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Enough about chickens. What about ducks?

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  • Enough about chickens. What about ducks?

    As long as I'm logged on, for a change, and diligently avoiding doing what I should be doing, I'll finally ask the questions I've been thinking of asking.

    Anyone have ducks? For eggs, in particular.

    What type? Any experience with Khaki Campbells or runners?

    Problems, concerns? I know they tend to be popular with predators, but so would chickens, I'd think.

    Where do you keep them? Ever keep them in the barn with the horses?

    Did you build a duck house/pen for them? And if so, post pictures, please.

    What have you done for freezing winter water? It seems many people just water them twice a day then, but that seems as unappealing to me as watering the horses just twice a day (this is Minnesota, after all, and leaving a 100 gallon stock tank without a heater in it for 12 hours can mean 100 gallons of solid ice).

    We're contemplating a foray into duck-raising (I prefer them to chickens, but haven't had either). We're read the Storey book on ducks, have at least browsed the duck stuff at backyardchicken, and are beginning to seriously contemplate duck house design. Any advice, pearls of wisdom, or cautionary tales are welcomed.

  • #2
    I would love to have ducks.

    (say the snapping turtles in my pond)
    Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
    Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
    -Rudyard Kipling


    • #3
      Ducks and horses -- you either have to keep the ducks penned up or make your horse water source duck-proof. Otherwise your horses will all be refusing to drink duck bathwater...


      • #4
        I have ducks that are Khaki Campbells and crosses. I like them. They're a hoot.

        When the weather freezes, I break the ice for them so they have something to drink. But I am in a notably milder climate than you.

        Mine can fly and have been known to fly out of their fenced area. They usually come back.

        I have not had problems with predators getting them during the day (daytime predators have taken our bantam chickens). However, they need to be secured at night. This can be inconvenient. Alternately, you can secure the whole pen against predators, which would involve a roof or perhaps a tall and electrified fence. I have let them free-range also, but sometimes the free rangers decided to hide and make nests and not come in at night, and became someone's dinner.

        We've sometimes had problems with rats and other birds coming in and eating their food, adding to the feed bill. It's pretty much cost-prohibitive to rat-proof an entire duck run.

        The eggs are a blue-green color, on the large side, and great for baking. I don't like them so much for eating plain, although my daughter likes them fine.
        If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket


        • #5
          I don't have any... *yet*
          We need to make the pond deeper and duck-friendly first

          I grew up with ducks. Pekins and Muscovy. I am dying to have Muscovys again - they are SO SMART and just too much fun.
          I have a yearning for some Call Ducks too... but we'll see what happens


          • #6
            When we were training border collies, we tried some Indian Runner ducks, because they are good herding ducks, unlike most ducks, that scatter like chickens when disturbed.
            Those were very smart and gentle ducks.


            • #7
              We have a duck in with our chickens. She is a muscovy and is very lovely. She produced an egg a day (she hatched early 2009, started laying towards the end of summer) until about a month ago. She will occasionally climb the ramp to get into a nesting box, but struggles to fly up to the boxes without help (our nesting boxes are shoulder height). She eats 5 way scratch and drinks from a large baby pool that we have out in the yard. She also bathes in this. We have a swamp as well, so she spends a lot of time getting muddy


              • #8
                Ducks stop their laying for the winter much sooner than chickens, so you can't count on them for year-round eggs. Some chickens will lay all winter.
                If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket


                • #9
                  Muscovy's are definitely fugly creatures! My friends Mom had three, BBQ, Teriyaki and Fried. I believe those ducks lived to a ripe old age on home cooked rice and leftovers. They had a chicken wire pen below the house, nothing fancy. IIRC one of them was killed by a neighborhood dog, not too long after an egg had been laid, so one of them was actually "the second".
                  Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
                  Incredible Invisible


                  • #10
                    I used to have 8 ducks and loved them! But they actually were a lot of work to keep them safe from predators. Mallards, Indian Runners, Buff Orpingtons, East Indie Blacks and 2 Calls.

