Ducks are one of the most popular pets in the world, particularly for those who have a nice big garden and a pond. Ducks are fun, intelligent and enjoyable to watch. Often, ducks raised from eggs have a fantastic bond with their owners and become their shadow. Keeping ducks is relatively inexpensive and easy to pick up if you do the research. However, below are five things you should definitely keep in mind.
Ducks are a Big Commitment
Before you even bring a duck home, you must ensure you have the time and space to look after them properly. Ducks will need to be protected and sheltered from predators and the environment; do you have the time and money to make this a reality?
Get yourself clued up on all things waterfowl, from health concerns to diet. You can also speak to your veterinarian about getting a duck and the commitment it will entail. They can also help you pin point a variety of breeds that would be most suitable for you.
Some Duck Breeds Are Easier Than Others
There are a plethora of different duck breeds to choose from. From the emerald green Cayuga to the traditional Rouen, each type of duck has their own special traits. This means, there are some that suit beginners better than others.
Campbell ducks are a very popular duck for smallholders and have a super egg laying ability. They have a friendly temperament and are low maintenance – ideal for those getting to grips with duck husbandry!
If you don’t have a huge garden or plot of land, the twee Call duck could be ideal. They are bred purely as pets, which is why you might be mistaken for assuming they are just juvenile specimens of popular breeds. They come in a variety of colours and are very manageable.
Indian Runner ducks are championed in the domestic duck world. They are flightless ducks and tend to run in formation which can be a joy to watch. They can be timid, so time will need to be spent forming a bond with them. They lay excellent eggs and enjoy foraging.
Bread Isn’t Good for Ducks
Carbohydrates such as bread lend little nutritional value to ducks and can actually be potentially dangerous. Bread is essentially junk food to ducks so avoid feeding your flock any as too much bread can lead to weight gain and malnutrition. Furthermore, mouldy bread can lead to aspergillosis, a fatal lung condition.
An ideal duck diet will be primarily made up with a base of pellets or mixed grain. This contains all the nutrients your duck will need. Furthermore, 15% of the diet should be protein and access to shell grit as of source of calcium is vital for strong shelled eggs.
Protect Your Ducks from Predators
They may be the light of your life, but to another animal they are dinner. Ducks are prey to many predators so having a safe and sturdy place for your ducks, particularly at night, is paramount if you want flock numbers to remain the same.
Those who work from home or have a smallholding tend to let their ducks roam free in the day. Your ducks know where home is and if one goes for a wander, don’t panic, they’ll be back. If you aren’t comfortable with this, or don’t have the means, ensure your duck’s enclosure is roomy enough for everyone to waddle and run in freely.
At night, lock your flock safely away in a duck coop. Many come with special preventative measures to stop Mr Fox getting hold of your ducks. The best advice is to not scrimp on your duck coop and run. Invest time and money into making it as strong and protected as possible.
Common Duck Diseases
Keeping your ducks healthy will mean you need to keep an eye out for any poorly flock members. Diseases and illnesses spread easily and there are some common issues you should look out for:
Duck Virus Hepatitis – this disease commonly attacks duckling between one and 28 days old. It is fatal as the ducklings’ immune system isn’t fully developed. The infected ducklings will have spasmodic legs and an enlarged liver. It is highly contagious.
Duck Plague – another highly contagious disease is duck plague, caused by the herpes virus. Infected ducks will appear lethargic and have greenish-yellow diarrhoea sometimes with spots of blood.
Fowl Cholera – this disease is due to poor sanitation and the spread of bacteria. Symptoms include diarrhoea, mucous discharges and loss of appetite. This disease can be treated with medication and proper sanitation.
Pasteurella Anatipestifer Infection – this is one of the most distressing illnesses to witness and is a common duck diseases that causes high loss of life. Associated symptoms includes eye discharge, diarrhoea, lack of coordination and a twisted neck.