My wife and I purchased four ducks earlier this year in the spring at our local Tractor Supply store. We had no experience in raising ducks or farm animals of any kind, but decided to move forward anyways. Luckily we live in an area that is zoned for owning poultry and livestock (for personal use) and we wanted to dip our toes in a longer term goal/dream of having a fully off-grid property. There were several reasons we decided to go with ducks instead of chickens, primarily we went the duck route, because they are not as noisy and not as smelly (chicken feces has a distinct pungent odor). They also lay eggs (although not as many as chickens) and we thought that they were unique. How many people do you know that own ducks? Anyways since we bought 4 ducks, here are 4 things I learned from raising them!
1. Ducks are Messy!
Pictured above are the four adorable ducks we purchased. Don’t let their cute looks fool you! These are the messiest animals we have ever had the pleasure of raising and we’ve raised quite a few animals including rats (fancy and dumbo), rabbits, cockatiels, cats, dogs, and various fish. So what they don’t tell you (whoever “they” are) is that ducks require water to eat their food. Lots of water…
We kept our ducks in a bin and later when they got older a kiddie swimming pool. We filled their enclosure with pine chips and had to constantly give them water and change their pine chips out daily as they would splash water all over the place creating a huge soggy mess. We alleviated some of the mess by using a paint tray and a metal paint liner – and put the water at the end to filter out some of the debris they were tracking in their water.
2. Ducks Eat Plants
After a few months our ducks survived adolescence and reached adulthood. We could no longer keep them in the small makeshift enclosure we made for them, so we made them a larger one outside. As you can see in the photo above, there is not a spot of green inside of their enclosure aside from the bush next to their hutch. Ducks will devour just about any plant you put near them. Believe it or not the entire pen was filled with lush green grass and other plantlife (mostly weeds), now it’s like a barren desert. The ducks literally ate all of the grass. We now use straw and grass clippings to fill their enclosure with.
3. Ducks are Vulnerable
One of our ducks somehow injured their leg and was in quite a bit of pain. She was shivering and we had to quarantine her so she wouldn’t get hurt even more. My wife picked the duck up and wrapped her in a towel to warm our duck up, but noticed something unusual. The duck was crying, not wailing type crying, but tears were streaming down it’s face. It was quite the site. You may get really attached to your ducks, so be mindful of that if you want to raise them for meat.
On another note, ducks are easy prey. Once they are captured they do not struggle or make much noise, and unfortunately this vulnerability became the reason for two of our ducks demises. Unfortunately what we thought was a secure enclosure was not and a raccoon managed to sneak in and kill a few of our birds (on different nights). Raccoons are the duck’s nemesis and they will kill a duck by tearing it’s head off and eating it’s innards. It’s quite a gruesome site. We now have proper defenses against raccoons and other bandits, with a double enclosure system and we will be putting up an electric fence in the near future. Lesson learned, albeit at the cost of two our favored fowls lives.
4. Ducks take Time
If you think ducks are a set it and forget it poultry, you are sorely mistaken. Ducks require a lot of upkeep, especially if you don’t have a pond or small lake. Ducks require a lot of water, as mentioned earlier that’s how they digest and eat their food. You have to constantly change their water – at least once or twice daily as their water gets really disgusting. They defecate in their water as well as track dirt and do their general cleaning in it. Unlike chickens, you can’t just leave them for weeks at a time, you more than likely will have to have someone check in on them if you are on vacation or on an extended trip away.
Raising ducks has been a great learning experience and our little experiment of raising our four ducks will lead to our next adventure. Raising an additional 4 ducks next Spring. 3 duck egg producers and one for show (a crested duck) as well a goose to for additional poultry protection. Below is a photo of a crested duck!
Thanks for reading!