                    Had a duck house and they were trained to come up from the pond in the evening to be locked up. I used hay in their "house" -- deep litter method for the winter -- with a dog waterer that didn't freeze too often in the winter.

                    Duck house: lots of ventilation using small hardware cloth (weasels and other varmits can squeeze through anything larger). We built ours with plywood, and made long "windows" up high on two sides. Also, don't forget to wire the floor as well. Black snakes LOVE to sneak in and steal eggs and having a hardware cloth floor also protects them from critters like foxes that will dig under to get to them.

                    My favorite were the little white Call ducks, but they're so friendly and little they make for easy prey for everything, ESPECIALLY snappers.

                    So "Daisy" moved to my house early-on. Lived in the greenshouse attached to my bedroom for years with her own swimming pool...for 14 years. She was a kick.

                    "Dewey" my last mallard lived for 17 years -- the last few in a rabbit hutch in the barn aisle next to my stallion, Boleem. He had cataracts, so I'd let him out to run around in the wash stall a few times a day. He loved a good spraying down.

                    As much as I loved them, I wouldn't get more. Predators situation is a bummer.
                    www.littlebullrun@aol.com See Little Bull Run's stallions at:
                    "Argosy" - YouTube and "Boleem" - YouTube
                    Boleem @ 1993 National Dressage Symposium - YouTube


                    • #11
                      Want some of these?

                      I put corn out for the turkeys, but every night at dusk I have this horde of mallards who descend on the feeder. So, now I put corn out for the ducks, also. I have to, or the turkeys wouldn't get anything.

                      Didn't ducks used to migrate?
                      If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.
                      Desmond Tutu


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Louise View Post
                        Want some of these?

                        I put corn out for the turkeys, but every night at dusk I have this horde of mallards who descend on the feeder. So, now I put corn out for the ducks, also. I have to, or the turkeys wouldn't get anything.

                        Didn't ducks used to migrate?
                        We are having such an open winter that some ducks and sandhill cranes never did go any further here this year.

                        If we have a really bad winter and the little open water we have freezes over, then they go on, but since we have not been there, just were very cold a few days and then back to too warm for January, the lazy bums are staying around here.

                        You may want to ask your game warden about how appropiate it may be to feed wildlife where you are.
                        Some times, it is not that good an idea, promotes crowding and disease transmission between flocks.


                        • #13
                          We had ducks and they are "nice" but....they do muck up water sources. The trade off is watching them enjoy the water- waaay cute.

                          Mainly I didn't like how dang loud they were. They had strong opinions and quacked them out every.time.I.walked.out the back door. One male duck started killing our hens so he was rehomed to a farm pond otherwise they all got along quite well. Downside, they are fodder to the Red Tailed Hawks who would swoop down into the barn yard for a quick kill.

                          Hens, that's a whole 'nuther creature...they add so much to the daily routine of a barn yard.


                          • #14
                            If you really want fowl excitement living, get a gaggle of geese.


                            • #15
                              My sister in law has ducks. Two are Khaki-Campells, one is a Pekin and two are Cayuga.

                              She keeps them in the horse barn and retrofitted a stall into a duck room. The horse wasn't super fond of the ducks, but learned to live with it. She has a heated waterbucket in the duck pen and lets them outside during the day. During the summer, she has one of those plastic kid pools for them and they seem to enjoy that.

                              Her ducks are still producing eggs, even now. The khaki-campells are pretty cute and so are the cayuga, but the Pekin is by far the friendliest. The Khaki-Campells are the most shy in her bunch and all of the ducks were initially reared in the house, so they had lots of interaction.

                              They're pretty cute and fun to have around and they do quack...a lot. They like to come up on the porch and quack for some cereal treats and stuff too.

                              She didn't have a problem with the ducks getting into the horse/llama water, but the trough is pretty high up and her ducks are pretty unathletic/uninspired to do the work to get up there.

                              She's in Wisconsin by the way...
                              Semi Feral


                              • #16
                                I have ducks, and they're absolutely lovely. The backyardchicken duck forum is indeed a great resource, the people there really know their stuff.

