What Nobody Tells You About Raising Ducks

brooding ducks

If you’ve ever thought about raising ducks, this guest post by Rebekah Pierce of J&R Pierce Family Farm will help you get started successfully and if you already raise ducks, please share your tips in the comment section!

Here’s how our decision to start raising ducks happened.

I was waitressing at the time, and my now-husband (then my fiance) sent me a text about half an hour before my shift was about to end.

“Hey. Tractor Supply has ducklings for sale. Want to get some?”

“What kind?”

“Does it matter?”

I met him at Tractor Supply as soon as I finished work, the aroma of french fries and artificial pancake syrup still lingering on my clothes. We purchased six healthy, gorgeous Khaki Campbells and hurried to get them home to the brooder.

Our duck-raising journey didn’t turn out so great for us – we made some critical mistakes that, had we been more prepared, could have been easily avoided. When you read advice articles online, they usually center around all the joys of raising livestock – “they till your garden for you!” “they eat ticks!” “they poop magical, golden poop!”

With ducks, none of that is true.

Of course, that’s rarely true for any livestock species. However, I think there’s still a lot of advice to be given in the way of raising ducks, because they aren’t all they’re quacked – cracked – up to be.

Here is what I wish we had been told about raising ducks before we made the leap to try raising them ourselves.

They eat a lot

We wrongly assumed that our ducklings would eat about the same amount of food as our baby chicks. After all, the feed is usually packaged in the same size bags.

However, we were sorely mistaken. Ducklings eat considerably more than baby chicks – in our case, they consumed a bag of feed about every two weeks. Although you can feed them regular chick starter, those food bills can add up quite quickly.

Plus, they’re messy eaters. Consider giving them plenty of room to make a mess with their food, and always use an adult-sized feeder – don’t bother with the junior feeders, as they’ll quickly grow out of them and you’ll find yourself feeding your ducklings several times a day.

They are messy

As adorable as ducklings are, nobody ever bothers to mention how much these little guys poop. This makes sense when you consider the sheer amount of food they eat, but keep in mind that duck poop is not of the same caliber as chicken poop. You will need to change their bedding frequently – like every couple of days.

When you pick up your ducklings, make sure you already have a plan in place to dispose of all of that poop. While duck waste can be a great fertilizer for your garden, you need to have a way to get it there and a place to allow it to age appropriately before you use it.

They love water

One of the other factors that we did not think about before we embarked on our duck-raising journey was that they really, really love water. Of course, we knew that ducks like the water. However, what we did not anticipate was the sheer mess that arose as a result of them splashing and playing in their waterer all day.

Whenever we cleaned the bedding, the ducklings would have it soaked within about an hour, contributing to a greater overall stench and mess. If you keep ducklings in a brooder, remember this, as it means more upkeep and time spent cleaning and maintaining your brooder.

They grow quickly

Ducklings grow rapidly, putting on about an ounce of weight every day. This doesn’t sound like a lot, but in the duck world, it’s huge. Make sure your birds have plenty of room to move around, and don’t purchase ducklings too early in the season, like we did.

One of my biggest complaints about chain feed stores is that they get mass shipments of poultry, plants, and other seasonal items all at the same time – often, completely regardless of the weather conditions or patterns of the climate outside. We bought our ducks in early March, and while we ended up putting them outside after four weeks, this was far too early. The weather was still too cold where we live for them to be healthy, which led to a ton of other issues later on down the road.

If you make the decision to purchase ducks, don’t rush into it. Wait to pick up your ducklings until you know the weather and other conditions can support them.

They are accident-prone

You can tell a duck is going to move awkwardly just by looking at it. These clumsy creatures are incredibly adorable, but they can also get themselves into some tight spots. It’s not uncommon for them to stick their heads into small openings or to scratch themselves as they hobble around your property.

Long story short, make sure you have the resources necessary to address accidents when they happen. Brush up on basic poultry first aid, and have your veterinarian’s phone number on hand in case something happens that you cannot deal with on your own.

raising ducks

They stick together

Ducks are probably some of the most enjoyable animals to watch, particularly when they are young. They have individual personalities that really shine through, and while each breed is a little bit different, they are fascinating to watch in a group.

