You might be thinking about starting a duck farm business. Your new venture can be quite profitable, as long as the proper planning and animal husbandry tactics are used from the beginning stages of the process. Just like chickens, you can raise ducks for either meat or eggs – both. As a duck farmers you can also opt to be a breeder as well and sell ducklings and breeding pairs to customers.
A growing number of Americans have either transitioned from keeping chickens to ducks or merely added ducks into an existing chicken farm business. Why? Because ducks are often less expensive to keep, are more hardy in both hot and cold weather, produce larger and more eggs annually and often lay extremely close to year round.
Ducks also start laying eggs at a younger age than chickens and most breeds still continue quality and quantity breeding until they are about six years old. There are roughly 20 million ducks raised for profit on farms across American annually.
Duck Farming Risk vs Reward
You know that duck eggs and duck meat are not a traditionally raised type of poultry bird. When you look closer folks who are eager for duck meat and especially duck eggs, has grown substantially in the United States. Duck eggs are particularly popular with bakers and duck meat is sought after in upscale restaurants.
Finding a market for duck eggs and duck meat should not be a difficult thing no matter where you live. You may be blessed to live in a rural area, domesticated duck meat has often become nearly as popular as the wild duck meat hunted in such regions.
Raising large breeds on a duck farm will bring in significantly more money per bird than a chicken – and at a lower cost to raise. Every country lady who loves to bake already knows the great value of using eggs to make crusts, cakes, donuts, and a host of other table favorites.
The investment into starting a duck farm business is decidedly low. Ducks are not expensive to purchase – they often cost less than poults (baby turkeys) and are generally equally in price to chicks even though they grow much larger in size.
You do not need a large space to keep ducks or even a full-size pond … though your flock would love to have a pond to call their own. Ducks merely need a kiddie pool to get in to duck their necks and heads to keep their nostril membranes moist and to splash around for pleasure and cleaning – ducks are very conscious about their cleanliness. Get a simple duck house or a coop large enough to keep them with an existing flock of chickens. You will need a caged run area to roam in when they are not free-ranging. This is all that is needed to set up a duck habitat for farming purposes.
How To Start A Duck Farm Business
Define Your Purpose
The first step to becoming a duck farmer is deciding exactly what kind of duck farmer you want to become. You can choose to raise ducks for meat, eggs, solely as a breeder for table or show birds – or a combination of any or all of the above.
Do your research. You want to purchase a breed that is known for the product you want to produce – meat or eggs. There are multi-purpose duck breeds that are good at producing both, like the Pekin. The feathers and down from some duck breeds can also fetch a high price.
Deciding to keep ducks of different breeds and/or for different purposes, you should raise them in separate enclosures, run spaces, and water sources. This is necessary to keep each line pure to prevent cross-breeding. When ducks are turned out to free range at the same time outside of the duck house – coop and run environment, cross-breeding will likely occur during this time, as well.
You will need to have adequate space and funds available to develop two or more separate duck enclosures. A duck farming scenario like this will take more planning, space, and husbandry time, but can also churn out more profit. Weigh the duck farming focus options clearly before moving onto the next step in the process and purchasing actual birds.
Suggested breeds if you are going to raise ducks for eggs: Welsh Harlequin, Pekin, Buff, Khaki Campbell, Rouen, and Saxony. Quality meat duck breed suggestions include: Pekin, Ayelsbury, Cayuga, Indian Runner, Muscovy, and to a slightly lesser degree, Khaki Campbell.
Set Up duck house and run or expand an existing chicken coop. This will accommodate the new ducks you will be keeping. When building a duck house or revamping a coop to house the new additions to the farm, keep in mind that almost no domesticated duck breeds can really fly. The hens will need nesting boxes at ground level.
Ducks are larger than chickens. You will need more space to roam indoors during inclement weather – although they prefer to remain outdoors even during times of cold and rain. Allow each duck at least two square feet of movement space inside any housing. Also, build with the anticipation of growing your herd in the future as well as for the housing of ducklings – even for a short while until they are sold, if you plan on establishing a breeding routine as a part of your duck farming business.
Exactly how much it will cost to build a duck house will depend on how many ducks you will be keeping. Consider how may you may have in the future too. You can build a spacious run for the ducks that will not be very expensive and is vital to your healthy husbandry plans. Giving ducks ample room to roam outdoors will keep down the mess the large watery droppings on the inside of the run. You may find that bacteria that can grow from droppings that are spread throughout the duck house. This happens as the ducks waddle back and forth and it can become deadly. Cleaning the bedding in the duck house regularly will be a part of your weekly duck farm business chores.
When the ducks spend time in a spacious run with both a water feature and a shady covered area, their droppings will be less problematic because they will be absorbed into the soil.
Do some math and determine how much duck feed you can at least initially afford each week. The price of duck feed (or chicken feed, which can also be used) varies by location but you should expect to spend between $10 to – $18 per 50 pound bag. One bag of feed is enough to keep a flock of 12 mature ducks well fed for seven days. This can last longer if they are free ranging during the spring through fall months.
Ducks are not destructive to crops like chickens due to the differences in their beaks. You can allow them into the garden to help the ducks fulfill their protein needs at no cost to you. You can purchase a duck breed that is known to hatch avid foragers. This will help keep husbandry costs down while the birds gain weight naturally at a healthy pace.
Breed Mating Ratios
Follow the recommended mature drake to mature hen ratio for the breed that you are raising. Overbreeding or stressing the hens happens when too many drakes or too few hens are in the flock. This can cause irreparable harm or even death of the hens. Ultimately the failure of your duck farm business can happen in mere months.
Some ducks that are efficient breeders and consummate egg layers are also lousy sitters – the Pekin breed being one prime example. Invest in an incubator with an automatic self-turning arm (about $100) even if you hope to hatch ducklings naturally.
Marketing and Selling Your Product
You have planned out the type of duck farm business you wish to launch. And you have purchased a flock of mature birds or ducklings to raise into a mature flock. Now it is time to start marketing and selling your new product.
Learn and strictly adhere to any livestock production laws at both the federal and state level to ensure you are in compliance with any husbandry techniques, living area, and vaccine mandates that could provoke large fines or even jail time.
State and local laws pertaining to the selling of livestock or livestock products vary greatly. You may live in a “right to farm” state. Odds are you can sell live animals. You can sell the products they made. You can also sell products made from them. Start by selling directly from your farm or at a farmer’s market. You can established a reputation as a quality farmer or breeder. Then market directly to restaurants to sell processed duck meat. Or market live ducks for butchering, or duck eggs, is entirely possible.
Set up a farm website as well as social media. Establish profiles to market your birds and products made from them. This is an inexpensive and fairly easy way to introduce your new business to the community. Include photos and videos of your flock members and their living areas. Also include ample information about your raising techniques and husbandry.
You may decide to raise organic or GMO-free duck meat and eggs. Or raising free range and not cage-kept birds, may appeal to a lot of customers. Marketing these features will allow you to garner a higher price for your products.
The average income of a duck farmer averages roughly $15 per hour or $30,540, according to the Economic Research Institute. It may take a year or even far longer to turn a duck farm business into a full-time profitable endeavor. Start small and build upon a healthy and established flock to increase both your reputation and sales bottom line.