks severely ill.
Will Ducks Get Attached To Their Keepers?
Ducks will quickly learn who their keepers are and respond to the sight of them and sound of their voice. The more you interact with the ducks when they are ducklings, the better the chances of them accepting being petted – or having their bellies rubbed.
A duckling may imprint upon you if you actually hatch them in an incubator and again, handle them and talk to them frequently. You can order fertilized poultry bird eggs from large breeding operations, like Meyer Hatchery and Murray McMurray Hatchery, for example.