I have never seen another type of poultry that sticks together quite like ducks. These naturally hesitant animals are fearless when they’re in a pack, holding their own against any challenge they perceive to be in their way.

That’s what I love most about them, but also what made them so difficult to raise. Our ducks stuck together and were a tight, close-knit little pack. Unfortunately, they avoided our chickens like the plague. We foolishly thought we could house our ducks with our chickens and that we did not need a separate housing system.

This was a mistake, because our ducks wanted nothing to do with our more aggressive chickens, and vice versa. We ended up losing several to weasels because our ducks were simply too hesitant to move en masse into the chicken coop at night. We tried everything we could, from locking the group in together for several days to offering them incentives to head inside at night.

Nothing worked.

At the end of the day, if one duck decided to stay out, they all stayed out.

They are 100% worth it

Although ducks didn’t work out for us in our first go-around, I would absolutely raise them again. They are some of the most entertaining creatures to watch on your farm, and they offer superior eggs and meat as a return on your investment.

If you’ve never tried raising ducks before, now is the time. While there is some know-how involved in maintaining a healthy, successful flock, you can now consider yourself armed with the knowledge you need in order to be successful.

Don’t know what breed to raise? Read the Top 10 Domestic Duck Breeds in the US.

Rebekah Pierce blogs regularly about raising ducks (and other kinds of livestock!) on a 21st century homestead at J&R Pierce Family Farm. She is also on Instagram @jrpiercefamilyfarm and Pinterest (J&R Pierce Family Farm).

7 Things to know about Raising Ducks

26 thoughts on “What Nobody Tells You About Raising Ducks”

    • You have to put your ducks up at the edge of night. Use long stick or broom handle like a long arm to guide them where you want to go. It works great

      • I have 70 ducks. I give them canned corn at sunset. I call it corn thirty. When I tell corn thirty they all come running. They eat their corn and then go right I the pen for me.

  1. We have Indian Runner Ducks. 6 males 4 females. They are so entertaining. They will not go into the barn until dark but, they do herd fairly well. They are very messy and in winter is the worst when they have to stay in barn…but spring always returns, let the games begin. We love them.

  2. We purchased three ducks and eight chicks last spring. They all got along great. A hawk got one of our ducks and one of our hens a few months in. About a month ago, a second duck went missing, about a week after he went missing, our other duck started laying on her eggs. We weren’t sure if they had been fertilized or not, but she seemed depressed, so we let her lay on them. Last Friday, we found one had hatched, but didn’t make it. We moved mama and her eggs inside (we don’t have a brooder). Out of six eggs, four hatched, but we have five ducklings. I know twins are pretty much unheard of, but it is what it is. We let her keep the other two eggs for an extra couple days, but they never hatched, so we removed them. So far, we have five new ducklings and one protective mom.

    • Congratulations! That’s wonderful!!! We had something similar happen with our peafowl. Our peacock got hit by a car, and a couple of weeks later the peahen started setting. We were not optimistic, but she hatched four peachicks!

  3. My question, we made a drastic mistake and fed them a couple times, now, How without shooting, do we humanely get rid of them.? Our lake in back of our house is like a breeding farm. They show up at our glass doors every morning like clock-work. They crap all over the deck. We can’t even just walk outside anymore without stepping into a pile or two. It’s like a nightmare. I failed to mention We also have those EXTREMELY LOUD Chinese ducks with extremely long necks. At 5am sounds like a motorcycle group trying to break in. They’ve actually “Jimmied” our locked screen while trying to pull a B&E to our living room. The whole group falls asleep stays behind our glass windows. We stopped feeding It’s really becoming quite obnoxious. Help!!

  4. We’ve got over a dozen Muscovys moved with our chickens guineas and turkeys. No problems and the pen stays fairly clean. They have a 40’x35′ run with a 10×10 coop. There been mixed for about 9 years with no injuries or any big fights. They will eventually work it out through the pecking order. Good luck tho.

