Chowing down on fresh duck eggs is almost as good as savoring the afternoon aroma of roast duck wafting from a home kitchen. You can make both these scenarios happen by maintaining a flock of ducks on your property. Ducks enjoy better overall health than chickens, their eggs average about 30-percent larger and offer superior nutritional value. Ducks also have easier general maintenance requirements. Here’s how to keep ducks healthy and productive.
Food and Water
Free-ranging adult ducks don’t require much supplementary feed. In fact, feeding them might deter them from keeping slug, snail, and insect populations under control. If you don’t have sufficient room for ducks to properly forage. You can easily make your own duck feed using ingredients such as wheat, corn, barley, oats, millet, sorghum, and alfalfa pellets. You can also supplement your duck feed with items from your berry patch, garden, and orchard. Avoid feeding your ducks anything in the nightshade family such as potatoes and eggplants. If possible, grow a few rows of corn specifically for ducks to use for winter. Ducks need the extra calories during the cold months to retain their protective layer of fat.
Laying females require extra calcium and protein. You can provide this by sprinkling crushed eggshells into their food and making sure they’re given plenty of time to forage for bugs in a pesticide-and-herbicide-free yard or pasture.
If you’re lucky enough to have a pond on your property, site your duck house near it so they’ll have easy access to the water. If you don’t have a pond, a large plastic water tub—or several, depending on the size of your duck flock—will do. The water will need to be changed often, so consider rigging the tubs to your irrigation system to conserve water and provide your vegetables with a natural fertilizer source. Always provide the ducks with clean drinking water in a shallow bowl next to their food trough.
Protection and Shelter
Unlike chickens, ducks don’t need roosting bars or laying boxes, so their structures are relatively easy to build and maintain. Ducks sleep and nest on the ground, so allow them 4-square feet of ground space each. The ground should be cement or wood to prevent predators from digging their way underneath. Ducks will need a thick layer of peat moss, sawdust, or straw. A clean environment is paramount when keeping ducks, so be sure to muck it out and change the bedding on a regular basis.
An old garden shed will make an excellent duck houses, just board up the windows and close any holes that might provide access to predators. Your ducks should always be safely inside their shelter before nocturnal predators begin to prowl. Ducks learn quickly, and you’ll be able to easily train your flock to know when it’s time to go inside for the night with a simple voice command.
The costs of developing and maintaining a top-quality flock of ducks for eggs and food varies widely per individual circumstance, need, preference and ability. If you’re handy with a hammer and nails, you can build a good duck house for less than $500. Once your flock is established, the actual costs will be negligible. The supply of fresh eggs and roast duck dinner will be well worth the effort.