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Posted by Anne Weymouth
Created 20th October 2009 Chickens & Ducks

Basic Guide to Keeping Ducks

Flyte so Fancy Ducks

Flyte so Fancy Ducks

Ducks have been a part of the flock here at Flyte so Fancy HQ for nearly as long as the chickens have. 

These waddling, quacking, insouciant 'quackers' are the comedians of the Flyte so Fancy family, so much fun to watch. We also have annual visits from Moorhens, Swans, Canada Geese - and once, a confused Cormorant.

Living on our pond we have a small paddling of Cayugas, Mallards, Silver Appleyards and Cherry Valley crosses that hatched out from our flock, as well as several wild ducks who have made our pond their home (along with some very large carp!).

They happily dip, dabble and paddle around the pond all day long and live in the Floating Duck Lodge that sits in the middle of the pond.

Duck Housing

Ducks on the Floating Duck House

Duck housing is quite different from that of poultry housing as they have different requirements. Ducks do not roost at night and so do not require perches. Equally, they will lay eggs anywhere and so do not need a specific nest box in which to do this.

It should be noted that Ducks, unlike chickens, do not always put themselves to bed in their houses as it gets dark.  You should be able to train some breeds to do this but, generally speaking, you would have to 'herd' them into the house in the evening. If you keep them within a wire mesh run with their house it is perhaps more likely they will go inside the house at night. If in a paddock with a large pond they will probably just float together on the pond at night, which itself will still keep them safe from predators.

The rule of 1sq foot of space inside a house for a chicken can be applied to ducks, depending on the size of the breed of course. However, as they are not perching it is a good idea to allow a little more floor space per bird.

Duck Housing should also be lower to the ground and have a large access door to allow easy entry. Ducks tend to act in a flock and a small door can lead to a crush as they all try to go through the door at once. Duck housing should also have good ventilation. Not being particularly fussy about how messy they are being, ducks need good ventilation, like that of the Puddleduck Duck House with its sliding ventilation window, which is ideal. 

If you have your housing on a float or an island in the middle of a pond, you will need to make sure that you can get at it for cleaning. The Floating Duck Lodge (image right) comes with cord to hold it in place and then you can pull it back to the bank to make cleaning possible.

However, a pond is not absolutely essential if you wish to keep ducks. They do need permanent access to water for cleaning themselves though, especially for dunking their heads to wash their eyes, this is very important. A large bowl or a children's paddling pool make ideal 'ponds' for most breeds of duck. If you are keeping some of the larger breeds a proper pond may be necessary. 

Finally, if you would prefer to keep your ducks enclosed within a fenced area, a one metre high fence is usually high enough to keep most breeds in. Ducks are notorious wanderers (and yes, some can fly), they can travel great distances if not penned, putting them at risk from predators, so containing them somehow is perhaps advisable.

Electric Netting is not recommended for ducks as they will try and barge their way through, they can become entangled and then the repeated electric shocks can kill them. A wire mesh fence would be best but perhaps electric wires on the outside to keep out predators.

Food and Water for Ducks

Ducks washing their heads

As previously mentioned it is important to provide ducks with water so that they can keep themselves clean. However, if this is their only source of water it can quickly become muddied. If you are using a large washing-up bowl or similar as their supply of water, you will need to make sure that it is regularly refilled with fresh water. 

A Poultry Drinker like a Honeypot Drinkers is ideal for ducks as it has an enclosed tank that feeds a constant supply of freshwater into the raised dish below. This raised enclosed tank and raised dish prevents the duck's water from being contaminated by their messy habits. Equally, we can suggest the BEC Auto Duck Drinkers as a way to keep drinking water clean.

Ducks are omnivores, like chickens, and will eat both insects and vegetable matter. Our Flyte so Fancy ducks eat Layers Pellets, the same as our hens, but you need to make sure that you provide a feeder that allows them to use their bills in a scooping action. There are specialist duck feeds available, such as the Fancy Feed Fenland Waterfowl Pellets, rich in proteins and oils perfect for ducks. 

If you are feeding ducklings a chick feed, you need to make sure that the feed you are giving them does not contain a Coccidiostat. This is a medication added into the feed to prevent Coccidiosis, a common poultry disease. Ducklings eat a greater quantity of feed than chicks, and so can overdose, going weak on their legs and become seriously ill. The Poultry Feeds we offer are all Coccidiostat free.

Cleaning the Duck House

Access for Cleaning the Duck House

Keeping a duck house clean is an important part of keeping your ducks in tip-top condition. You will want to make sure that the duck house provides adequate access e.g. removable panels, to allow a thorough clean.

The Classic Duck Houses for example, have a removable side panel to allow good access to the inside, while the Puddleduck Duck House has a hinged roof allowing top-down access for cleaning.

As ducks do not perch when they sleep, they lay and poo in the bedding in their house, we recommend that cleaning should be done at least once a week, if not more often. Simply line the floor of the coop with a thick layer of bedding (straw is popular and cheap but Hemp Bedding is very absorbent and less smelly), sweep this out and replace at least weekly.

Duck houses tend not to suffer red mite infestations due to ducks thick, oiled feathers making it hard for the red mite to feed on them. However, when it comes to duck house hygiene, using a cleaner to kill off any organic matter, bacteria or mold in the house is recommended. This can be done with products like Poultry Shield liquid, a sanitiser and degreaser, followed by a Coop & Run Sanitising Powder which is super absorbent and will help to reduce the smell.

Duck Eggs

Egg Box Lable for Duck Eggs

Unlike chickens, ducks are more likely to regularly lay their eggs throughout the winter months, although it must be said, not necessarily where you can find them easily.

Duck eggs are larger than hen's eggs, with a larger yolk and a stronger shell but very tasty and they make terrific cakes and bakes.

Before the arrival of hybrid hens in the 1950s, and their ability to intensively lay eggs, Ducks were the largest egg producers in the UK. But, along came supermarkets with their requirements for larger volumes and, because it was harder to intensively 'battery farm' ducks, they were not so readily available.

They became less popular for a while but these days you can not only buy duck eggs in some supermarkets, at a premium but also from many local farm shops.

At Flyte so Fancy we have available Jumbo Egg Boxes to take eggs of that size and then a personalised Egg Box Label range for Duck Eggs.

Basic Guide to Keeping Ducks ©Flyte so Fancy Ltd 2010. Author: James Bezant. Reproduction of part or all of this text is only possible with the express permission of Flyte so Fancy Ltd.

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