    • If someone wants to incorporate ducks into a chicken flock, muscovies are the best, as they don’t have a huge need to play in water. They are actually not true ducks. They can cross with domestic ducks, but the offspring are sterile — kind of like a horse and donkey cross.

    • Muscovy are very different from the rest of domestic ducks. They are actually more closely related to geese than they are to ducks. Their whole mindset, behavior is calmer and much easier to integrate with other livestock.

  5. I wasn’t in any way, shape or form prepared for the method of mating. I have 6 Pekins..2 male and 4 female. I don’t worry about predators getting them. I have concluded the males will kill the females then the males will kill each other. If not then they will live out their lives together as “that” couple. I love watching them waddle back and forth between the house and the pond but not too crazy about seeing the poor females up close.

    • Although duck mating was shocking to me also, I have never had a male kill a female. Hopefully that helps you to relax a little.

  6. We bought 6 Muscovies’ 4 months later I have 42 ducklings

    I have a 1 acre pond and made two large floats for them never lost another duck.

    We love them. but I can not go near the pond without being overrun by the critters
    Feed time is a battle field and I never now who me or the ducks.

    Do you have any Ideas how to teach them not to push me around so much

    • Sorry! Ducks are almost as bad as pigs. Luckily they are not as big, so not quite as dangerous. I’ve never heard of anyone being able to train a group of ducks. Just be careful so they don’t trip you!

  7. One thing I think you should mention is that medicated feed, especially medicated chicken starter, will kill young ducks. It warps their bones.

  8. A handball racquet is a wonderful tool for creating a bit of space around a person when dealing with smaller livestock like poultry, sheep, goats!

    I took care of a friend’s hobby farm for several years. She had ducks, geese, turkeys, chickens, sheep, goats, mini horses & mini donkeys. The handball racquet could be used like an extension of my arm to herd a particular animal into the enclosure.

    The handball racquet could be used to deflect a more aggressive animal away from me. (Her ram occasionally took exception to anyone walking across the pasture to get to the hay storage building. )

    The handball racquet could be used to direct a group of wandering poultry back to their pen or deflect the goose from pinching ankles.

    Handball racquets have shorter handles & broader heads than badminton or tennis racquets. I find their handles, framework & stringing to be stouter.

  9. I don’t usually buy animals on a whim, but I brought home 3 young Muscovy ducks last weekend. The kids love them and we plan to have them with a few of our chickens.

  10. Keep ducklings away from geese. Our male geese killed a half dozen ducklings before I realized he was the cause. Ducklings are awkward and don’t move fast enough to get away from a crazy goose.

  11. I’ve raised meat ducks for 2 years now and never noticed them eating much more than meat chicks. At processing time, the consumed feed is about equal although the ducks get processed a week earlier than the chickens. They do grow crazy fast, most made 5 pounds by butchering!
    They are really fun to raise, herd easily, and learn early who to run to for breakfast. I ran them in my orchard last year and they kept the weeds under control around the trees and, of course, fertilized! I bought them 3 small kiddie pools which I dumped and rinsed daily and they loved them. The only problem I had this year, which I didn’t see at all last year, was they started having problems walking and within a few hours would be dead. I lost a dozen of them this way before my friend told me to give them kelp (Thorvin) and put cell salts in their drinking water. After that, I didn’t lose anymore. I will always offer that immediately from now on!

  12. If you feed ducklings chicken feed you need to add niacin to it so they get the (? I think but just check the label on duck food bag) 58mg per 1 kilo(2.2 pounds) which they need to develop properly.

  13. I raise Ancona ducks. To keep brooder easy to clean, I lay puppy pads down. For first few days. After that I cover pads with pine shavings. To clean I roll and toss, to compost I shake the shavings off the pad onto the compost pile. I keep the water on trays to catch the mess. I cut plastic milk jugs to hold water deep enough to have them cover eyes but to high for the babies to climb in. To make sure proper niacin, I keep it simple and feed purina duck. I break pellets with a rolling pin for very young. After first few days I start using a brooder plate rather then heat lamp, for safety reasons. My adults outside all trained to go into the duck house at dusk. Takes about 3 days of picking them up and putting them in the coop. Once they learn where they live they go on their own. Older teach the newer. Q


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