Basic Guide to Keeping 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. 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 last year from our flock, as well as a very old Saxony Mallard (right) and several wild ducks who have made our pond their home.
Duck housing is very different from that of poultry housing as they have different requirements. Ducks do not roost at night so do not require perches. Equally they will lay eggs anywhere so do not need a specific nest box in which to lay eggs.
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, good ventilation, like that of the Small Classic Duck with its side window, 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 out to clean it. The Duck Lodge comes with cord to hold it in place and then you pull it back to the bank to make cleaning easier.
However, a pond is not essential if you wish to keep ducks. They do need permanent access to water for cleaning themselves and for dunking their heads to wash their eyes, this is very important. A large washing up bowl or a children's paddling pool make ideal 'duck ponds' for most breeds of duck, it is only if you are keeping some of the larger breeds that a proper pond may be necessary.
If you would like to keep your ducks enclosed to a certain area, a one metre high fence is usually good enough to keep most breeds in. Ducks are notorious wanderers and can travel great distances if not penned, putting them at risk from predators, so containing them somehow is the best way. Electric fencing is not advised for ducks as they have a tendency to try and barge their way through it, they can become entangled and the repeated electric shocks can kill them.
Food and Water
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 dirty. 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 Drinker is ideal for ducks as it has an enclosed tank that feeds a constant supply of fresh water into the raised dish below. This raised enclosed tank and raised dish prevents the ducks' water being contaminated by their messy habits.
Ducks are omnivores, like chickens, and will eat both insects and vegetable matter. Our ducks at Flyte so Fancy eat Layers Pellets, the same as our hens, but you need to make sure that you provide an open 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 chicken 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, become seriously ill, or in extreme cases die. The Smallholder Range is Coccidiostat free and they also make specific waterfowl grower pellets.
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 inside to allow you to clean thoroughly. The Classic Duck Houses for example have a removable side panel to allow you right inside, while the Puddleduck Duck House has a hinged roof allowing top down access for cleaning.
As ducks do not perch, they sleep, lay and poo in the bedding in their house, 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 don't suffer with red mite, due to ducks thick, oiled feathers making it hard for the red mite to feed on them, however, using a cleaner like Poultry Shield to kill off any organic matter, bacteria or mould in the house is recommended.
Unlike chickens, ducks are more likely to regularly lay throughout the winter months.
Ducks eggs are larger than hen's eggs, with a larger yolk and a stronger shell but very tasty and make terrific cakes and bakes.
Before the arrival of hybrid hens in the 1950's, and their ability to intensively lay eggs, Ducks were the largest egg producers in the UK.
They became less popular for a while but these days you can not only buy duck eggs in some supermarkets, but also from many local farm shops.
Enjoy your Ducks!
Basic Guide to Duck Keeping is ©Flyte so Fancy 2010. Author: Anne Weymouth. Reproduction of part or all of this text is only possible with the express permission of Flyte so Fancy Ltd.