A few things you should know ‘Before’ your duckling(s) arrive at your home.
Ducks are easy to raise, naturally free from disease, and once started require little commercial feed. Although most ducks are raised for their meat, they do lay well and can provide you lots of eggs. Ducks are an attractive addition to any backyard or barnyard.
Avoid chicken feeds that contain medication(s). I feed non-medicated poultry mash feed from day one. Ducks consume more water than the same number of chicks. Keep fresh water available 24/7.
Ducks come in all sizes and colors. The smallest being the call ducks(bantam) size to the huge Muscovies that can weigh 12 pounds or more.
Ducks are related to Geese and Swans and are omnivores, they will eat weeds, seeds, grain, insects, slugs and snails. Pretty much they will eat anything that does not eat them first.
Hint Ducks do not scratch when feeding like chickens, so they won’t dig up your vegetable or flower gardens like chickens do when feeding.
Domestic ducks (except for Muscovies) are all descended from Mallards most of them have been bred so that their bodies are too heavy and wings too small to support flying. Of the mallard derived breeds, only Calls and some of the other small bantam ducks can fly but generally choose not to fly.
Ducks are not a popular, high demand meat bird for most Americans. However areas with large Asian, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese and such populations you may find the demand out strips your ability to produce enough ducks to satisfy the demand for these birds and their eggs.
Khaki Campbells were developed in Britain around 1900 by a Mrs. Adele Campbell. They are small-ish ducks and excellent layers, outlaying the most prolific chickens, with 275 to 340 eggs per year being typical. The Khaki Campbell is a hardy and active duck and an excellent forager.
Buff or Buff Orpingtons Is a dual-purpose breed, developed in England for both eggs and meat, and introduced to the States in the early 1900s. Actually, Orpington Ducks originally occurred in four other varieties (Blue, Silver, Black and Chocolate) but only the Buff are common today. In North America they are called Buff Ducks, while in the land of their origin they are called Orpingtons. These ducks lay a white or tinted egg.
Mallard ducks Wild Mallard is the ancestor of all of our domestic ducks with the exception of the Muscovy. If you find a Mallard’s nest on your property and don’t see the mother on the eggs, don’t worry. Ducks lay an egg every day or two until they have a full clutch (usually 8 to 15) only then will the hen start to sit on them. It takes the eggs 28 days to hatch from when she starts sitting all the time.
Muscovies ducks are the only domestic ducks that are not derived from Mallard. They are a South American species. The original (in the wild) coloration is black and white, but domestication has produced many more colors, including white, black, chocolate, and blue. The males are large, weighing twelve pounds or more. The smaller females reaching only seven pounds.
Their feet have strong sharp claws and are built to grasp, so that they can perch on branches. Some people consider them ugly because of the large red warty caruncles above the beak and around the eyes. They are, however, very personable and interesting birds, and quite intelligent. Unlike most domestic waterfowl, Muscovies will often fly up and roost. They fly fairly well, especially the smaller females, but are known more for flying around than flying away!
The meat of the Muscovy is unlike that of the other domestic ducks. It is not greasy and is much more like veal than like poultry.
Pekin ducks are large white domestic duck. Peking duck is a dish (often containing a Pekin duck) on the menu in a Chinese restaurant.
Pekins ducks were developed as a meat and egg breed, and broodiness was bred out of them so that they’d lay more. Therefore, if you have Pekin eggs, you’ll need to incubate them artificially incubate and hatch Pekin duck eggs. Generally most Pekin ducks are non-flyers and non-setters and will never sit and hatch a clutch of eggs.
If you are growing ducks for market or as a family meat source Pekin is the top breed of choice. They will be table size (butcher size) in only 7 to 10 weeks of age. A full 8 to 12 weeks sooner than other duck breeds.
Rouen ducks (pronounced roan) ducks are a large breed of duck with the same color pattern as the wild mallard. Rouens have a very large, almost dragging, keel, the flesh hanging under the breast and between the legs. These are the birds you typically get when acquiring ducks from commercial hatcheries. They are easy to raise and are good foragers.
McMurray Hatchery has a lot of good pictures and general information on Buying and Raising Ducks.
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