                                My five ducks live in a 4x4' raised house. It's all plywood (including the floor) with a clear fiberglass roof. We didn't close off the areas under the eaves, so they get air flow that way without any chance of predators getting at them. I bed with wood pellets (already broken down, with some water...I don't trust them not to eat the pellets!) and when I scrape it out about once a week nothing has reached the floor, so I don't see it rotting any time soon.

                                They're kept in a pen, I don't trust them to free range. It's got 6' high sides made out of chicken wire. It's certainly not secure enough for me to feel comfortable leaving them out at night, but it's fine for during the day. I didn't have a top on it all summer....unfortunately, I lost a duck a few weeks ago to a hawk, so there's a top of netting on it now. The scarce winter food supply must have given the hawk enough courage to take on the bigger prey.

                                They stopped laying eggs in.....early December? Well after it was cold and had started snowing. And they just recently started back up again, although they are living the good life right now in one of my greenhouses! (We joke about having "sent them south to Florida!") So they're probably a little confused, it stays about sixty in there at night, warmer during the day!

                                I do my duck chores along with my horse chores. I let them out in the morning and give them their food. In the summer, they have a kiddie pool filled up with the hose as their water. In the winter, I bring them a five gallon bucket of water in the morning, and put it in a low horse feed pan. The smaller feed pan encourages them to not swim in it, and that's more than enough drinking water for a day, it's rarely gone when I go to put them in. When I bring the horses in I go and lock the ducks in--they usually go in by themselves, if they feel like being good duckies. Occasionally, I have to chase them.

                                I have all hens (the idea of eating a fertilized egg makes me gag) that I got sexed from Metzers. Not show quality, but certainly fine for pets/egg use. I have a Pekin, a Welsh Harlequin, and a trio of Runners. (Black, Blue, Chocolate.) The duck who got eaten was a Black Swedish, and by far the friendliest and sweetest of the bunch. My Welsh Harlequin is shy, but perfectly content to be held once you actually catch her. The Runners are HILARIOUS and very reliable egg layers. The Pekin is the boss duck (she's also about two to three pounds heavier than all the others) and herds everyone around as well as guarding the door to the coop between the time they tuck themselves in and when I come to lock them up.

                                They chatter to each other constantly, but it's not loud. Their summer pen is about 50ft from my bedroom window, and I can only faintly hear them. They are only loud when they enthusiastically greet me in the morning, or when I come bearing the ever-loved PEAS! They CAN be stinky, and if you want any area to not turn into a mud pit, keep them out of it! There's nothing they enjoy more than splashing the water out of their pool so that they can play in the resulting mud!

                                I love my ducks dearly, they're funny little things. It's truly heartbreaking how low they are on the food chain, but I think I have my area pretty well predator-proofed by now. The babies are the most precious little things, and I'm getting three for this year. (That's about all that fits in my coop.) Definitely recommend them!

                                (Also, I am absolutely scared sh!tless of chickens. But ducks are completely different, I love them!)


                                • #17
                                  I had some blue swedish ducks last year. They were lovely, so cute and satisfying except that they were like fat little puff pastries for a predator of some sort, I never figured it out. Meanwhile, not a one of our hens has been touched. I'm debating whether or not to try again, got to figure out a more secure pen & house for them. (But my chickens are free range with no problems.)


                                  • #18
                                    We had ducks, geese and chickens growing up. Ducks...hands down...are the most fun! They're like having feathered pets.
                                    Our ducks weren't farm ducks...they were orphaned mallards. We had 4 one time and 6 another. We didn't keep them very long, just a year and then brought them to a local park and released them with the ducks there. Some of those were wild and some stayed year round like pets and were fed all year by the park.
                                    But they were adorable and followed you everywhere.
                                    Chickens were fine, roosters can be a royal pita.
                                    Geese...well we only had 2 of them. Romeo and Juliet. They lived in the veggie garden and ate weeds and bugs all day. Their job was eating weeds, eating bugs and keeping absolutely everything else out of the garden. They were *very* good at their jobs. It was practically a death sentence when mom told one of us kids to go pick something out of the garden...you had to be fast as hell and do a lot of bobbing and weaving...and still usually got whomped with a wing or poked like crazy with their bills. Getting a couple cucumbers usually meant at least a couple of bruises, LOL!
                                    You jump in the saddle,
                                    Hold onto the bridle!
                                    Jump in the line!


                                    • #19
                                      Our ducks are very, very easy. They are Golden 300's (campbell cross) and a little skittish despite lots of early handling (I'm told that's typical). They have a little shed they stay in most of the time. It has a water heater so that their water doesn't freeze in the winter, we use a chicken waterer so that they make less mess splashing all over.

                                      The shed is made of chicken wire and a fiberglass roof (white, not clear, tried it, too much sun, too hot in summer) and we have t11 sides on the windy sides to shelter them from the wind. When we are home they are out, unless the snow is deep. We bed them on straw which later makes wonderful compost.

                                      They are fed 2x a day, Buckeye waterfowl feed (prior to price going up and availability down, we used Mazuri waterfowl).

                                      At dinner time, they run over to us when we walk out of the house and try to 'lead us like lassie' over to the duck house to feed them. They go in and out right on schedule and are very easy. We have to keep the pen door shut most days as our dog will go in the pen and try to eat the duck food and of course the duck poop.

                                      They are very funny, very entertaining and very, very gentle with each other. It is very interesting to watch their plumage change with the seasons and if you have several males, the dominant male will have one set of colors and all the other males will have another color plumage.

                                      They still give eggs every day during their laying time. It is good to get them out of lay part of the year - they stay healthier longer that way, so I'm told. Some real intensive duck operations put them on a less rich feed during the time they're out of lay.

                                      The eggs are very good for baking. They give an unbelievably nice texture to baked goods. They get a little rubbery if you try to fry them or make omelets. Some ethnic groups like the almost-ready to hatch eggs and will pay a lot for them.

                                      A caution - not advised to feed them other than waterfowl feeds. Chicken feeds, especially for chicks, does not have the right balance of nutrients. Our feed store guy told us chicken feed was fine - our vet told us it caused the egg peritonitis that caused several of the ducks to die.


                                      • #20
                                        I LOVE LOVE LOVE my ducks. We are selling some of the chickens to get more ducks.

                                        We have 2 pekins, a white crested, and a crested fawn and white runner drake. The three girls lay daily, even in the winter. They lay much more regularly than the chickens do, and I prefer the duck eggs personally. They have a milder flavor, and tend to be lower in cholesterol. I have not found them rubbery at all no matter how they are cooked. They do make the most wonderful quiche though, far superior to chicken eggs. It's lighter in texture, almost a bit like souffle.

                                        None of our ducks can fly, so they are pretty easy to contain. However, they also cannot escape a predator, and two of them did get eaten. I do have them trained to come back to the chicken pen in the evening. They see me with a feed scoop and they come waddling as quickly as they possibly can, which isn't very fast. The drake hangs back a bit to protect and encourage his girls. He will stand and watch them while they forage too.

                                        Since ours cannot fly, they don't get into the horses' water. They have their own kiddie pool which is dirty about 10 seconds after I clean it, but they do love their pool. I have tried to keep clean water for them to drink, but the chickens always manage to poop in any clean water. So their pool just gets cleaned out daily.

                                        They are a bit skittish about being touched, but other than that they are very friendly and personable. They greet you when they see you, and they have no problem following anything human around, hoping for some food. They are just so cool to have around. The horses don't mind them at all, and my filly will chase cats and dogs. But they seem to exist peacefully with the ducks.

                                        Ducks are also great pest control if you let them free-range during the days. They love to eat insects.

                                        You will not be sorry if you do get a couple ducks. Runners are my favorites because they are just so darned entertaining. They are a bit neurotic, and they love to hang together in a flock. I am going to get several more hens once we sell some of the chickens.